The first hint was given by Norman Cousins, political journalist and one time Adjunct Professor of Medical Humanities for the School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, in the account of his recovery from Marie-Strumpell's disease (ankylosing spondylitis), (although this diagnosis is currently in doubt and it has been suggested that Cousins may actually have had reactive arthritis). [Reference: Wikipedia] "In Anatomy of an illness" Cousins wrote: "I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep". "When the pain-killing effect of the laughter wore off, we would switch on the motion picture projector again (to watch Marx Brothers films) and not infrequently, it would lead to another pain-free interval." [Reference: Wikipedia]
In the late 1960's Dr William Fry (psychiatrist working at Stanford University, California) began to examine the physiological effects of laughter. He showed that laughter causes the body to produce endorphins which are our body's natural pain killers. [Reference: Certified Laughter Yoga Leader training manual of Dr Madan Kataria.]
I have heard an anecdotal story of a doctor living in Brazil who successfully tested the pain killing effect of laughter when she badly injured her leg is a car accident and underwent two operations without artificial anesthetic using only laughter to kill the pain.
One day in reading through a magazine I saw an advert for training to become a Certified Laughter Yoga Leader offered by Laughter for Africa. Quite frankly, I had never heard of laughter as anything other than something done in response to a funny situation. I also could not recall the last hearty laugh I had had. I do know that it was something my partner and I spoke of as being lacking in our lives but the situations for laughter did not seem to arise. Could I laugh for no reason? I started acting in amateur theatre when I began working and so I thought that forced laughter would be do-able.
It took nine months from first enquiring about the training till I was sitting in a Virgin Active Gym undergoing the training. With a certificate in hand after the second day, with many years in corporate management and all the confidence of standing in front of people I was still very uncertain what I would or could do with this training. Dr. Madan Kataria, the founder of Laughter Yoga, advocates Laughter Clubs. These are gatherings of people on a regular basis - daily in the Far East - for the purpose of laughter. Unless the venue being used charges for rental, laughter club attendance is free. So I started my first laughter club. More than 20 people came to investigate this new club but only half a dozen returned to the Saturday afternoon gathering with any sort of regularity. The year-end period saw people staying away altogether and no one returned in the new year.
A spell of working with the International Laughter Institute (now in a new guise) taught me a lot more about laughter, how to provide a service to paying clients, the essentials of training laughter and I gained invaluable experience in delivering laughter workshops and training in diverse environments. In the meanwhile I studied the basics of running an own business.
Adding from years of studying self-help books and success in my corporate career I see a strategic value to adding an active de-stressing life skill to everyone's basket of tools in reaching their greatest potential.
Take a shy, lanky child who had no friends to speak of, who did what was expected of him and you wonder how he became a demonstrative adult choosing a new career later in life that is on the leading edge of the service industry.
I chose to study Geology to avoid working in an office, to keep away from people, factories and writing reports and entered the diamond industry where I managed people, worked on ships, in laboratories, built and managed processing plants and wrote many reports. Ironic, but that is the course a human life takes.
Our choices lead us on strange paths. Once I'd completed my compulsory military service under the previous South African regime (during which I mapped soil types and walked through nature reserves where the public is forced remain in their vehicles), I learned that people were not so fearful. Rather I learned a bit about myself that made it easier to relate to people.
One of the first pass times I jumped into was amateur theatre. With a well rehearsed script it is easy stand in front of a crowd of people and take on another character. I learned to enjoy the response of an audience.
In a desire not to make a career of the corporate life I engaged in business ventures in my spare time and through this began a path of personal development. To step out of the comfort zone is unpleasant enough when changes in job occur but when one begins to prepare for an independent business living outside of the comfort zone becomes the norm and personal growth must accompany this. A diverse range of reading, from the practical to the esoteric provided a wealth of material and insight into the heights a person can reach with a little guidance.
When life nudged me out of the corporate world I already had a plan for a new career but the vagaries of life ensure that transitions are never smooth when there are still lessons to learn. Laughter entered into this period of transition and I discovered a tool of great power in facilitating transformation. It is not a technique that offers instant results, but then very few do. Through use the technique of laughter shifts the things that over-engage the mind and allows the mind to de-clutter and find perspective. New creativity and innovation become possible and by actively de-stressing through laughter these new ideas can be implemented and developed. I see laughter as the entry tool in preparing for achieving heights of which we are all capable.
In a world where stress is the order of the day and the negative effects of stress cripple our ability to achieve our full potential, this tool, laughter, is a much needed answer to achieving a better life. And that is how I come to be a passionate proponent of the technique of laughter for no reason and have dedicated my career to spreading laughter for the growth of the world.
Laughter Strategist, Laughter Coach, Master Trainer with a passion to assist people transform their lives to reach their highest potential.