Friday, March 27, 2009


On March 25, I was the featured faculty speaker for the 26th Annual Minnesota Geriatric Care Conference at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. My presentation was entitled "Laughter: The Best Medicine." Gathered there was a fabulous group of health care providers from around the state of Minnesota numbering almost 600. To hear the uproarious laughter of that many people at once was absolutely incredible.

Photos of the interactive group laugher session are below.

Monday, March 16, 2009


It seems like everyone I know complains about their stress level. Currently, it is the financial crisis that is stressing everyone out. But before that it was something else. The truth of the matter is there will always be stressors in our modern life. The question is: how are you dealing with them?

Stress management—as we all know—is the name of the game. We cannot afford to allow stress to overwhelm us. Stress is much more than just an annoyance—stress is deadly. That’s right. It causes a whole host of health problems. In fact, it is estimated that stress leads to a whopping 75%-90% of all doctor visits! Translated into costs associated with health care, it means thousands of dollars every years.

This sounds ridiculous that stress could do such harm but it really does. And here’s why: when you are stressed, your body believes there is a crisis and so your endocrine system releases stress hormones such as cortisol, GH and norepinephrine. For short periods, these hormones are fine but for longer periods—like perpetual stress—it can cause the following problems:

• Stomachaches, diarrhea and other digestive problems

• An increase in appetite, which may lead to weight gain

• Lowered immune function, making you vulnerable to every little bug going around

• Depression, which may lead to sleep problems, loss of sex drive and loss of appetite

• Increased heart rate, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which can lead to a greater risk of heart disease and stroke

• Increased chronic health problems such as skin conditions, asthma, or autoimmune diseases such as lupus

• Possible increased risk of developing cancer (Studies done over the past 30 years that examined the relationship between psychological factors, including stress, and cancer risk have produced conflicting results. Although the results of some studies have indicated a link between various psychological factors and an increased risk of developing cancer, a direct cause-and-effect relationship has not been proven .)

Is it worth it? Do you really want to allow your stressful lifestyle to rob you of your health? Clearly, stress MUST be managed. But how?

There are many effective stress management tools available but laughter yoga is my favorite. It is a unique and simple system that helps to reduce both physical and emotional stress through laughter “exercises” and gentle yoga breathing. It enables the mind and body get relief at the same time. And yes, it has been scientifically proven.

Dr. Lee Berk—associate director for the Center for Neuroimmunology, assistant research professor in the Loma Linda University School of Medicine, and assistant clinical professor of health promotion and education in the School of Public Health—started researching the benefits of laughter back in the late 1970s. Once he found some positive results, he and his colleague Stanley Tan, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Loma Linda University, started to look further into the miracle drug of laughter.

So they extended a research invitation to William Fry, MD, then a psychiatrist at Stanford University, who had researched changes in blood pressure and heart rate related to laughter.

"Having the new tools in medicine to look at some of these stress hormones, we said [to Dr. Fry], ‘Fly down, bring your Laurel and Hardy tapes, let's sit down, we'll place an IV in your arm and we'll draw continuous blood samples while you're watching the tapes,'" Dr. Berk says.

Dr. Fry accepted the invitation.

"That was the initiation of everything," Dr. Berk adds. "We looked at the data and we fell on the floor. It was mind-blowing."

Since that time Drs. Berk and Tan have conducted controlled scientific experiments that have proven those early results that laughter does indeed lower stress hormones and give the immune system a boost among other things. Now these scientists who study laughter are known as gelotologists and they keep finding more exciting things about how laughter can help boost health.

So don't let stress get the best of you, practice laughter yoga. Laugh, breathe, connect with others and reap the amazing benefits. Cultivate a joy that lasts despite the stressors you face. You’ll be glad you did. ha ha ha ha ha!

(NOTE: Start laughing more today by subscribing to this blog if you haven't already. The subscription is absolutely free and you'll also get 100 laughter yoga exercises to get you chuckling.)

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Many people have become Certified Laughter Yoga Leaders through the Iowa School of Laughter Yoga. Happy grads of this program are spreading laughter throughout the country and I'm proud of each and every one of them.

Today I am featuring the laughter work of Anna Moody. She was part of the Laughter Yoga class that graduated in the fall of 2007. Ever since, she has been sharing joy and merriment through laughter. She lives in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin and works specifically in nursing care facilities in this area. 

This morning, I had the honor of watching Anna in action. She leads a Laughter Yoga session at the McGregor Care Center in McGregor, Iowa every month.  As you can see, her trademark has become helium balloons.  She cheerfully enters with a whole gaggle of them, which brightens the room immediately.

Anna connects with the residents before beginning her session. She jokes with each person and allows them to choose a balloon from her smiley faced bunch. Todays group of laughers was so enormous she almost ran out.

Then Anna takes the laughers through an assortment of laughter and breathing exercises like the "false teeth" one pictured below. She explains, "Sometimes, you just get to laughing so hard, your teeth want to come on out and laugh all by themselves!" She asks them pretend to take out their teeth. She has to emphasize the pretend part because some of the jokesters threaten to really take their teeth out! Then—with pretend false teeth in hand—they laugh together.

Residents enjoy the clapping and cheering in which Anna leads them.

