Laughter is the best medicine
Published: 15/04/2010 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: Mylife http://www.bangkokpost.com/advance-search/?papers_sec_id=12 http://bangkokpost.com/leisure/women/36106/laughter-is-the-best-medicine
How staying happy can improve your health.LAUGHTER THAT CURES
Smiles and laughter seem to have disappeared from society.
Look in any direction and you'll see tension and stress affecting our lives: A frowning boss, serious traffic congestion, the prolonged political crisis that has intensified over the past few months, parents arguing, mothers yelling at their children, and many other stressful scenarios.Where has all the laughter gone?
Scientifically speaking, when laughter disappears, sickness will follow, sooner or later. Illnesses that might result from too much stress include migraines, gastritis, insomnia, depression, hypertension, heart disease and cancer.
One might not realize that laughter often is the best cure.
To reveal the magic of laughter, mylife recently interviewed Dr Wanlop Piyamanotham, president of the Thailand Laughter Club, and the originator of a laughter-based therapy called ''Laughter Siam'' or Siam Hua-Roh.THE INSPIRATION
While working as a psychologist at Ramathibodi Hospital 30 years ago, Dr Wanlop noted that many of his patients were suffering from stress-related problems. He soon came to identify stress as a major factor in many diseases.
Passionate in his desire to help his patients, he recognised the power of laughter as the best medicine of all.
''The medical profession must be preventive, not defensive. We should not wait until patients get sick and then seek ways to cure them,'' Dr Wanlop said. ''We need to take preventive measures and laughter can be one of those.''
Over the course of his career, Dr Wallop has set up many projects for the general public. His laughter therapy class has gained particular attention; more than 10,000 people joined the programme last year. According to surveys, more than 85% of participants were highly satisfied with the class.LAUGHTER SIAM
Laughter Siam is a Thai-language laughter therapy class that aims to teach people how to laugh whenever they want to without having to depend on humour, jokes or comedy.
Laughter Siam is more than a just a means of relaxation. By combining breathing techniques with various postures and uttered sounds, Laughter Siam is a therapy that heals and prevents sickness.THE MAGIC OF LAUGHTER
''When people laugh, their internal organs get the chance to move and exercise. A shower can only cleanse dirt from the skin. But the internal organs that work hard 24 hours a day also need to be cleansed and refreshed,'' said Dr Wanlop. According to the doctor, laughter helps us ''shake off'' harmful chemicals and toxins that contaminate our bodies. It also helps shed fat, helping to avoid chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
Simply put, laughter sets off a process of detoxification that helps rid the body of disease. It gets rid of harmful substances, without taking away any useful bacteria or chemicals.
Laughter also helps stimulate the immune and respiratory systems. When you laugh, your respiratory system improves, resulting in improved sleep and digestion.
Every time we laugh, numerous beneficial chemicals are secreted, such as endorphins, which have the ability to generate a feeling of well-being and reduce stress. Stress and anxiety should be combatted with laughter.
Laughter also activates and stimulates human growth hormone which helps in the production of cells; serotonin, which helps people maintain a positive mood; and telomeres, which protect our DNA and guard against cancer.
On an interpersonal level, laughter also helps us form relationships. Through the freedom of laughter, we open our hearts to others. When we all laugh together, it brightens up the day.
''I asked my entire family to laugh together and everyone was so happy. It was a fun activity and everyone left smiling,'' Dr Wanlop said.LAUGHTER SIAM LESSON
Each lesson begins with a life check-up. Participants use behavioural science to check themselves to gauge how they live their lives. They learn correct living habits as well as how to breathe correctly, the fundamental element of laughter therapy.
Dr Wanlop instructs all the participants in the lesson to breathe deep into the diaphragm. While they are taking a deep breath in, the abdomen needs to swell out.
''In the life check-up, people always discover bad habits. They don't know how to chew, how to eat or even how to sleep properly. These improper habits all lead to sickness,'' Dr Wanlop explained.
Then class proceeds by asking the participants to use different parts of their body, such as their hands, arms, fingers and legs as they utter different vowel sounds to practise laughter therapy.
One of the basic postures is a ''neck laugh'' or koh hua roh. Participants learn to utter the sound from their throats. It starts with standing straight and lifting up their hands in a shooting posture _ with the fourth and little fingers pointing back to the body and the thumb facing up. They breathe deeply and slowly, releasing their breath while uttering the ''Ooh Ooh...'' sound.
The doctor said koh hua roh will help ease sore throats, thyroid problems and pharyngitis.
Another example is the ''chest laugh'' or ok hua-roh. This posture helps boost the functions of the chest. It also helps in the treatment of heart disease and hypertension.
Participants stand up straight, stretching out both arms, palms face up. Then they are shown how to breathe in deeply, lifting their arms up and down while uttering the sound ''Arr Arr...'' while exhaling.
More than 30 postures are demonstrated; each focuses on different body parts. For instance, the ''eye-laugh'' helps sore eyes; the ''arm-laugh'' helps ease arthritis; ''brain laughter'' increases brain function and helps control emotions; and the ''relationship laugh'' boosts good relationships with others and prevents anxiety in patients.
Dr Wanlop said participants can practice laughter therapy at home after learning the exercises in class. He recommends spending 1-2 minutes on each posture before switching to another. Every posture is fun and easy.
People can live happily with the power of laughter. It helps lift the spirit and inspires optimism and hope. It protects us from illness and opens us up to joy.
To laugh is somewhat easy, but the important thing is to let your ''heart'' laugh together with you.WHAT DO THE PARTICIPANTS SAY?
- Sureerat Leenanan, 29, said she used to carry stress from work back home. When she sleeps, she snores and breathes heavily. When she first heard about Laughter Siam, she wondered how laughing can actually help. She decided to join the class, and everything in her life started to change.
''In the class while practicing laughing, I sweat a lot. It's like sweating out my prolonged stress and problems that have stuck inside me for a long time. When I leave the class, I feel relieved and free. It's a great feeling,'' Ms Sureerat said.
Today Ms Sureerat practices laughing therapy at home, using the basic postures and sounds. She has used the ''neck laugh'' to cure her sleeping problem and it seems to be working.
- Tasana Thongpukdee, 59, another participant, also saw a big change in her respiratory system. She can breathe fully and her blood circulation has improved. At her age, she still feels strong and happy just from the consistent practice of laughing.
Writer: Sorawich Sontijirawong