The reluctant laugher

21 January 2012 at 18:33

Laughter Yoga sessions come with the expectation that participants will bring three things;

J  eye contact (although at Totally Laughter Yoga we believe that it is the ability to make contact with others in some form not just eye contact as we have carried out sessions where one or more participant is visually impaired)

J  the ability to fake laughter – “fake it, fake it till you make it”

J  be willing to ‘give it a go’

In a club these three things are almost a given. By the very fact that people are turning up voluntarily to a club they can at least be perceived as having an open mind and ready to participate or are aware of what to expect from a Laughter Yoga session. However, what of the reluctant laughers, the people who have attended a session, perhaps in workplace, because they have been told to attend, ‘for their wellbeing’?

Laughter Yoga can be challenging particularly when the words laughter and humour are used interchangeably or loosely. They are in fact two separate things even though they may be connected.  Humour is cognitive construct; it requires cognitive possessing of external stimuli. The nature or focus of humour can have many meanings and can be culturally or socially determined.  Often the differences between what one culture or country finds ‘funny’ are highlighted and can be a point of antagonism.  Laughter however, is unmistakable and sounds similar or indeed the same regardless of culture or country.  We recently carried out a Laughter Yoga day in a school where English was a second language for many of the pupils with a total 27 different languages being spoken outside the school gates.  Yet the unmistakable sound of laughter was the same. Mahoney, Burroughs and Lipman (2002) when exploring the perceived attributes of laughter identified a number of different types of laugh:

·         Crack up

·         Belly laugh

·         Roar

·         Giggle

·         Chuckle

·         Horse laugh

·         Shriek

·         Cackle

·         Titter

·         Snicker  

Although this list is not exhaustive I’m sure you could add a few more. Dr Madan Kataria the founder of Laugher Yoga identified four basic Laughter sounds that we use:

Ho Ho; Ha Ha; Hu Hu; and Hee Hee

in part these sounds support pranayama breathing (the extension of prana or breath; or more accurately the ‘extension of life-force’), a corner stone of Laughter Yoga, but the sounds themselves are unmistakable as laughter when heard out loud, regardless of culture or ethnicity (go on try it…). This is the action of laughter rather than the cognitive elements of humour.

There is a great deal of research around the use of humour in clinical practice within psychology, psychotherapy and other wellbeing journals (more on that in later blogs) much of this research was kick started by the work of Norman Cousins when he reported on the pain relieving qualities of a good genuine belly laugh in his book ‘Anatomy of an Illness’ (1979).  Dr Kataria began to explore this idea of genuine in relation to laughter and proposed that the body and mind can’t truly tell the difference between real and fake laughter and those physical benefits can be gained by engaging in fake laughter.  However, laughter as we know can be contagious, the tendency to smile or even laugh even when you don’t get the joke is very common.  Within Laughter Yoga sessions, the joyous nature and the kindness that is shared by participants quickly allow the fake to become genuine providing, perhaps, a whole set of other psychological benefits.

So where does that leave the reluctant laugher? Dr Kataria uses the strap line ‘laugh for no reason’, but at Totally Laughter Yoga we’ve extended that slightly, yes we’re going to laugh for no humorous or cognitive reason, but we are not going to laugh without purpose. The purpose is the multitude of health benefits we believe that Laughter Yoga brings. Many people don’t initially (or perhaps never) enjoy going to a gym, or eating 5 or more pieces of fruit and vegetables a day, but they do so because they can accept the potential and actual benefits of doing so. Explaining the purpose of Laughter Yoga and couching it in terms of Laughtercise (Laughter and Exercise) can help the reluctant laugher to understand the purpose behind the action and then engage in that action.  It must be said that Laughter Yoga or Laughtercise will not be for everyone (I don’t like sprouts, but I know their good for me) but our experience has been that the reluctant laugher either reluctantly accept that the action of laughter and Laughter Yoga made them feel better or they become converts.

Hope you enjoyed the blog. More to follow soon on laughter, humour, health and wellbeing


Simon and Sandra

Author: Simon and Sandra on 21 January 2012 at 18:33 Comments (0)  

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