Belly laughs and blood pressure

May 25, 2008

When I was a child a day trip to Blackpool was a highlight of the summer holidays and my favourite thing was to go to the funfair and stand in front of an enormous machine called the Laughing Policeman.

You put your penny in the slot (it was a long time ago), and the large animated figure would rock back and forth consumed by laughter.

It was contagious: you couldn’t stand there, or be within six feet of it, without joining in. Evidently that was my first experience of knowing just what was good for me, and the foundation of my later career as a health writer! Now it seems that the Laughing Policeman’s inventor was a man who knew not just how to make people feel good, but was also unwittingly helping them lower their blood pressure too. Now a wonderful piece of research from India has shown that when 200 workers at an IT call-centre in Mumbai, India, were given 20-minute laugh-yoga sessions they had significant reductions in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. I imagine that working in any call centre must be very stressful, and so this could be an ideal – and economic – way to increase the health of the workers. The study was reported by Dr Madan Kataria to the American Society of Hypertension and if you want to emulate it, then the laughter therapy involved breathing exercises along with laughter that starts as a gentle “hee, hee, hee” and builds to a raucous “ha, ha, ha.” Apparently it’s the full out belly laugh that really makes the difference. I can hear the voice of the Laughing Policeman echoing across the years in full agreement.

Of course you could always call in an expert, and I happen to know one. Anne McDonald actually follows the work of Dr Kataria and is based a little bit nearer to us in Dublin. She is a qualified ‘laughologist’ if you need one in your place of work and I can highly recommend her, though you may have a stitch in your side for several hours afterwards from being overcome by a strong case of hysterics. If you want to contact her, visit her website at for a wealth of delights, including her own artwork.


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