Health Mental Health

Just for laughs

Written by Fathima Simjee

Depression has been directly linked to serious illness. According to the WHO, people living with HIV/AIDS are 4.4 times more likely to be depressed. Every time we laugh our body releases a cocktail of chemicals and hormones which give us a feeling of happiness. This insert produced by Fathima Simjee tells the story of Alice Phiri, who has used laughter therapy to help her deal with her HIV positive status.



We all know how much better we feel after a good laugh ‘€¦. But recently it’€™s been discovered that laughter can actually heal our minds and our bodies.

These women are learning laughter yoga. This was started in India several years ago and helps manage stress, keep depression at bay and to cope with pain. Now it’€™s being used as therapy in hospitals, prisons and offices all over the world.

Alice Phiri is an hHIV positive domestic worker who was first introduced to laughter therapy by her employer.

I was depressed stressed and I had all the symptoms of someone who’€™s HIV positive but I didn’€™t want to accept it. I was suspecting that I was telling myself it couldn’€™t be that until a friend of mine Nina introduced me to laugh therapy.

Alice says she began feeling the positive effects of laughter immediately

So for the whole day when we were in the session I felt much better. I felt as if there was a weight lifted off my shoulders, because I felt joyous happy and free after the session.

Laughter gave me strength to go for HIV testing because I told myself that nothing could bring me down even if I was going to find out that I was HIV positive I was going to take it as if, I was going to accept it.

So the time I was waiting for my results the counsellor was expecting, maybe most of the people when they are told their results they cry. When she told me my results I was laughing. She asked me why are you laughing I said what are you expecting me to do. She said no, you are supposed to cry or something. I said if I cry it won’€™t me, it will stress me more.

She uses laughter therapy daily, even when she takes her ARV’€™s.

There are some times when I get tired, because two times a day you have to take those tablets so sometimes I get tired of taking them, I will be very low, and say today I won’€™t take them. But there are some laughter therapies that help me to take my meds. There is a pill therapy that I use to take my meds. Or I will just go to mirror and say whose this fat lady in the mirror, because when I was sick I was very thin, and then I laugh about that it helps me a lot.

Laughter therapy has given Alice courage and helps her cope differently with her status to other HIV positive people.

You can see when you are in the room with those aids patients who have done laughter their utmost fear is different. They are happy, you can see that they are free they are even free to tell people, its 9 o’€™clock remind me to take my medicine, but with others you can see that they are scared to be known that they are HIV positive.

Alice strongly believes that laugh therapy can be used to help other HIV positive people in South Africa, because whilst laughter might not be the best medicine, it is certainly one that is too good to ignore.

About the author

Fathima Simjee

Fathima Simjee is a television journalist with Health-e News. You can follow her on Twitter @FatzSimjee

Leave a Comment