Alongside T’ai Chi, Stretch & Tone, Aquatics, and many other classes happening each week at The Highlands at Pittsford, you will find Laughter Wellness classes.
A good laugh not only lifts our emotions and shifts our thoughts in a positive direction, it has been shown to have positive effects on physical wellness.
Our bodies do not know whether we are finding something funny or we are making ourselves laugh. According to Jeffrey Briar’s book The Great Big Anthology of Laughter Exercises, the benefits of laughing include decreased stress and depression, improved respiratory and cardiovascular health, pain relief, and boosted self-confidence.
At The Highlands, the Laughter Club, or Laughter Class as our residents call it, is currently held twice a month for thirty minutes. The class is based on the principles of laughter yoga developed in India in 1995 by Dr. Madan Kataria and his wife Madhuri Kataria, a yoga teacher. There are now hundreds of laughing clubs around the world.
“The best part of the class”, remarked instructor Robin Gallagher, “is that we start with the exercises, but it turns into real laughter. As you know, sometimes people don’t have anything to laugh at and the exercises provide help with that. The socialization it provides is great. Class members walk away laughing, talking, etc. We even have a mascot. It is a laughing monkey donated by one of our residents. We’re working on a name for him.”
Laughter has garnered support from some in the medical community. Michael Miller, M.D., Director of Preventative Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center, studied the effects of laughter on the cardiovascular system. He said, “The magnitude of change we saw in the endothelium (tissue that forms the inner lining of blood vessels) is similar to the benefit we might see with aerobic activity, but without the aches, pains and muscle tension associated with exercise. We don’t recommend that you laugh and not exercise, but we do recommend that you try to laugh on a regular basis. Thirty minutes of exercise three times a week, and 15 minutes of laughter on a daily basis is probably good for the vascular system.” (source)