Laughter has long been prescribed as a potent medicine, particularly when other treatments fall short of curing the blues. But the old adage, while perpetuated through the generations, is rarely taken very seriously. Recently, a Canadian film director unveiled a piece of documentary work aimed at doing exactly that; exploring the possibilities, both socially and scientifically, of using laughter as medicine. Director Albert Nerenberg presents his film, entitled Laughology, at the Hot Docs film festival taking place this week in Toronto.
The director describes his interest as stemming from a fascination with his infant daughters spontaneous laughter. As babies tend to develop this particular skill around the same stage in development, and the phenomenon is present even in those children with disabilities such as blindness or deafness, Nerenberg decided to explore the brain’s impetus for laughter, as well as the realm of possibilities in terms of treatment. Describing himself and his partner as being depressed upon the birth of their daughter, Nerenberg was intrigued by the child’s propensity for glee despite her parents’ gloominess. Taking their daughter to a group-session laughter-yoga course helped to amplify the positive effects both parents felt from the phenomenon –as well as the good cheer of other class participants, who found it difficult not to join in.
Laughology digs deep into the possibilities of laughter, from exercise and entertainment to the strictly neurological, following the progress of mental health professionals as they artificially stimulate laughter through interacting directly with the brain. Citing that laughing can ease anxiety and create a sense of well-being, not to mention its clearly contagious properties, Nerenberg is well on his way to showing the therapy community that laughter is the best medicine; may not just be an old and tired cliche.
© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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