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The History of the Milwaukee Laughter Club



Dr. Madan Kataria began the Laughter Club movement (also known as Laughter Yoga) in India, in 1995.  He realized that children are uninhibited and feel free to laugh very often, but in time “people have forgotten to laugh” even though “scientists are convinced that laughter has both preventive and therapeutic value.”  He felt that increasing laughter would help adults reduce the amount of stress related illnesses, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression.

He created gentle exercises and various activities, for laughter sessions, that would help improve participants’ outlook.  These exercises can be done standing or seated, and are led by a qualified Laughter Leader to enhance and stimulate laughter, without using jokes.  Group support lifts the spirit, in an atmosphere that is relaxed and up-beat.  The Laughter Club program is meant “to combine laughter-exercises based on yogic breathing and stretching techniques to make the benefits of laughter accessible.”

In his book, Laugh For No Reason, Dr. Kataria explains that, “The most important factor in Laughter Club is your WILLINGNESS TO LAUGH…If you are willing to laugh and give yourself permission to laugh, nobody can stop you from laughing.”

The Laughter Club program was brought to the United States by psychologist Steve Wilson.  He began the World Laughter Tour, whose motto is:  Together we can lead the world to health, happiness, and peace through laughter.” The slogan is:  Think Globally, Laugh Locally!”

The mission of the World Laughter Tour is “Synthesizing the best laughter and humor practices into multi-generational, multi-cultural health and happiness related programs; providing methods that are uplifting, simple and powerful for individuals, organizations, and communities. Along the way we show how to prevent hardening of the attitudes, help people make better health choices, and offer the best value in training.”

When the body is undergoing a period of stress, all of the systems of the body are working at peak capacity and stress hormones are pumping into the blood stream.  Only one system is shut down during this time—the immune system.  During times of chronic stress, the stress hormones can suppress immunity and the presence of stress hormones can be detrimental to good health.

Laughter exercises can take place anytime and anyplace.  If you happen to be stuck in traffic, or you are at the airport and your plane has been delayed, you can do a simple laughter exercise.  Take out your cell phone, hold it up to your ear, pretend that you are listening to someone who is telling  you something very funny and LAUGH OUT LOUD!  After that, try some deep breathing.  Pretend that you are holding a flower under your nose and take a long, slow, deep breath through your nose.  Then, blow out the breath slowly through your mouth.  Having a strong, hardy laugh, followed by a cleansing breath is often very calming.  The traffic won’t suddenly disappear; your plane won’t depart on time, but as long as you are going to be late, why add the negative effects of stress to your problems? 

Laughter is the closest distance between two people.  Scientific evidence has show that seniors who regularly join together with friends and laugh often have longer, healthier, happier lives than those who do not have a supportive group to laugh with.  Laughter helps to improve health and optimism.

In 2003, Diane Kane was introduced to the Laughter Club program for the first time and was amazed and amused.  She had always known the benefits of laughter, humor and optimism and had planned at some point to become a clown.  After being introduced to the Laughter Club experience, she knew that she had found her calling.  A few months later, she went through the training to become a Certified Laughter Leader and established the Milwaukee Laughter Club. 

Also in 2003 she was introduced to the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor (AATH).  When she attended the annual AATH Convention that year, she was introduced to many like-minded humor advocates.  The experience of lectures and workshops filled with laughter was inspiring and motivating.

She is currently the CEO (Chief Elation Officer) of the Milwaukee Laughter Club, and she has presented Therapeutic Laughter Programs and Celebration of Laughter Programs throughout Wisconsin and the Chicago area.  Her programs are upbeat and humorous, but are educational and informative at the same time.  The programs are suitable for people of all ages and it is always enjoyable to have several generations laughing and having fun together.

One of the objectives of Diane’s Laughter Program is to describe how we can learn to relieve stress and travel comfortably down the road of life, even when the road is bumpy.  She explains why it is just as important to keep your funny bone strong and healthy as it is to care for the rest of the bones in your body.

Diane has presented many programs for educators.  She tries to emphasize that, as Alfred Mercer once said, "What we learn with pleasure we never forget." Sometimes teachers and students have so many pressures placed upon them that need to be given credit just for getting out of bed and facing the world each day. 

As a former educator, Diane believes that we need to take education seriously, but we don’t have to be serious all the time.  Dr Ruth Westheimer once said, “In the Talmud it says that a lesson taught with humor is a lesson retained.”  Psychologist, Ed Dunkelblau, PhD says that “Humor can improve memory. That's what advertisers have long suspected. Otherwise, you would never have a lizard selling insurance or a dog selling beer."

Sometimes when you experience difficulties in your life, you may feel that you are suffering from Y.A.L.E., You Aren’t Laughing Enough.  There might be times when you feel the pressure of a very stressful experience that you are facing.  In the middle of the stress, you might be lucky enough to find one thing that will trigger a laugh and help you to feel refreshed and enable you to throw off the negativity and allow you to experience restored hope and optimism as the laughter showers over you.

Think about the popularity of the early radio programs, during the depression and war years in the 1930’s and 1940’s.  The programs that people wanted to hear most were the ones that made them laugh and helped them to forget about their problems—even if only for a little while.  Someone once said, “Laughter is like changing a baby’s diaper.  It doesn’t permanently solve any problems, but it does make things more tolerable for a while.”




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