Friday, July 13, 2007

Laughter Clubs

The idea of laughter clubs began in India in 1995 when a doctor named Madan Kataria went down to his local park and began laughing. Soon a few others joined him, and within a couple of days 50 people had begun laughing along within him. Kataria had read hundreds of articles about the healing powers of humor, and set out to explore the question if there was any real difference in the body between laughing at things people found naturally funny, and simply laughing for the sake of laughing. Kataria's research and his own experiences soon convinced him that the body's immune system was unable to distinguish between the two. Kataria's wife, a yoga teacher, soon added to her husband's discovery, and added Yoga and breathing exercises to her husband's laughter exercises, and their collaboration would pave the way for the creation of laughter clubs, which now number more than 5,000 around the world.

So it was with great eagerness that I attended my first laughter club in a cozy little setting not far from my home, but even still I was very nervous as I wondered if I would be able to just laugh for no reason without something actually being funny. I thought back to my days working as an activity director at a nursing home where the things I said while trying to be funny were often met with blank stares, and how the things I said in seriousness often resulted in gales of laughter from my audience. This thought alone got me laughing at myself, and when I met the director of the club Alex, I knew I would immediately find something to laugh about.
Alex was one of those guys whose very presence makes people laugh. He is one of those people who look like they are on the verge of laughing at all times, and being in his presence was a contagious force that I was quickly taken with. After a few minutes of good-natured bantering he introduced me around, and I was a little taken aback when people would burst out laughing simply from me introducing myself, and couldn't help but wonder if they were all in on some joke that at my expense. Soon I discovered their secret however, and it was one I had experienced often in my own life, and that is, simply, that laughter begets laughter. Much like how seeing someone yawn often spreads an epidemic of yawning, laughing had the same effect, and soon I was in the middle of this wonderful crowd right in the heart of the action. Often in my life my jokes are met with polite courtesy laughs and then people politely excusing themselves, but in this room I cold do no wrong. Seeing how easily these people burst into real deep down belly laughs was inspiring, and at the end of the hour, I felt more energized than I had in quite some time.

What had happened to me? Although I enjoy laughing very much, I had a hard time remembering how many times in my life I could truly remembering laughing at something so hard that I literally couldn't stop, but the times I did remember were some of the happiest of my life. Yet these people seemed to turn it on and off so naturally and I was baffled at how they did this so easily. After the session was over I spoke with Alex and heard some amazing stories. Many of the people in attendance that day were cancer survivors, some had experienced horrible childhood trauma, while still others had recently been through a divorce or some other major recent loss. I thought surely when I looked around that I was the most messed up person there, but after hearing Alex talk I reconsidered. The main point I took away from our conversation that day was that it was not what had happened to them in their lives, but how they chose to live afterwards that mattered, which is something I had of course heard during my academic studies but had rarely seen any real life examples of.

I left that day a true believer in the power of the laughter club, and plan to return often whenever I feel I am in need of an energizing workout, as the exercise I got that day was more than I had gotten in months. That whole next week I thought about what I had seen and done that day, and often found myself chuckling for no reason at all thinking of some silly little thing I had remembered. My experience that day had left me wanting more, and I was now reawakened to the everyday silliness of life that exists everywhere if we just take a little time to recognize it. I promised myself I would never again be "too busy" to see it, and penciled in the time slot at the laughter club as a new weekly activity.

Here is a link where you can find a laughter club in your neighborhood, enjoy!!!


Robyn McMaster, PhD said...

Hi Joey, I bet your readers would enjoy a link to a main site where they could locate the addresses of the Laughter Clubs. Has anyone put that together?

Dr. Joe Guse said...

That's a great suggestion Robyn, thank you. I know of several around Chicago but I am going to look into locating a master list, thanks!

generic viagra said...

I would love to go to a laughter club, I am very happy but in my country there is no such clubs, you could tell me more about these sites?

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