In a major step forward, Laughter Yoga is now being offered in hospitals and other medical offices in and around San Diego for community members, employees and patients with conditions such as cancer or Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, some are also using care clowns to give laughter therapy because it has a positive impact on patients.
Michael Coleman, executive director of Laughter Matters, a San Diego-based nonprofit offering Laughter Yoga to hospitals, business and wellness facilities said that laughter may not be the cure, but it has the ability to improve people’s mood and attitude. It is an exercise which offers physical, emotional and social benefits.
George Pratt, an author and psychologist at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, said that laughter has the ability to decrease stress hormones while at the same time increasing healthy hormones in the body that can reduce anxiety and depression — and not just on a momentary basis. He also added it kicks up the immune system, which is a big boost in the treatment of cancer and HIV patients.
In addition, Coleman said laughter also has the ability to ease minds and lift moods by shifting activity from the more analytical to the creative side of the brain. “It clears minds,” he said. “The more you do it, like any exercise, the more you’ll get out of it.” He said he’s done classes for Parkinson’s patients or caregivers and been told later that the patient hadn’t laughed since they were diagnosed.
Another benefit of this program is that patients such as those with Alzheimer’s don’t have to understand a joke to laugh, but they still reap the benefits of a good chuckle. Laughter helps people be calmer and change perspectives for the better, which he said can be helpful for patients.
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