I had heard about laughter clubs on an episode of 60 Minutes many years ago. It featured a small group of people, standing around in a circle, laughing hard. They were not laughing at one another, or laughing at a joke; they were actually practicing what is called laughter yoga. Started by Dr. Madan Kataria the movement was brought to the United States as World Laughter Tour in 1998 by Steve Wilson, a psychologist. I had always found laughter to help with my chronic depression so I attended the training with Steve Wilson to see what it was all about.
Laughter clubs are held in workplaces, health clubs, retirement communities, nursing homes, and schools. There are thousands of laughter clubs around the world, and more than 4,000 Certified Laughter Leaders. Laughter club is a unique exercise routine that combines group laughter exercises with yoga breathing, and the physical and psychological benefits include lowered blood pressure, increased immune systems, reduced stress and anxiety, and many more.
“Most folks are too stressed, too hurried, too glum, or just don’t understand laughter enough to take time for it,” says Wilson, “which is too bad, because laughter is so beneficial that everyone needs to make their daily quota. People only laugh for about three seconds when they hear a joke so, if you are waiting for jokes to make your quota, you will need about 300 new jokes every day, which is impossible. Fortunately, there are other good options for generating mirthful laugher.”
People in laughter clubs use a systematic method of chuckles, chortles, giggling, and
guffawing to reduce stress, prevent hardening of the attitudes, and contribute to world peace. The laughter routine, designed to make anyone feel better, works without using jokes or comedy to stimulate the laughter. There can be many sensitive issues around humor, such as people not getting jokes or being offended by them, so we skip jokes altogether. We laugh with each other, never at each other. At first the laughter exercise routines can seem a bit contrived, but soon peals of genuine happiness-and-health-boosting laughter ring out and roll on.
One of the features in laughter club that I especially like and have made a part of my routine is “Good Hearted Living.” Mondays are for compliments, giving and receiving them. Tuesdays are for flexibility, trying something different, breaking routine. Wednesdays are for gratitude, making lists of all the things going well in life and speaking them out loud. Thursdays are for random acts of kindness — don’t ask if you can help; ask what you can do. Fridays are for forgiveness, letting go of anger and resentments. Weekends are for chocolate and rest, recreation, and relaxation, enjoying the sweetness of life.
If you want to know more about laughter clubs, you can call 800.NOW.LAFF or visit www.worldlaughtertour.com. The motto for the World Laughter Tour is my favorite, “Think globally, laugh locally.”