Laughter is the Best Medicine

Introducing Laughter Therapy at EvergreenHealth

By Ted Brown, MD

EvergreenHealth MS Center


There is a growing body of research supporting the therapeutic value and health benefits of laughter. Some of these benefits are:

  • Stimulation of organs, such as heart, lungs and muscles through your intake of oxygen.
  • Increased production of endorphins, which are hormones that make you feel good.
  • Stress reduction: Like exercise, laughter increases your heart rate and blood pressure and stimulates circulation.  This results in relaxation of ones muscles and relief from many of the symptoms of stress.
  • Strengthening of the immune system through the reduction of harmful stress hormones and promotion of stress reducing neuropeptides.
  • Relief from pain through muscle relaxation and the production of natural painkillers.
  • Promotion of social connection and reduced feelings of depression and anxiety.

So what is Laughter therapy?

It is the brainchild of Dr. Madan Kataria, a doctor and visionary in Mumbai, India. Dr. Kataria devised simple exercises using child-like playfulness, eye contact, and chanting “ho-ho-ha-ha-ha.” A session begins with simulated laughter which soon turns into real laughter. There is no need to rely on comedy, jokes, or sense of humor to reap the benefits of laughter. That is great news for those of us who can never tell a joke!  It is based on the theory that our bodies can’t differentiate between real and fake laughter; just performing the physical act of laughing is enough to send our healing hormones into maximum overdrive. 

Today, Laughter Yoga is practiced in more than 65 countries at thousands of Laughter Clubs.  It allows people of all ages and physical abilities to laugh and play together. I did a YouTube search and found 30,000 videos on the topic of laughter therapy.  One video that does a nice job exploring the treatment is found at the following link: http://www.mynewnormals.com/ms-and-laughter-yoga/

Laughter therapy has been taught at yoga studios, nursing homes, business corporations, prisons, and any place where people wish to gather and experience the benefits of laughter. It has been used to treat people with cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s Disease.

I first became intrigued with the therapeutic potential of laughter when I attended a “Caring for the Caregivers” workshop for medical staff only.  Along with talks about stress management, meditation and nutrition was a presentation on laughter therapy.  At first, I felt a little out of my comfort zone and silly.  As the speaker led us through a series of laughter activities, we all started to loosen up - Why not have fun and start laughing with gusto.  It was exhilarating, and a pretty good workout, too. 

Fast forward nine months, and EvergreenHealth Medical Center has the first laughter therapy workshop that is dedicated to people with neurological diseases in the State of Washington. This workshop is led by a certified laughter therapy instructor and is open to anyone with multiple sclerosis or other neurological condition. There is no need to stand; people with wheelchairs are quite welcome. Currently, this free laughter therapy workshop still has space available and is held every Monday from 10-11 a.m. at EvergreenHealth. You can call 425.899.3000 to register.  We’ll have a second session starting in February.  We hope that some of you will give it a try.  It is definitely good for a laugh!


For More Information

Dr. Ted Brown talks about the laughter therapy program on KING-5's New Day Northwest.

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If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of laughter and laughter therapy, here are some interesting articles on the topic:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456

http://www.cancercenter.com/treatments/laughter-therapy/