Laughter clubs are the latest rage when it comes to beating daily stress. Just like a good workout can clear your mind, regular hearty laughter may not only lift your spirits: A growing body of scientific evidence suggests it can also fight disease by actually boosting the immune system.
At the Healing Works Laugh Club, one of 80 laughter clubs in the nation, complete strangers come together for forced laughter. The club's goal is to allow deliberate laughing exercises to flow into spontaneous laughter.
Laugh leader and registered nurse Florence Ditlow has a chronic illness. She says the weekly laugh-ins give her a more positive outlook.
"It's impossible to laugh and be anxious," she maintains.
Dr. Mehemet Oz is a respected cardiothoracic surgeon at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia Medical Center who says he's seen positive attitude make a big difference with patients.
"When you're happy, your brain sends out the hormones telling your body that you're happy and turns on the immune cells that say, 'Keep me alive. This is going well. I want to do more of it.' That impacts how you battle cancer, how you overcome chronic illness, how you recover from heart disease," he says.
And how you deal with everyday stress.
Lewie Pell, or Brother Lewie, as he's called, is a pastoral counselor at Chelsea's Covenant House. His job is can be depressing--trying to help homeless kids with every conceivable family and personal dysfunction--but since he's been attending the laugh club for the past 2 months, he says he's noticed a major attitude boost.
"I'm lighter, more able to make light of the world and make light of all this pain and suffering that I have to deal with," he says.
There are skeptics, including some scientists, who say the benefits of laughter are in all in the laughers' heads. But this crew wants no part of the naysayers.
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