The Healing Power of Laughter

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“One lady was so depressed and shut up in a shell—but now she has become jolly and participates in everything,” says Geeta Nadkarani, a member of Muktan and Park Laughter Club in suburban Mumbai, India. No wonder. Laughter is therapy for body and soul—it lowers blood pressure, floods the blood with oxygen, releases painkilling endorphins, and improves digestion by massaging your gut. “Initially we started with jokes,” says Dr. Madan Kataria, founder of more than 150 laughter clubs across India. “But jokes hurt and jokes are dirty and nobody's got a good enough stock of them.” So Kataria invented laughter without a punch line. An anchorperson begins one of 22 unique laughs: jumping laugh with mouth closed, swinging arm laugh, cocktail laugh. Then 50 or more participants join in. “Only to know you are laughing for no reason—the absurdity of it—makes you laugh,” Kataria continues. “This is a beautiful social platform that can dress the wounds of those who are lonely and broken.” But if you have a hernia or advanced piles, beware: Heavy doses of laughter may aggravate the condition.

From Colors (Feb./March 1999). Subscriptions: $36/yr. (6 issues) from Mondadori Editore SPA, 20090 Milano, Italy.