Humor Therapy

Humor therapy (sometimes called therapeutic humor) uses the power of smiles and laughter to aid in healing. Humor therapy helps you find ways to make yourself (or others) smile and laugh more. Humor allows a person to feel in control of a situation, while making it seem more manageable. It allows people to release fears, anger, and stress, all of which can harm the body over time. Humor improves the overall quality of life. Anyone can use humor therapy, either to prevent or to treat virtually any disease. People commonly use it in the treatment of chronic (long-term) diseases, such as heart disease and asthma (they are worsened by stress). Chronic diseases have a negative effect on mood and attitude, which can cause the disease to worsen. Humor therapy helps reduce the negative effects of feeling unhealthy, out of control, afraid, or helpless, which are common problems for those with cancer or chronic diseases. Humor therapy is also valuable as a preventive measure for the caregivers of people with chronic diseases. Caregivers are at high risk of becoming sick themselves, and humor therapy can help release the stress that comes from being a caregiver. Caregivers and those they care for can practice humor therapy together, and they both are likely to have better health as a result.
Humor therapy is considered a completely safe practice when used along with traditional medical therapy. Because it is inexpensive, risk-free, and readily available, there is little reason not to try practicing humor therapy. It can, however, be harmful if used to delay/avoid a visit to a qualified doctor, especially if serious health issues are involved. Laughter can also cause temporary pain after some types of surgery, but the pain goes away as the body heals and causes no lasting harm. 

Humor Therapy throughout History

14th Century: Henri de Mondeville, a French surgeon, helped aid recovery from surgeries by using humor therapy.  "Let the surgeon take care to regulate the whole regimen of the patient's life for joy and happiness, allowing his relatives and special friends to cheer him and by having someone tell him jokes," he wrote.  

15th Century: An English parson and scholar named Robert Burton used humor to cure melancholy feelings.
16th Century: As part of his pastoral counseling from depressed people, Martin Luther used a type of humor therapy.  He told the people to surround themselves with friends that were capable of joking around with them and making them laugh.

17th Century: Herbert Spencer, a sociologist, used humor in order to release excess tension.
18th Century: A German philosopher named Immanuel Grant used humour to restore equilibrium.
18th Century: William Battie, an English physician, used humour in order to treat the ill.
20th Century: Modern humour therapy dates back to the 1930s, when clowns were brought into U.S. hospitals to cheer up children suffering with polio.

20th Century - 1972: Founded by U.S. Doctor Hunter 'Patch' Adams, The Gesundheit Institute is a home-based hospital free of charge that 'brings fun, friendship, and the joy of service back into health care.'

20th Century - 1979: The book 'Anatomy of an Illness,' written by and based on the experiences of Norman Cousins explains his suffering from the ankylosing spondylitis.  He decided to use his own 'humor therapy' by watching 'Candid Camera' and Marx Brothers films to keep him laughing. "Ten minutes of laughter could give him two hours of pain relief."  

20th Century - 1998: Thanks to the film 'Patch Adams' staring Robin Williams, humor therapy had a renewed interest during this time.

Laughter Club

Members gather at regularly appointed times in a designated place to engage in numerous laughter exercise activities. This program does not involve jokes or humor, just laughter exercises directed by a qualified laughter leader. Participation in a laughter club encourages playfulness, laughter, social connection and a balance of mind, body, and spirit. Laughter Clubs are fully independent, not-for-profit, non-political, and non-religious organizations of diverse people where all are welcome regardless of gender, age, physical abilities, social or economic backgrounds. 

Dr. Madan Kataria, a physician from Mumbai, India, launched the first Laughter Club at his local park on March 13, 1995. He somehow managed to motivate four other people to laugh with him in the corner of the park. This small group quickly grew to about 50 participants within a few days. In the beginning, all the participants stood in a circle and would turn-by-turn come to the center and tell a few jokes. People enjoyed the fun and felt good after 10-20 minutes of laughter at the park every morning. Eventually, they ran out of funny jokes and stories to tell, so Dr. Kataria asked the participants to try acting out the laughter with him (pretend laugh). Based on his research, Dr. Kataria knew that the human mind could not distinguish pretend laughter from genuine laughter. But for many, the pretend laughter turned into real laughter anyway, and the group was soon laughing like never before. This breakthrough led to the birth of the first successful Laughter Club.
Today, the Laughter Movement is widely accepted and has become a global phenomenon with over 6000 clubs in 60 countries. 
Laughter Clubs have been extremely beneficial in the case of seniors. As they near the end of their lives, old people are faced with loneliness, depression and a loss of belonging. They find these clubs a sanctum for filling an emptiness in their lives; lost laughter is regained, as well as confidence and self-worth. These Clubs are like an extended family providing joyful support and love (the essentials of happiness). Besides the emotional care, these clubs also help old people exercise and regain their strength, stamina and energy which diminish with age and lack of physical activity.

The amount of time spent with others is not what matters; it is the quality of interaction that is important. If there is lack of warmth and friendliness amongst people, it leads to anxiety and stress. This type of interaction is important to our physical and emotional well being and is essential to human happiness.
Laughter Clubs provide a rich social network of people who care about one another, and perhaps even more importantly, a way of getting to know new people who we care about. This provides a sense of emotional security which resists stress and promotes excellence in all other areas of life.

Laughter Yoga

Laughter Clubs promote the practice of Laughter Yoga, a new exercise routine developed by Dr. Kataria. This is a complete workout for wellness. It combines laughter with Deep Yogic Breathing to boost good health. Not dependent on humor, laughter is simulated physically (pretend laugh), but soon turns into real and contagious laughter with eye contact and "childlike playfulness."