Carol Young is a laughter specialist but doesn't tell a single joke. She's made it her job to get people to laugh for the good of their health -- and says the technique works just as well with forced laughter as with a genuine belly laugh. As a former hospital nurse and manager of a nursing home Carol has experienced first hand the stress and anxiety that can be brought on by illness and infirmity and with 30 years experience is now bringing her own brand of help to those who need to deal with the worries and problems of the modern world. Carol, who is also a specialist yoga teacher has added the laughter therapy to her wide range of caring roles which also include helping those with a long-term illness to cope with their condition. After a short training course, Carol is now keen to set about taking on her new role to encourage people to laugh even though they may have nothing obvious to laugh at. She said: "Strangely, laughter therapy is not about being funny or humorous ... more about exercise. If you laugh the brain cannot distinguish whether it's false or genuine, either way it then turns off the stress hormones and releases the feel good factors which are the endorphins -- those that come into play after exercise. "Laughter is a form of internal jogging that can lighten the mood, improving the circulation and boosting the immune system.
"It can start by just making eye contact with someone and very quickly it will result in a smile. The smile can then become forced laughter and that can in turn result in natural laughter. It will only work for 30 seconds and then the brain starts to kick in and analyse the situation and the moment disappears.
"A genuine belly laugh for a few minutes is a really good feeling especially when you're laughing with other people."
Carol, 50, believes her laughter therapy can be used in all sorts of environments with group sessions linked with stress management courses and even in the doctor's surgery before people go in to see their doctor and the benefit is stress relief.
"I'm now looking for outlets for my laughter therapy and interest from any groups or organizations -- all suggestions are welcome and there will only be a nominal charge to cover my costs if for example I have to hire a room or a hall."
Her new found interest is a long way from the start of her career as a 20-year-old when Carol trained as a nurse at the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport, U.K. "I wanted a career and wanted my independence from home life, nursing gave that to me," she said.
Once fully qualified Carol continued her nursing career at Rookwood Hospital and Cardiff's University Hospital of Wales and then followed her husband Ian to Shrewsbury where she found work in a nursing home.
Another move saw Carol returning to Wales managing a nursing home in Penarth. and then working part time again at Cardiff's University Hospital of Wales in the out patients department before taking over a job in the hospital as a Carers' Development worker. It was four years ago that Carol started her current post as a leader of the Expert Patients Program -- an NHS service which helps both carers and the long term ill or disabled, teaching them how to cope and relieve the stress of their condition. So far more than 450 have completed the six week courses. "The main theme of the program is to show people they are not alone in dealing with their problems -- they are not isolated, there's an army of people out there that are in a similar situation. We give them the tools to manage their lives, empowering them to make choices rather than relying on professionals handing out advice." The Health Benefits of LaughterLaughing reduces the hormones and chemicals produced by stress cortisol and adrenaline.It releases dopamine and endorphins, our feel good chemicals.Relieves and relaxes muscle discomfort.Reduces inflammation, excellent for arthritis sufferers.Reduces blood pressure 30 minutes of laughter per day reduces the risk of a second heart attack.Burns calories -- 50 laughs is equivalent to 15 minutes on a bike or 10 minutes on a rowing machine.Humans are the only animals capable of laughter.Adults laugh or smile approximately 17 times a day on average.We use 72 muscles to frown and only 14 to smile.For information about Carol's laughter therapy program, e-mail her at: email@example.com.