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Laughter May Be the Best Medicine After All


A guy with breast cancer has a simple suggestion for coping with stress.

I've been taking a “medication” for the last 12 years. It carries no unpleasant side effects. It's deceptively simple. It's absolutely free. It's available here in the U.S. and around the world. It requires no skill, practice or commitment. And while it makes no claim to heal any illness outside of making you a little less stressed and a whole lot more relaxed, it has more than a decade of sound science to support its efficacy. It's a remarkable little personal tool called ''Laughter Yoga", and in these times of social distancing and virus scares, it's as easy as washing our hands for 20 seconds while it works to "sanitize" our busy minds and fretful thoughts.

My wife, who has been instrumental in carrying me through my male breast cancer experience since my diagnosis in 2014, is the founder and creative force behind "Laughter Yoga USA". She has been bringing the art of simple, healthful laughter to the infirmed and the well, the youth and the elderly, the housebound and the unrestricted for 14 years, and I have seen remarkable results in the many thousands of participants who take a regular dose of laughter as part of their own health and healing.

My wife, her name is Gaga Barnes, found an interest in Laughter Yoga in its earliest days, studying with the medical doctor who "invented" the notion that deep breathing (that's what laughing does) along with group interaction with others can turn into a chain-reaction of mirth and merriment that builds upon itself. It's important to note that we're not talking about jokes or talking. Laughter Yoga is only about the breath and some light movement and the simple but important task of turning off our brains for a few minutes. We can drop our pain, our anxiety, our inhibitions and yes, our fear of the coronavirus during these sessions that last for 10-20 minutes.

So, how do we do it across the world especially with the coronavirus requiring us to maintain social distancing? We do it over the phone.

"Laughter Yoga on the Phone" was my wife's second creation. In the early days of the Laughter Yoga movement, face to face interaction was an important element of the process--but what about those folks around the world, she thought, who cannot attend a live experience or who are in a hospital or unable to travel?

As it turns out, interacting with people globally, without seeing faces, or emails or Facebook images is a remarkable, anonymous and completely safe way to express our human drive to connect with one another when scary things are happening all around us.

Perhaps the best thing that laughter has to offer in these most stressful days of social distancing, uncertainty and conflicting health information is the fact that it's available around the clock. And I need to emphasize, that it's free for all. Gaga Barnes was long ago honored with the title "Laughter Yoga Ambassador" by Dr. Kataria, the creator of the world-wide program, and she has certainly lived up to that moniker by donating many thousands of hours to helping folks find a few minutes of joy in their lives.

In addition to daily live calls, she has designated the first Sunday of every month as "Laughter Sunday" where you can find her at the top of each hour of the day, laughing with callers for 10 minutes. That's fourteen calls, all day long!

You can see the full daily schedules for Gaga and our other volunteer hosts at : www.LaughterYogaonthePhone.com.

Again, I want to emphasize that ALL of the calls are FREE all of the time. This is all volunteer work. You'll be dialing into a nationwide conference call line and entering a code to join the group. Be sure to say hello to Gaga or the other hosts at the end of the call and they will be happy to answer your questions.

These are difficult times right now that offer all of us an opportunity to help a neighbor, lend a hand, support a cancer survivor or share a little laughter in a world of uncertainty.

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