Olympia Holliday: I first heard about Laughter Yoga from a Laughter Yoga Leader named Leah Tunnell. She was a client of my husband’s and had come over to our home to pay for some work he had done. During our conversation with her she told us she was a “Laughter Yoga Leader”. I remember feeling ‘embarrassed for her’. Despite my efforts to be positive and open minded, I had never heard of ‘Laughter Yoga’ before and it was way outside my comfort zone. I could not possibly imagine what any adult in their right mind would be doing telling people they did “Laughter Yoga”. It sounded so silly.
Leah told us that the upcoming weekend she had arranged two laughter events, and asked us if we would go laugh with her. I couldn’t really come up with a good reason that I was not able to drive 3 miles from our home to go laugh for 10-15 minutes. I figured it wouldn’t kill me and I didn’t think it would be polite to decline the invitation, so my husband and I decided to go.
We showed up at the Farmers market. There were 8 of us in total looking quite uncomfortable; we didn’t know each other and were complete strangers. We had to walk the circuit around the booths and laugh for no reason other than to bring joy to the area. That was it. I thought – ‘I can do 10 minutes of laughing; I’ll just act like I’m laughing. It’ll be fine. I’ll feel really silly, but I don’t know any of these people. Besides, it’ll be over soon.’ I had no idea that during those 10 minutes my entire life was about to change.
We walked towards the Farmers market and began laughing. Most people smiled or laughed with us. Some people stared blankly. Some turned their heads and pretended to not see us. Some people scowled at us said negative things in a loud voice we would hear. The reactions were amazing. At the end of the 10-minute circuit we were exhausted. I never knew it would be so much effort to laugh that long! All of a sudden it dawned on me that I had just had a fantastic time. I had laughed quite a bit of genuine laughter and it was a lot of fun.
The group was lively and chatty after the laughter flash was over. The 8 of us were now friendly, happy and open. We were all talking to each other, listening, asking questions. We unanimously decided to show up again the following morning to participate again for World Laughter Day. It was another amazing experience. After the time we spent laughing it made us feel incredible, vibrant, alive and joyful. My husband and I had been in a great mood and were extra close. We smiled and laughed and played together. Laughter was some powerful medicine. I decided that this whole “laughing” thing wasn’t as bad as I had feared it would be. It didn’t make me feel ‘stupid’ or ‘silly’, on the contrary, it made me feel fabulous and happy.
I started doing some reading about Laughter Yoga on the Internet and also watched some videos on YouTube. Watching the people in the videos laughing and smiling and playing and connecting and having a good time together had evoked very strong emotions in me. I saw undeniable joy in these peoples’ faces. It made tears flow down my face seeing them laugh and play because it touched something very deep and very fundamental inside of me. I cried and I watched these happy, laughing, smiling people. I wanted what they had. I wanted to share in that joy. I realized that the choice was mine. I could choose to laugh regularly because it was good for me. I could choose to have more joy in my life.
Since I have started laughing, I have become more relaxed, more cheerful, and better able to handle difficult situations that came up. I connect better with others, play more and laugh more. I make it a point to choose joy on a regular basis. My marriage is stronger, without question. Conflicts are resolved more quickly and easily using some of the tools we have learned through Laughter Yoga. Our family and friends who agreed to participate in laughter with us now want to do it more as they find many positive benefits in their lives.
I went from not wanting to discuss ‘laughing for no reason’ because I thought it was something an adult should be embarrassed to do, to realizing that ‘laughing for no reason’ is quite possibly one of the most important things that I do with my life. Being open to laughing for no reason just one time made it undeniably clear to me that laughter is something that had been missing from my life and is something that is missing from society at large in this complicated, modern, high-tech world of ours. From my point of view, we only live once and we’d better make it good; the clock is ticking and there’s no turning it back. For me, there is no denying the power of laughter; I have experienced it and have seen people experience it. Just choose to laugh and the rest falls into place.