There is a growing body of research supporting the therapeutic value and health benefits of laughter.

Dr. Ted Brown of EvergreenHealth’s MS Center is the principle investigator on a study to better understand how laughter may enhance the quality of life and provide even more therapeutic options for those coping with dementia, movement disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis.

What is laughter therapy?

Dr. Ted Brown:  Laughter therapy is the brainchild of Dr. Madan Kataria, a doctor and visionary in Mumbai, India.

Dr. Kataria devised simple exercises using child-like playfulness, eye contact and chanting “ho-ho-ha-ha-ha.” A session begins with stimulated laughter which soon turns into real laughter.

It’s interesting to note that our bodies can’t differentiate between real and fake laughter; just performing the physical act of laughter is enough to send our healing hormones into overdrive.

What are the potential health benefits of laughter?

Dr. Brown:  The physical act of laughing helps kick start several healthy functions in our bodies, including:

  • Stimulation of organs, such as heart, lungs and muscles through your intake of oxygen.
  • Increased production of endorphins, which are hormones that make you feel good.
  • Stress reduction: Like exercise, laughter increases your heart rate and blood pressure and stimulates circulation. This results in relaxation of ones muscles and relief from many of the symptoms of stress.
  • Strengthening of the immune system through the reduction of harmful stress hormones and promotion of stress reducing neuropeptides.
  • Relief from pain through muscle relaxation and the production of natural painkillers.

In addition, laughter therapy classes allow people of all ages and abilities to come together, promoting a social connection and reducing feelings of depression and anxiety.

Why did you become interested in laughter therapy for MS patients?

Dr. Brown:  I first became intrigued with the therapeutic potential of laughter at a conference where there was interactive session on laughter therapy.

At first I felt a little out of my comfort zone and silly. But as the speaker led us through activities we all started to loosen up—it was exhilarating, and pretty good workout too!

Since, I’ve worked to bring Laughter Therapy to our MS Center at EvergreenHealth, which is committed to offering new and creative therapies that benefit our patients.

EvergreenHealth started the first laughter therapy workshop dedicated to people with neurological diseases in the State of Washington in 2014.

We have since taken that concept to the next level and are conducting research to study the effects laughter therapy classes have on perceived stress, self-efficacy, mood, and other wellness measures in people with Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Huntington’s disease, post-stroke, brain injury, and spinal cord Injury.

If anyone is interested in more laughter therapy, where can they find a class?

Dr. Brown:  Laughter yoga is practiced in more than 65 countries at thousands of Laughter Clubs.

Classes can often be found at yoga studios, nursing homes and as part of corporate wellness programs.

Image of Dr. Ted Brown, fellowship trained physician doctor specializing in MS rehabilitation and clinical trials at EvergreenHealth Multiple Sclerosis Care in Kirkland near Seattle, WA.

About Ted Brown, MD, MPH

Dr. Ted Brown is a board certified physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist whose work focuses on maximizing the function and quality of life for individuals with Multiple Sclerosis. 

Read Dr. Ted Brown's full profile

Visit the EvergreenHealth MS Center website