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Scranton woman sharing the power of laughter

Her motto is: Make life a laughing matter. The founder of Laugh to Live says laughter has legitimate physical and mental health benefits.

SCRANTON, Pa. — They say laughter is the best medicine. Jeannine Luby from Scranton has spent most of her professional career proving why that's true.

"When I was going for my masters at Marywood, I was studying for my research class the benefits of humor and laughter for the body," Luby recalled.

That's when she stumbled across laughter yoga, a practice started in 1995 by a physician in India. Now she runs a business based on that practice called "Laugh to Live."

Your first question is most likely, 'What on earth is laughter yoga?' We can show you better than we can tell you. You can see Luby demonstrate in the video attached to this story.

It feels silly, and it certainly looks silly. But that's kind of the point. Just ask loyal laughter yogi Cheryl Kaiser.

"Within seconds of starting, it's like, 'OK, it's a good thing I came. I feel a lot better. I feel lighter. It's like the stress just kind of melted away.'"

And the research is there to back that up. Studies show laughter – and laughter yoga specifically – reduces the amount of stress hormone produced in your body while increasing mood-boosting brain chemicals like dopamine and serotonin. It also can improve your immune system and your blood flow.

"You can't help but laugh when you're with other people who are laughing. And the silliness of this just brings out a really childlike feeling in us, and that's healthy!" said Marie Onukiavage, executive director for the NEPA chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

She says stress, anxiety, and depression have risen throughout the pandemic, and laughter yoga is an easy, free, on-demand form of self-care.

"We can't experience depression and joy at the same time. So if we can just let ourselves laugh for a little while, we're putting that depression, that anxiety, all those other bad feelings that we've all been experiencing for so long, we're putting them aside just for a little while," Onukiavage said.

"There's a quote I love from the Dalai Lama where he says, you know, he's been criticized for laughing, or [people say] 'you can't laugh during serious times.' And he said, 'I'm not sticking my head in the sand and pretending I don't see all the seriousness of the world.' But how do you keep going? You can't keep stressing; you'll burn out, and how do you handle everything? So, it's basically saying, 'I'm going to take a break. I'm going to do something for myself, so I can lower my stress, feel recharged, energized, and face those worries,'" Luby said.

Luby takes laughter yoga to corporate events and conferences, senior centers, and summer camps.

She also hosts Facebook live events. You can catch the next one on Sunday at 9 a.m.

Check out WNEP's YouTube channel.  

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