The benefits of laughter


The benefits of laughter
by Debra White

Every survival kit should include a sense of humor says an anonymous author. Some might say what’s to laugh lately. Life under Middle East dictatorships isn’t amusing. The U.S. and Iran still lack diplomatic relations after nearly 30 years. Energy and food prices soar around the world. Climate change threatens everyone.

A concept as simple as laughter – no jokes, no gimmicks, just laughter - is transforming the world. Change started in India in 1995 when Dr. Madan Kataria laughed with small groups of strangers on Mumbai streets. According to Laughter Yoga International, there are 6,000 laughter groups in 60 countries including a few in Iran although the hard-line regime frowns upon public laughter. Perhaps laughing on a street corner like dog ownership is seen as too Western. Iranian laughter groups are supposedly illegal because they welcome both men and women yet they somehow persist. Website pictures show happy people enjoying themselves. I hope President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad doesn’t order mass round-ups because people are laughing. Other Middle Eastern countries such as Lebanon, Pakistan, Turkey, Qatar, and Israel also showcase laughter groups.

Laughter gave me a boost last year. A pedestrian car accident in 1994 rendered me 100% disabled with brain and spine injuries. The house I shared edged towards foreclosure because the owner lost her job. Where would I live with my scraggly rescued dogs? Parting with my pets wasn’t an option. Affordable housing is as scarce in Arizona as a rainy season so I panicked. I’d already sifted through the trash for redeemable aluminum cans to help pay the bills. I had no other way to supplement my Social Security. Desperate, I buried my face inside my hands and sobbed. Then I found the laughter group at the SW Institute for Healing Arts in Tempe. It was free so that fit my budget. That January evening I felt more at ease than I had in months. I slept peacefully for a change. I saw a glimmer of hope instead of despair.

Corporations now use laughter to improve employee morale. Happier employees are more productive. Hospitals offer laughter groups to help patients cope with debilitating illnesses. There is nothing funny about cancer but laughter brings calm to chemotherapy patients. Prisons use laughter so inmates can deal with long sentences, congregate living, and separation from family.

In 2000, 10,000 people gathered in Copenhagen and set a world record for the largest group laugh. Not only does laughter bring people of diverse backgrounds together but it has beneficial physical effects too. Laughter lowers blood pressure, elevates mood and induces sleep. Overall, laughter fosters positive attitudes and improves self-image.

Laughter conferences are held around the world in nations such as the US, England, Japan and Mexico. I attended such a conference recently in Southern California. For two and a half days, I laughed with people from around the US, Jamaica, Australia, Mexico, Ethiopia, England, France and Canada. We all laugh in the same language. All major media outlets including the CBS weekly news magazine 60 Minutes cover the growing interest in laughter. Groups meet in public parks, hospitals, schools for no other reason than to laugh.

Laughter won’t solve all personal problems but it’ll make you feel better. If added to tense political negotiations, however, it just might bring about more peaceful solutions in Iran and around the world. Laughter has incredible physical and psychological healing powers. It really is a tranquilizer without side effects as the late American humorist Arnold Glascow said.

To find a free laughter group near you visit the website Bring an open mind and laugh for no reason. Leave feeling light hearted and happier. Make new friends too.

As for me, I eventually found housing in a trailer park that accepted pets. I laugh every day.

Debra J. White


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by Truthseeker9 on

Thank you for sharing your story with us, this is one of the lovliest blogs I have read for a while. It is a personal story with good advice. Laughter is definately good for health. Best to laugh in the right situation though, bursting into hysterical laughter on a bus for example can get you into trouble.   :)




Thank you so much dear Debra.

by comments on

Many thanks for such an informative blog.  Thank you as well for introducing the laugher website.  

I am not sure if many Iranians embrace happiness since in present Iran's culture being depressed is more acceptable socially.  Seriously, we don't say what a great day!  We look at the negative side.  For example, we wish to be back home safe in the evening.  Because being harassed or injured in a car or motorcycle accident is not unusual at all. 

If you have ever been in Iranian gatherings they usually start to denote all aspects of life to a "hell".  They keep complaining about injustice in the world, relate their unfortunate finance to enemies, keep complaining about all governments, their neighbours and other Iranians and nationalities.  

Still, in my opinion, Iranians are the sweetest people in the world as long as they are not drunk, drug addicted or angry and load.  I have had my loudest laugh with my special Iranian friends.  Please remember "special" Iranian friends.  I am sure we could find "special" people in all over the world: Arabs, Israelis, Palestinians, Turks, and so on... 


Of jelf bazi...

by پندارنیک on

It's good to know, and really it doesn't surprise many of us, that Israel for the time being has enough reason to form mass groups for laughter. I'm sure you will laughingly agree that our Israeli friends should save on their laughter so that when they go back to their legal international borders of pre-'67, they can share it with their Palestinian neighbors. They can also keep laughing while signing the NPT.

And as far as President Ahmadinejad is concerned, I can assure you he has no legal or practical power to order mass arrests.........we have to be careful with what we say and  not  let our laughing exercise make us a laughing stock............You're a fine lady who has all the ingredients to appeal a simpleton like me, and I want you to laugh along with realities and not sentimental deceptions.................