“I read that laughter was healing from the Norman Cousins book “Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient.” Cousins laughed himself back to health from an often fatal disease.
I had been doing Laughter Yoga weekly when a friend said going more than once a week had made a big shift in his and his wife’s life. His wife had suffered a stroke so he was looking after her needs 24/7 and both were down emotionally. The laughter sessions now meant both of them had more laughter and lightness in their lives.
At that point, I also committed to going a few times a week and yes, something did shift. More lightness and ease and ability to smile and laugh more often. It was as if my happiness “set point” had been raised.
Marci Shimoff, in her wonderful book, “Happy for No Reason” explains it this way. Research has shown that big ticket lottery winners become very happy, even ecstatic quickly. That lasts for a while, but after about one year, they come back to the level of happiness they had before the win.
The other side held true as well. People who suffered horrible misfortunes in their lives such as losing both arms and legs in an accident, fell into terrible depression and despair, which also lasted for a while. But, after about one year, they also came back to their previous level of happiness.
Shimoff says that tells her we each have a happiness “set point.” We may fluctuate above it and below it, but it is where we consistently and habitually come back to.
The founder of Laughter Yoga, Dr. Madan Kataria, explains the difference between happiness and joy this way. Happiness is something that comes from outside circumstances. This could be a lottery win, getting married, buying a new car, TV or house, having children and so on. All the “stuff” of life “out there,” outside of us. Joy, meantime, is something that resides inside us, independent of outside circumstances.
Laughter Yoga has the ability to tap into this inner source of joy and awaken it in our lives, so that we feel it more and more every day, despite all the challenges and “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” that life throws at us. We still have moments of more happiness and more unhappiness, but we come back again and again to this higher happiness “set point” or fountain of inner joy.
This quote lives with me and has inspired me to treat laughter as a necessary daily nutrient:
‘Submit to a daily practice.
Your loyalty to that is a knock on the door.
Keep knocking and the joy inside
Will eventually open a window
And look out to see who’s there.”
–Matti Anttila CLYT (Certified Laughter Yoga Teacher and Professional Laughter Dude) October 2009