Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A laughing matter

Meditation group tries chuckle therapy as way to promote good health

JACOB BENNETT Courier & Press staff writer 464-7434 or be
Posted May 10, 2006 at midnight

"This shirt is dry clean only. Which means it's dirty."

Hope that made you laugh. If it did, you can thank comedian Mitch Hedberg for the health benefits.

A handful of people in Evansville are discovering the joys of laughter by getting together once a month and laughing until they stop.

Wocka wocka.

"It is worthwhile," said Maria Venturini, a yoga instructor who leads the laughing meditation. "It's fun. There's no two ways about it. It makes you feel good. It's harmless. It does no harm."

Studies show it does good. Laughter is believed to reduce stress, increase antibodies in the immune system, promote healing and stimulate the brain.

So, when Venturini and four or five clients get together at the Deaconess Health Science Building, lie on a mat and prepare to laugh, then force themselves to laugh for five minutes and then sit silently for five more, they're helping their health.

But that doesn't mean they don't feel self-conscious.

"Sometimes they laugh because they think, 'What if someone's listening to us?'" Venturini said. "'What if my husband knew I was doing this?' It's almost like they're doing something bad. It's really so simple.

"Remember when you were young, and you knew you weren't supposed to laugh, and that makes it even funnier. It triggers memories. Maybe it was a lighter time."

To get in the mood, they'll play a tape of something humorous or bring along a kid. Kids are several times more likely to laugh than adults. Venturini suggests you fake it if you can't make it, but laughter is contagious. Sometimes people can't stop. That's why she tells them beforehand to get up and walk around if they get the giggles.

Then, the silence, and wherever the mind takes them.

"The laughter gets rid of that nervousness and the busyness that we have," Venturini said. "It's easier to be still. Some people say, 'That's the longest five minutes of my life.' Others say, 'That'll be the quickest five minutes of my life.' For some it's really painful to laugh. Sometimes it's difficult to keep it going because they're not, like, 'Is this ever gonna end?'"

Speaking of the end, we want you to think all day about this one from Hedberg:

"Foosball messed up my perception of soccer. I thought you had to kick the ball and then spin 'round and 'round. I can't do a back flip, much less several ... simultaneously with two other guys ... that look exactly like me."

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