“The number of members in the 15-20 laughing clubs in the city proper is increasing 5 per cent every year. The rate in greater Calcutta is about 15 per cent,” said Jyotirmoy Sengupta, the secretary of the Laughing Academy of Eastern India, the apex body.
“I request anyone who is depressed or stressed because of the economic turmoil to join a laughing club and feel the difference. Many have overcome depression with laughter. Also, when you start the day with a laugh, the mind is relaxed and fresh, which may help in tackling professional challenges better,” he added.
Psychologists agree. “When one laughs, chemicals are released in the brain. This leads to a feeling of happiness. For example, when one is unhappy, thinking about something pleasant may lift the mood,” said psychologist Moharmala Chatterjee.
According to Sengupta, psychologists have found that the body doesn’t know the difference between a forced and a real laugh and “releases endorphins to relieve stress as a natural physiological response to the physical act of laughing”.
The potential for professional benefits is perhaps making more young people join laughing clubs, which mostly have elderly members.
Promotional activities by the clubs, such as a daylong programme at Rabindra Sarobar stadium on Sunday, also attract the young. The academy plans to visit schools to draw more students.
Members, whether young or old, vouch for laughter therapy. “I have been a member of a laughing club for 10 years and have benefited immensely. I am physically fit and haven’t had to visit the doctor much, except when I had malaria. Whenever I am depressed or stressed laughing cheers me up. In fact, if I miss my morning laughter session, I feel very sad,” said Banani Chakraborty, a working woman in her 40s.
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