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'Today, life is very stressful and stress related diseases are on the rise. 70% of illnesses have some relation to stress. High blood pressure, anxiety, depression, nervous breakdowns, heart disease, peptic ulcers and others, are some of the examples of stress related diseases. As a matter of fact, the increase in incidence of cancer has been attributed to the stress of modern life.

People use a number of relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation and massage, but the kind of complete relaxation and feeling of joy that you experience while laughing is unique and unparalleled, as it harmonizes all your sense organs in a moment of total concentra -

tion. The demands and stressful impact of the modern, mechanized life style is such that people seem to have forgotten to laugh. We have fewer reasons to laugh and many more to feel despondent about. The things, which inspired hearty laughter 3 to 4 decades back when life was simpler, no longer stimulate even a smile.

It has been proved by researchers all over the world that laughter is a simpler form of stress busting. Benefits of laughter have been mentioned in the texts of ancient India and many other civilizations. Extensive research is being conducted all over the world and it has been proved that laughter has a positive impact on various systems of the body. Many books have been written on the subject. People have tried laughter as a therapy to control many diseases. There are many laughter clinics in the UK, USA and other countries in the West. But these are hospital based and on one to one basis. The social worker or doctor makes the patient laugh by telling jokes or showing humourous video clips.

Osho (Rajneesh) was a strong promoter of laughter. Still laughter therapy was restricted only to a small group at his ashram. Inspite of being beneficial, it was not possible for the common man to practice laughter therapy every day because one needs some stimulus to provoke laughter; some jokes or humorous things to tickle one.

Then, for the first time laughter therapy was put on the public platform. Anyone was invited to participate in group laughter without taking the help of any jokes or humorous ancedotes for 15 - 20 minutes every day. Scores of people found it very relaxing and derived health benefits from stress related diseases like sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, tension and migraine headaches, hypertension, chronic bronchitis, asthma and many other ailments.

How the Idea Originated?
Laughter Therapy known as Hasyayog was prevalent and practiced thousands of years back in India, as is evident from its mention in the ancient texts. However, in recent times, it was a group of people in Mumbai who put the concept into practice in 1995. Initially people laughed at the concept and ridiculed the idea. But when the health benefits were explained, many people got interested and the attendance started growing. The participants were mostly men who were forty plus, as well as some ladies and children.

In the beginning all the participants stood in a circle and would invite someone to come in the center and crack a joke or tell a humorous anecdote. People enjoyed the fun and felt nice after 10-20 minutes of laughter every morning. This method worked fine for about 15 days, after which stock of good jokes ran out. Stale jokes, jokes targeted at a particular community, hurtful jokes and dirty jokes began to be told, which embarrassed many members, especially the ladies.

It was evident that if we wanted to laugh every day we could not depend on someone telling jokes 365 days in a year. Jokes were, therefore given up and it was decided that the club members would laugh spontaneously.

Most members found it difficult to laugh with no reason. It was then that prominent Doctors of Mumbai came out with an action plan, to help people laugh spontaneously without jokes and did some basic research.

Since then many leading medical practitioners began practising spontaneous laughter therapy in Mumbai and also began suggesting it to their patients.