Laughter the best medicine


Jan 13

By ALICIA DE HALDEVANG,  Posted on » Saturday, April 16, 2011

CHILDREN at Bahraini schools are being taught the value of laughter as part of their official studies.

It follows the inclusion of “laughter yoga” in the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) curriculum in India.

As a result, five schools in Bahrain that follow the CBSE curriculum have started laughter lessons as part of a health and medicine course.

The classes are being taught at The Indian School, New Millennium School Bahrain – DPS, Al Noor International School, Asian School and Ibn Al Haitham Islamic School

Laughter yoga, which is taught at two clubs in Bahrain by a certified teacher, is now included in the high school syllabus for pupils in class 10 at each of these schools.

“In such schools, laughter yoga breaks are held whenever the teachers feel that the children are getting tired, restless or are no longer listening to lectures,” said Bahrain’s only certified laughter yoga instructor K M Thomas.

“Five to 10-minute breaks help stimulate their minds and re-energise their bodies.

“These schools have reported a happy, positive change in attitude and most importantly, zero absenteeism.”

The Indian government’s education department included laughter classes in the CBSE curriculum to raise awareness of the benefits.

Students will be taught the scientific effects of laughter on the mind and body, before being tested on it during end of year examinations next March.

Mr Thomas said laughter yoga sessions are already held in various schools in India during morning assemblies, but have now been exported to schools outside India due to their success.

He explained the concept behind injecting laughter into schoolwork was to reduce stress levels among children, who may be under pressure from parents and teachers to excel.

“Children are constantly pressured by parents to perform better and these expectations can lead the children to strive for unrealistic goals, which if unfulfilled can bring on serious stress and prove to be detrimental to their mental and physical health,” he said.

“Laughter yoga is the best technique which inducts more laughter into children’s lives and it has proved very effective when incorporated in the education system, as it helps to eliminate factors that cause stress levels among students and hinder healthy relationships.

“As they learn to laugh unconditionally, they become adept at handling pressure as laughter builds self-confidence and the ability to handle stress by boosting the immune system and releasing endorphins in the brain which kick-start good feelings and reduce stress.”

The idea that laughter has a positive effect on the body stems from research by American psychologist William James in 1884.

He found that a person’s mental state, whether positive or negative, influenced the behaviour of the body.

This connection was developed further by Indian doctor Dr Madan Kataria, who established the first Laughter Club in 1995 and developed breathing and laughter exercises to help members release stress.

Mr Thomas now runs monthly laughter yoga sessions at World Beat Fitness Centre, Janabiyah, and at the Kerala Catholic Association (KCA), Segaiya.

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