Afterwards, Anna tells them that every time they look at their happy balloon, it should remind them to let out a big laugh. You can see the spirits of everyone, including the staff, have been lifted. Laughter mission accomplished!

Below, resident Betty and Anna laugh together about how much fun they've had.

If you'd like to hire Anna to bring laughter to your company or organization, her contact information is listed below.

Anna Moody
61974 Vineyard Road
Prairie du Chien, WI 53821

For a complete listing of graduates or to learn how you can become a Certified Laughter Yoga Leader, visit the Iowa School of Laughter Yoga.

Friday, March 6, 2009


How much can laughter help us? More and more people are weighing in on this question. Is it really the best medicine? I'd like to highlight a couple of studies that I find absolutely fascinating in their approach to this question.


How can I afford health care? Isn't that the big question on everyone's mind these days? It is of great concern to many people around the world. It's a big issue in Japan, for example, because their population is aging and the fear is that health care costs will, thus bring down the whole economy in the coming years.

That's why the director of Japan's Foundation for Advancement of International Science, geneticist Kazuo Murakami, teamed up on a scientific study with stand-up comedians—no joke—to see if they could turn one-liners into efficient, low-cost medical treatment. In the course of the study, the 92 participants polled said their combined annual medicare costs fell 23 per cent to 2.26 million yen ($A26,256) after they joined the program.

Why would this happen? Well, genes are generally regarded as immutable, but in reality more than 90 per cent of them are dormant or less active in producing protein, so some types of stimulation can wake them up. Murakami's tentative theory is that laughter is one such stimulant, which can trigger energy inside a person's DNA potentially helping cure disease!

"If we prove people can switch genes on and off by an emotion like laughter, it may be the finding of the century which should be worth the Nobel Prize or even go beyond that," said Murakami.

It would take quite a bit more research to prove this theory, but Murakami's first study is encouraging. "If the relation between laughter and health is proved scientifically, it may have a big impact on ways to improve health," said Hikaru Horiguchi, an official of the ministry of economy, trade and industry in Japan.

"One day it won't be a joke to see patients receive a prescription for a comedy video at a pharmacy for medical treatment," says Murakami.


Meanwhile in Norway, Sven Svebak of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology Medical School has been studying how laughter and longevity are linked. The focus of this study was not specifically laughter but a humorous outlook on life—which, by the way, laughter yoga can help cultivate. How much you laugh your way through life may have an impact on how long your life is.

Svebak and his colleagues surveyed about 54,000 Norwegians to gauge how easily the study participants found humor in real-life situations and how much they enjoyed being with people who brought out their sense of humor. After 7 years, the participants who scored in the top quarter for humor appreciation were 35 percent more likely to be alive than those in the bottom quarter. The effect was more than twice as strong among a subgroup of participants who had a cancer diagnosis at the beginning of the study: Those who appreciated humor were 75 percent more likely to be alive.

75 percent more likely to be alive? This is an amazing finding! Yet it makes sense because the mind and body are connected, so the more happy the mind is, the more happy the body is. Those with cancer and other serious illnesses can strengthen their outcomes simply by having a more light-hearted approach. Some laughter yoga practitioners work exclusively with cancer patients for this very reason. When we are ill, we cannot afford not to laugh.


The study of laughter is still a relatively new field and there is much to be uncovered. Yet, what has already been shown through research is nothing short of remarkable. Laughter may, indeed, be the miracle drug to keep our health care costs manageable and lengthen our lives—not to mention it's a whole lot of fun. Laughter yoga is such an easy way to harness the proven power of laughter. That's why I am so excited to be doing this work and teaching it to others. Laughter therapy, I believe, will keep gaining ground.

So go ahead and laugh, it may just save your life!

Sunday, March 1, 2009


I'd like to tell you about a laughter yoga resource I'm really excited about. It is a spoken word CD called The Laugh of Your Life by Jen Matthews and Kate Asch. This disc enables you to energize your body, mind & spirit with a FUN step-by-step solo laughter practice.

Let's face it, with our busy lives we don't all have opportunity to laugh in laughter clubs as much as we ought. In India, many clubs meet daily but very few do in the US. So what do you do when you don't have enough laughter friends around? You laugh by yourself. Your body won't care. It will just be happy you are laughing.

But how? It is not always easy to get laughing when you're all by yourself. That's why Jen and Kate created this CD—to make laughing alone simple and delightful. Plus, you don't feel like you're alone when listening to it because it seems like you're in the presence of these two energetic laughers.

The Laugh of Your Life is a professionally recorded CD that runs 72 minutes with multiple tracks for easy use to fit your laughter practice preferences. The contents include the history and context of laughter yoga, followed by a full laughter session accompanied by Jen & Kate's own chuckles. The mini session offers the same breathing and laughter exercises without detailed explanations or a laugh-a-long style. It is a great way to get in your daily dose of laughter to bring more health and joy into your life! Read more about it and find out how to order a copy for $19.95 plus shipping at
Practice Laughter.

Kate and Jen are amazing people. I met them at the West Coast Laughter Yoga conference last fall in California. We quickly found that we are kindred spirits. We share a love of chicken hats, laughing outrageously and creating world peace through laughter.

Recently, we also discovered a mutual love of dinosaur riding.

So check out The Laugh of Your Life. You'll be giggling in no time!