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They laugh, and teach the world to laugh with them

About 1,000 adults in the United States, Canada, and Mexico have become certified laughter leaders. Their job (though they don't always get paid) is to help people laugh.

By Karen Fritscher-PorterContributor to The Christian Science Monitor / June 9, 2004



Sometimes Robyn Sadler of Savannah, Ga., breaks into teeny giggles and sometimes she roars with laughter. And sometimes a dozen or so people do the same along with her. But what's so funny is, well, there is nothing funny. Ms. Sadler is a certified laughter leader whose job (though she often doesn't get paid for it) is to help people laugh. Literally.

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As a leader/motivator - one who uses a systematic routine but not jokes - Sadler inspires laughter through interactive laughing exercises. (Of course, if you've got a good, clean joke, Sadler will let you tell it in class. But she won't guarantee you'll get a laugh from your fellow attendees.)

In Sadler's class, laughing is something you just do. You "simulate laughter to stimulate laughter," she says, which in turn boosts your mood, lowers your stress level, and possibly benefits your physical health.

Sadler is one of about 1,000 adults in the United States, Canada, and Mexico who have become certified laughter leaders sinceJuly 2000 through the World Laughter Tour Inc. (www.world laughtertour.com). The group was formed in 1998 by former psychologist and psychotherapist Steve Wilson and nurse Karyn Buxman. Their intent, then and now, is "global influence in the practical applications of laughter and humor for health and world peace."

Their progress has included a lot of guffaws over the past six years. And that's a good thing, says Mr. Wilson, a self-proclaimed "joyologist."

"If everyone would go back to being a child again by spending 30 minutes laughing, the whole world would be a better place," he adds.

Wilson's inspiration was Madan Kataria, founder and president of Laughter Club International in India. Dr. Kataria is the catalyst for hundreds of laughter clubs in India known as Hasya Yoga (a yogic laughter practice) for health and peace.

Yes, thousands of people are laughing in India for no reason. In fact, there is a kind of shared universal language that goes something like this: Hee hee ha ha ho ho.... That's just one of the phrases Sadler uses in her workshop.

Those who attend one of her classes might find themselves sitting with their mouths open wide, lightly slapping their chests and then their knees with one hand while pointing at people with the other hand and laughing without making noise.

"It's sort of as if you were in church and you couldn't laugh and had to squelch it a little bit," says Sadler about the "silent laugh," one of the interactive laughter exercises she uses.

A louder laughter exercise is the "cellphone laugh." Sadler asks participants to walk around the room, holding imaginary cellphone against their ear, pretending to call a friend to perhaps tell them about this crazy laughter club workshop they attended. But instead of talking on their phones, participants laugh into it. And they're encouraged to make eye contact with one another.

The favorite class exercise is often the "argumentative laughter" (without the argument). Class participants walk around and point and wiggle their fingers as though in preparation to scold one another, but instead, they laugh. Hee, hee, hee.

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