Written by Kerrie Alexander
When you start to laugh, it doesn’t just lighten your load mentally, it can induce physical change in your body.
That’s why Karen Flannery believes that laughter really is the best medicine.
The Hervey Bay resident has been the ever-smiling face of the Fraser Coast Laughter Club for the past four years, embracing the lives of the 10-25 happy laughers who attend the 45-minute session at the Hervey Bay Senior Citizens Centre once a week.
Karen explained that laughter can be used as a tool to combat depression, pain relief, grief, and other health issues.
It can also help maintain a happy level of well-being and improve social relationships and connections with others.
“It is impossible to stay angry when you are laughing,” she said.
“A Norwegian study found that those who have a sense of humour have greater longevity than those that do not, particularly when battling any types of illness or pain.
“Children laugh over 100 times a day, but unfortunately for adults the number drops to under 15.”
Laughter yoga clubs have spread to over 100 countries around the world and has been in Australia since Dr Kataria from India started Laughter Yoga in 1995.
He discovered that his patients that laughed more, had their health improve and dealt better with any illness.
So, he started a group in a park telling jokes but realised that you can laugh without jokes and combined the program with yoga breathing, and laughter yoga progressed from there.
Karen described the sessions as a wellness exercise program that combines clapping, laughing, breathing and playfulness, that leaves you feeling like you can not only deal with life but enjoy it by using laughter as the key.
Walking into this interview, I had envisaged Karen standing in front of an audience, performing some sort of comedy routine to get the laughs forthcoming. It was nothing of the sort.
I had the pleasure of being joined by Karen and her five newly trained Lovely Laughter Leaders, who recently finished their training and can now support running the group each week.
Karen and the new volunteer recruits – Susan Sengstock, Sandra Gentsch, Jannifer Noble, Donna Sinclair and Pippa Dower – joined with me in a circle, ready to prove just how beneficial the sessions can be.
My day was rushed from the beginning and everything that could gone wrong, did go wrong, so I was more than willing to let my insecurities of looking foolish go, and join in the fun.
We started with a relaxing breathing exercise that “quietens the mind and takes you away from everything else going on in your life”, Karen said.
Then came some clapping movements that included a ‘very good, very good, yay’ chant, followed by a shy giggle and the cha cha, where it was totally okay that I fell over my own feet on more than one occasion. In fact, it made me laugh!
I was in a safe and comfortable environment with no judgement, where there was a genuine want for those taking part to truly feel better about themselves … and I did.
“The great thing about laughter is that if we laugh even when we don’t feel like it, it still stimulates our brain and stirs the endorphins, and we start to feel the benefit.”
Karen believes businesses and health workers could benefit from running Laughter Sessions in the workplace to promote teamwork, help with stress and improve the health and productivity.
She is also passionate about sharing laughter with Aged Care staff and residents and wants to provide training to interested staff so that laughter becomes a part of their daily routine.
“Five to 10 minutes each day would see an improvement in clients and staff’s mood, happiness and mental wellbeing,” Karen said.
“They will have happier staff and residents and will help all of them cope better daily.
“It will stimulate the residents’ immune systems and help keep them healthier emotionally and physically.
“It is truly an amazing experience.”
Fraser Coast residents of any age or abilities are invited to join the Lovely Laughter Ladies at the Hervey Bay Senior Citizens Hall, 28 Totness Street, Torquay, at 12.45pm each Monday.
The $4 cost goes to the club to cover cost of insurance, tea/ coffee, biscuit, and a lucky door ticket. Phone Karen on 0408 969 404 to find out more.
KAREN’S TOP TIPS TO BRING LAUGHTER INTO YOUR DAY:
• Display amusing quotes and stories in your living space.
• Surround yourself with people that have a sense of humour.
• Read a joke book and share your favourites.
• Treat yourself to a funny movie.
• Learn to laugh without any prompting.