It’s been said that kids laugh 300-400 times a day while adults laugh closer to 15 times a day.
At what point did we stop laughing or feel that to grow up and be mature means to have less joy in our lives?
“Settle down” “Stop being so silly” “Don’t get them riled up”
Who told us that to be mature was to be solemn and serious and that expressing joy was immature?
Why is it so hard for us to let go, relax and be silly?
I sought out to find the answers at a laughing yoga class. Ok not really… I just knew that it was a fun class to make you laugh. You not only laugh at other people, you laugh at yourself for the fact that you showed up to attend a class like this.
Our community is in the mist of an eleven day event called Laughfest. The purpose is to use comedy to raise money for Gilda’s Club. Gilda’s Club is named after the Saturday Night Live original cast member Gilda Radner who suffered from ovarian cancer. Her desire was that no one should face cancer alone. Gilda’s Club “provides a free support community where children, adults, families, and friends find their smile and laughter back in the midst of a cancer or grief journey.”
I attended the laughing yoga class at Gilda’s club. I tried a class last year and decided to recruit a different friend to try it again. I enjoyed being silly and the sense of community felt with a room of strangers after the class was over. Being uncomfortable and silly together stretches you and makes you have an immediate connection with those around you. Many of our exercises in laughing yoga had us laugh….. not just kind of laugh but the deep belly, laugh so hard- you have tears coming out of your eyes laugh.
Our instructor (a nurse and cancer survivor herself) began teaching laughing yoga out of a desire to have her cancer survivors breath more deeply. She knew the medical benefits of deep breathing and that laughing was the easiest way to accomplish that. The health benefits of laughter can physically help the body fight off cancer and help overcome depression.
The scripture that says “the joy of the Lord is your strength” came to my mind as our instructor shared about patients whose quality of life and sometimes healing came from daily doses of laughter and joy in their lives. Supernatural strength when you don’t have any left on your own. You can’t be angry or depressed in the moments of a deep belly laugh. You are truly forced to let go.
She had us doing silly exercises like sizzle on the floor like bacon while laying ear to ear,
fly around the room like a bird,
and greet each other like we were friends who had not seen each other in a long time. The class doesn’t use jokes or props to make you laugh. That means you and the people around you become the entertainment.
Our class was smaller that day which allowed for moments of genuine authenticity shared by the women in the group that really touched me. There were women there on both sides of the beast. Some beginning their journey with cancer and others who had won the battle who were on the other side …but not without battle scars.
These women had been affected by cancer and the roller coaster of emotions that it thrusts you into. My friend and I really connected with two women who were our kindred spirits- just with a few more years of seasoning. Their zest for life gave me hope that I can remain curious and full of vitality at any age.
I have seen first hand the affects that laughter can have with patients in pain thanks to my friend Lori. She is my close friend and also works with hospice patients. She has a gift for walking into a patient’s room and lightening the mood with her direct sarcasm and humor. She makes the uncomfortable….comfortable. I witnessed her make my grandparents and mom laugh in a way that I had never seen before. Unfortunately her and I also share the loss of our moms to cancer too.
Following our class, we took a tour of Gilda’s club. They have an amazing facility equipped with meeting rooms, huge kitchen, counseling/ support group rooms, room to rest in after treatments for those traveling in for chemo, library, kid’s area and an art room.
This is a home for healing and support for all lives touched by cancer.
While we were there, we found out that we could see the “real” Patch Adams speak in the flesh for $5 that night. He was one of the people that I really wanted to hear during Laughfest. That night the core of his message was about loving and laughing with people. Laughter is meant to be shared. He shared that loneliness is a symptom of depression and that it’s really hard to be depressed while you’re laughing. Your pain in the body lessons as well. He has brought joy to patients in their sickest and dying moments all over the world. He brings a conviction that something has to be done in these places that need a miracle.
He really has a gift for connecting to humanity everywhere he goes. Grocery stores aisles are opportunities to make someone laugh or stop a fight with his ridiculous clown pants that can transform over his head. He has a commitment to wearing clown pants everyday. He has not taken a dime in all of the years that he has served as a free doctor. His goal is to get enough money for his self sufficient hospital and fund projects all of the world.
He is a medical pioneer and a bit of a hippie, living communally with others who also share his passion for a life of service. In many ways he is more extreme in his ideology and methods than were portrayed in the movie (which he didn’t make money from- just exposure). He shared a bit of growing up seeing segregation and other injustices and feeling outraged. His patient consultations are 4 hours long. He doesn’t like the over medicating he sees that is prevalent in the medical community. He once even held a patient for a 12 hour hug. He does not use a computer (his website is run by people who do) and responds to EVERY snail mail letter written to him.
So where do we go from here? If Timberlake can bring sexy back ..why can’t we start by consciously thriving to bring big doses of joy and laughter back into our lives and those we encounter everyday.
This sums up the tips I found on this health guide for having more joy.
Smile * Count your blessings * When you hear laughter move toward it* Spend time with fun playful people * Bring humor into conversations.
“A merry heart is like a good medicine but a broken spirit dries the bones.”
Basically -learn to just be silly……. just for the health of it.