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Laughter for Health

Laughter therapy is gaining popularity among experts and patients

En español | The power of laughter goes beyond the pleasure and joy a spontaneous outburst provokes. Laughter changes people. Its magic heals emotional and psychological problems, eases physical ailments and pains, and helps people stay mentally sharp.

Haydée Pereira of Miami knows this from experience. She is an ardent supporter and practitioner of laughter therapy. “Every time I go to laughter therapy, I forget about my pains,” she says. “[Laughter] is a sedative for my ailing body.” At 82, she suffers from arthritis. Although no research has proven that laughter can cure diseases, physicians agree that laughing has a positive impact on the circulatory, immune and other bodily systems.

See also: They laugh and make others laugh.

Laughter also helps Pereira keep her spirits up. She often feels burdened, for example, with “many other sad things that come with age,” including her children’s and grandchildren’s problems. “But laughing during therapy,” she says, “makes me forget about everything, and I enjoy the moment.”

Laughter helps keep Pereira’s memory sharp, too. Since she began laughter therapy, she says she’s been more alert and interacts better with her friends at the senior center.

The science backs her up. Laughter, experts say, boosts mental functions, mental alertness, memory and interpersonal responsiveness. “Comedians and teachers who want to alleviate stress tell jokes,” says George Pacheco Jr., Ph.D., a communication professor at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas. Making his students laugh, he says, has proven a good way to teach: “Students increase their learning through humor.”

Next: Laughter as a tool. >>

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