Be Informed Lecture Series: Laughing as Medicine With Nira BerrySeptember 25, 2020
Nira Berry wants you to take your laughter like you take your vitamins: intentionally and daily.
“It’s so important that people use this every day, the mental, physical, and emotional benefits that just come from laughing,” Berry, founder of LaughingRx wellness programs, explained to a group on Zoom as part of NYBRA’s Be Informed Lecture Series.
Every month, NYBRA Patient Empowerment Program Clinical Director Mollie Sugarman takes a pulse on the community and presents a free lecture that is beneficial for patients’ physical and emotional wellbeing. This month featured an interactive workshop with Berry, whose credentials include Certified Laughter Yoga Teacher & Laughter Yoga Ambassador, previous faculty member of Montgomery College, Certified ICF Life Coach, Certified Health & Wellness Coach. She specializes in happiness, stress management, and laughter.
Berry’s interest in laughter started when she experienced breast cancer herself. The treatment was so physically and emotionally difficult that she said she had to throw herself a life raft. That’s when she discovered the clinical research behind laughing and its wide range of health benefits. She found that just the act of laughing intentionally could boost the mind and body—no sense of humor required.
“During my breast cancer treatment, I underwent really tough chemotherapy. The people surrounding me were stressed. I had young kids. It was a really tough time in my life, and I know I’m not alone in this. I thought that I was very fortunate, because I found a lot of research on laughter and the positive benefits of laughter.”
She explained that the average child or toddler laughs about 350 times per day, while the average adult’s laughter frequency plummets to just five or six times a day. Berry realized that we were built to laugh; we just needed to get back in touch with our inner child. After she recovered, it became her mission to help people do just that.
“I thought what helped me was something that other people could really benefit from. It became my mission to help ignite joy.”
According to Berry, laughter and joy are tools in your toolbelt. Once cultivated, they’re ready to help you through your most difficult days. Her workshop focused on teaching participants how to use those tools. Attendees were asked to take a mental and physical inventory at the beginning of the workshop. “Think, how am I feeling? Are my muscles aching? How are you this minute?” Berry asked. Over the course of an hour, the group worked through a series of exercises from dancing to Pharell’s “Happy” to laughing loudly or softly, and exploring and mimicking different types of laughter.
During and between the exercises, Berry shared more information on laughter’s physical and emotional benefits. Laughter is an aerobic exercise, making it great for your lungs. It reduces blood pressure and blood cortisol levels, it boosts the immune system, and it produces endorphins. Moreover, it’s infectious.
“When you’re laughing, you spread your joy to other people surrounding you. When you boost your happiness, they can feel it. Think of it as something you’re not just doing for yourself, you’re doing it for everyone else, too,” Berry said.
By the end, everyone’s mental and physical inventory was a little bit lighter, looser, and less stressed, all from laughing. It can be counterintuitive to try to find space to laugh when times are tough both personally and across the world, but according to Berry, that’s what makes it so important.
“The world today has gotten a little haywire. Dealing with breast cancer is enough, but now there are hurricanes, fires, and all these things going on. We have lots of stressors going on in our lives. Use laughter techniques to lift you up and relieve your stress.”
Join us on October 19 via Zoom for the next installment in the Be Informed Lecture Series: Reasons to be Cheerful, Improved COVID Environment Allows Cancer Care Without Restrictions. NYBRA founding partner Dr. Randall S. Feingold will discuss how the medical community is opening back up in response to new testing, effective treatments, and an impending COVID-19 vaccine.
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