Laughing matters may be serious help in healing

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People who take laughter very seriously are gathering in Philadelphia right now, for the annual conference of the Association of Applied and Therapeutic Humor. They explore the role of humor in medicine, therapy and healing.

One of the humorous healing approaches explored at this conference is “laughter therapy.” That doesn’t mean group sessions with funny movies or a stand-up comedian, said Carol Roth, a mind-body therapist at Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

Humor is individual, and what makes people laugh will vary. Laughter therapy involves acting silly and making laughing sounds.

“We might pretend to be penguins, waddling across frozen ice, we may make a ‘hehehehe’ sound,” explained Roth.

In laughter therapy with cancer patients, Roth said making laughing sounds usually leads to actual laughter. That helps patients relax, and it can slow their heart rate and lower their blood pressure. It also helps people focus on positive emotions, she said.

Her organization hosted a laughter therapy workshop Friday as part of the conference — and Roth says humor is becoming a more recognized healing tool in many health care settings.

Disclosure: Cancer Centers of America supports WHYY.

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