Thursday, April 26, 2012

Anticipating Laughter

My friend Patrizia and I get together once a month, initially to speak Italian and to visit.  But as we’ve become better and better friends, we speak less and less Italian and more and more English.    Now it’s all English, a bit sad for me as I am trying to learn this beautiful new language.

But irrespective of the language we laugh endlessly.  We’ve developed a stream of running jokes about life, some in Italian, some in English.  So this is always something I look forward to.  A highlight of my month, for one reason, because I know I’ll be getting a lot of laughs.

Drs. Lee Berk and. Stanley Tan, pioneering researchers in the field of laughter therapy, did a series of studies on laughter and the immune system.  They found a significant link and got some interesting results.

If you laugh for a good chunk of time, as we do during a laughter session, it not only stimulates your immune system while you are laughing, but also for a good 24 hours after.

Even more interesting they found that simply anticipating that you’re going to be laughing starts activating your immune system.  One group of their subjects was told they were about to view an informational weather video.  Boring.  The other group was told they were about to view a comedy video.  Funny.  They tested them before, during and after and observed how this boost begins immediately after knowing what’s coming.

It’s good for your health to have some laughter to look forward to.  For my friend Patrizia and I, sometimes all we need to do is look at each other and the laughter begins.  Like Pavlov’s dogs, we know what’s coming…

Photo:  Stock.xchnge

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lord Byron Quote

“Always laugh when you can, it’s cheap medicine.”

Lord Byron

Photo:  Byron Portrait by Thomas Phillips/Wikimedia

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Where Have all the Nicknames Gone?

There used to be more fun in sports in those days of playful nicknames.

Dominic DiMaggio of the Boston Red Sox was The Professor simply because he wore glasses. His more famous brother Joe was The Yankee Clipper, a Yankee to the core for his entire career, who was also called Joltin’ Joe, a fun alliteration that was even made into a song.

There was Cookie Lavagetto of the Brooklyn Dodgers, hero of the 1947 World Series and the tall skinny Red Sox slugger Ted Williams who was known as The Splendid Splinter.

Shoeless Joe Jackson of the Chicago White Sox was so poor he spent most of his boyhood in the South barefoot.

Yankee Lou Gehig was the Iron Horse for his iron-willed stamina in playing continuous games.

Who could forget Hammerin’ Hank Aaron, record holder for home runs or Ty Cobb the Georgia Peach?

In Seattle we had our own tall and lanky Rainier’s pitcher Hector Skinny Brown, as well as pitcher Kewpie Dick Barrett so called for his substantially round tummy.

In pro football there was Elroy Crazy Legs Hirsch, the wild runner with his own unique style of legwork. And Washington Redskins quarterback Slinging Sammy Baugh coined for slinging the ball across the field like Zeus hurling his thunderbolt across the sky.

Boxer Joe Lewis was the Brown Bomber who could knock his opponents out cold with one powerful punch.

Argentinean boxer Luis Firpo was The Wild Bull of the Pampas named after the plains of Argentina where the caballeros rode.

Boxer Archie Moore was The Old Mongoose for his crafty dead-on moves in the ring, one swift punch that could kill a cobra.

Jack Dempsey was the Manassa Mauler for obvious reasons.

And of course there was The Babe!

Closer to home we had those wild and crazy hydroplane drivers Wild Bill Cantrell famous for his speed, and the often told story of taking a turn so fast he ended up in someone’s flower bed on Lake Washington, only to be handed a martini by delighted spectators. And Seattle favorite, daring former race car driver and Gold Cup winner Lou Leadfoot Fageol of Slo Mo fame.

It’s true we’ve got a few nicknames now, like The Kid for Ken Griffey Jr.

But it’s just not the same. It’s not so ubiquitous. It’s not so fun-loving.

Fun for us though, we have one in the family: my ex's stepdaughter the champion boxer, Molly The Mauler McConnell, one tough cookie who spars with men and some refuse to fight.

Photo: Shoeless Joe Jackson/Wikimedia

Monday, April 16, 2012

Basyr University

I am currently teaching a class on laughter and laughter yoga at Bastyr University, the nationally renowned college for Naturopathic Medicine. The best thing about it is simply that they asked me to do it. Because it shows you how the world has evolved when a “globally respected” college for doctors wants a class on laughter.

Photo: Dr. John Bastyr

Sunday, April 15, 2012


“I have seen the softening of the hardest of hearts with a simple smile.”

