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Laughter really is good medicine

By Sally Anderson, Times Correspondent
SCOTT KEELER | Times John Moran and Maja Hodzic, both of St. Petersburg, do a Bicycle on the Floor. LIFETIMES

When it comes to reducing stress and even improving the immune system, laughter is right up there with exercise and good nutrition. Seems like laughter was a natural occurrence when we were kids, but then we grew up, and life got more serious.

To quote E.E. Cummings, "The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.’’

Milton Berle had this to say: "Laughter is an instant vacation."

Laughing brings amazing benefits. It helps make us happier and healthier and is considered one of the best medicines for stress. As laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals kick in, reducing stress hormones and replacing them with energy.

And when your muscles become less tense, you begin to feel more relaxed and more alert, enabling you to focus on positive thinking, and not on negative thoughts that can adversely affect your body by increasing your stress levels and compromising your immune system.

Laughing boosts your immune system by increasing the circulation of antibodies that help ward off disease.

Fun fact: You don’t even have to have a sense of humor to laugh. Simulated laughter is just as therapeutic.

Need more reasons to let more laughter into your life? Laughing:

• Lowers blood pressure.

• Helps you stay mentally healthy. You can’t feel annoyed, sad or angry when you are laughing.

• Is contagious. Its positive energy helps you connect with other people.

• It works your abs. Muscles in the stomach expand and contract, while other muscles in the body are relaxed.

Laughter yoga

Laughter Yoga Clubs, which use certified instructors to explain and share different laughter exercises that can help you open up and laugh freely, are becoming more popular. And you don’t have to look too far to find one. There are clubs in Tampa, Clearwater and St. Petersburg. (For more information, do a quick internet search.)

The original Laughter Yoga Club was started in India in 1995 by a medical doctor and his wife, a yoga instructor. In addition to 10- or 15-minute laughing exercises, free sessions include breathing and stretching exercises and a 10-minute meditation.

Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but can’t respond to individual inquiries. Contact her at [email protected]