Along with other happy people, Lisa Levine laughed as she pretended to be a big bird, while making tweets and chirps. It was a funny moment for the group inside the Bellamy Center.
Next, they took deep breaths to bring in fresh air and continued more funny exercises such as pretending to talk on the phone, fake arguing with smiles and pointing fingers, and silent laughing. The fun also included deep Santa-like laugh of “ho, ho, ho” followed by “ha.”
“I am amazing, you are amazing, we are amazing,” the group said with enthusiasm under the leadership of Levine. “Yes we are.”
For Levine, laughter is the best medicine. It’s the reason she traveled from Raleigh Wednesday morning to run a Laughter Therapy Workshop. It was hosted by the Sampson County Department of Aging Family Caregiver Support Program as a part of Older Americans Month. It was one of many events and celebrations held during May.
“We come together as a group, you start laughing for no reason at all and your body doesn’t know the difference between fake laughter and real laughter,” Levine said. “Eventually, you body says ‘oh, we’re laughing, we must be happy.’”
As the director of education for Dementia Alliance of North Carolina, Levine teaches the practice also known as laughter yoga, which includes a combination of laughter, movement and breathing. The method is used in more than 40 countries around the world and was created in India by physician Madan Kataria.
Some of the benefits are blood circulation, increases of oxygen in the blood and other psychological benefits. Along with interacting with others, Levine added that laughter yoga is empowering for isolated seniors who make new friends during the workshop. The family members of dementia patients, also benefit from Levine’s laughter sessions.
“Laughter is for everybody,” she said. “People always tell me that they feel better when they leave. We know that through scientific studies that the feel good results can last for 24 hours.”
Levine added that 15 minutes of nonstop laughter is equal to 30 minutes on a rowing machine.
“I always joke around with people that I rather laugh than sit on a rowing machine,” she said.
Caregivers deal with many stresses such as doctor appointments and unpleasant diagnostics and Levine believes the laugh therapy can be remedy to the tension.
“But if they can start celebrating the positive moments with person they’re caring for, it can make that journey easier,” Levine said.
Lesia Henderson, a support specialist for the county’s Department of Aging, participated in the session and felt better after the morning session.
“With other people together laughing, it truly is good medicine,” Henderson said while referencing Proverbs 17:22 which reads, “A Cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
Participant and volunteer Meredith Keipper shared the same feelings and was more carefree.
“It’s definitely relaxing and you could let go for the time we where here,” Keipper said.