Goldie Hawn

Photo: Wikimedia

Friday, April 13, 2012


What is hyperventilation? Simply breathing too much too fast thus taking in too much oxygen.

Like anything that’s good for you, too much is detrimental. Like drinking enough water every day. Drink too much and you’re in serious trouble.

Laughing is great for many reasons, one being it oxygenates the body. People can come to the laughter club tired and leave energized from all that oxygen.

But if you start to hyperventilate, you actually are loosing oxygen to the brain. It’s called Bohr’s Law. There is a point where the scales tip. If you take in too much oxygen, the oxygen binds too tightly to the hemoglobin and circulates in the body without being released. Thus you get light-headed from the lack of oxygen to the brain. Not a good thing.

When people come to the laughter club and end up this way, I always know they’ve got breathing problems, whether they know it or not. It’s always the people who go around with their mouths open. Not the correct way to breathe. Chronic hyperventilation. Then they come and laugh and it’s far too much oxygen.

Lesson for today: If you’re not talking, laughing, kissing, singing or eating, your mouth should be shut, so you’re breathing through your nose, the correct way to breath. Because your nose is 3 times smaller than your mouth, this correctly regulates the amount of oxygen you take in.

Photo: stock.xchnge

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Lose Weight Laughing?

The oxtail stew at the Caribbean restaurant was so tenderly delicious it made my goat entrée seem a bit 2nd rate, but just a bit. The dark greens at the Sicilian restaurant were swimming in an anchovy garlic broth that sent me into a spin of ecstasy. And the lamb shank at the Turkish restaurant, which the owner told us took 3 days to cook, was immersed in a sauce so amazing it was hard not to lick the plate.

I love to eat. Almost as much as I love to laugh. I consider it one of life’s greatest pleasures.

I’m a member of a fun, lively, prolific dinner group and I’m having a blast. But simultaneously I am shocked to discover I’ve outgrown some of my clothes. Refusing to become an overweight American, I need to do something quick to reverse this.

People sometimes ask me if it’s possible to lose weight laughing since laughter is aerobic exercise. I'll reference the one study done on this topic.

At Vanderbilt University in Nashville Dr. Buchowski found that a daily 15 minute laughter workout can burn 40 calories and melt away 4 pounds over one year.

But really I think it’s simply a matter of eating less and getting on the treadmill. That’s my plan.

Photo: Wikimedia: Hotei/Japanese Laughing Buddha

Monday, April 9, 2012


“A person without humor is like a wagon without springs – jolted by every pebble in the road.”

Henry Ward Beecher

Photo: Stock.xchnge

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Laughing for a Living

When people ask me what I do for a living, I envy my friend Maurice who can answer “I’m an architect.” Solid. Basic. Respectful. Everyone can understand it.

But for me…. in fact when I sense the question is coming, I avoid eye contact or even change the subject.

Otherwise the banter goes something like this:

“What do you do for a living?”

“I laugh for a living.”

“Say what?”

“I lead programs on the Healing Power of Laughter.”

“the healing power of what?”

(this is where I begin to get aggravated, because I am speaking English)

“I lead programs on what’s called Laughter Yoga.”

“Oh yoga, I’ve practiced Vipassana Yoga for years. How long have you been a yoga teacher?”

Can I just lie and say I’m an architect?

Photo: Stock.xchnge

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Is it Flirting or Is it Laughing?

In my life I have been accused of flirting too much, when in my mind all I have been doing is laughing.

So when they see perhaps their husbands laughing it up with me, it doesn’t always go over well.

Yet am I really the problem? Or is the problem that most people just don’t laugh nearly enough.

Statistics show that children laugh hundreds of times per day while adults only laugh a dozen or so times (on the average). Even more telling statistics show that in the 1950’s people laughed on the average for 18 minutes per day while in the 1990’s, for only 6 minutes per day. Not only have most people grown up and stopped laughing, our whole society has gotten far more serious. Something I seek to mend.

Back to laughing socially - I am actually pretty sensitive to when and how and with whom I am laughing, as well as how others are feeling about it. But perhaps others could also try a bit more, as Walt Disney said, to find their own laughing place.

Photo: Stock.xchnge

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Walt Disney

“Everyone has a laughing place. Some people just don’t take the time to find it.”

Br’er Rabbit/Walt Disney

Photo: Wikimedia