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Looking for a relief society activity idea? Each quarter for my church we have a meeting where we get together as a the women of the church (aka the Relief Society) and do an activity. These activities are meant for spiritual and temporal learning and to help build
friendships. For this months activity we did laughter therapy with the theme “Finding Joy in Christ”.
What is Laughter Therapy?
Honestly I was a little skeptical when this idea was suggested in my relief society activities planning committee.
Laughter Therapy… Sounds a little silly right?
Laughter therapy originated with Dr. Madan Kataria in Bombay, India. He read Norman Cousin’s book, “Anatomy of an Illness,” and decided to help his patients to relieve stress through laughter. The first laughter club started with 5 people in a park in 1995. At first the laughter club began by telling jokes, but you can only tell so many jokes. When they ran out of suitable material they decided to follow the example of children and “laugh for no reason.”
Setting up for the activity
For the activity we had table and chairs set up and we started the activity with a light dinner consisting of salad, pasta salad, fruit and rolls.
On the table we used colorful plastic table cloths and for the centerpieces we used mason jars filled with skittles and licorice with a plastic ice cream scooper to help with scooping out the candy. We also laid starbursts around the table.
I was in charge of creating quotes about happiness which I had printed using Engineering prints from Staples. Engineering prints start a $1.79 for a 18 x 24 black and white image. Engineering prints worked perfectly for quotes, but would not be a good fit for a detailed image.
I hung the quotes up in the gym so you could see them from the tables.
1. Happiness Quote
2. Happiness Quote
3. Happiness Quote
4. Happiness Quote
Laughter therapy: Finding Joy in Christ
A lady from a local laughter club came and volunteered her time to teach us. To start her presentation she asked us the question: how are you feeling today? We were asked to give ourselves a rating from 1-10 on how we are feeling today with 1 being crappy and 10 being awesome. I would say I was about a 5. I was a little tired from my day of watching my two young boys who certainly can be a handful. She then led us through a simple cheer which I can’t remember.
She relayed the history of laughter clubs and began to take us through various laughter exercises.
The goal of a Laughter Club Program is to “provide light to moderate exercise for mental and physical flexibly, mood regulation, stress reduction, and an attitude boost.”
The various exercises involve deep breathing, stretching and laughter actions. Some of the laughter exercises are designed to mimic everyday activities. One example is the “Cell Phone Laugh”, where you are encouraged to laugh while holding an imaginary phone and waving “hi” to others in the group.
All of the laughter exercises ended with a “HO-HO-HA-HA-HA” which was combined with a rhythmic clapping, eye contact and smiles.
The laughter club developed into a way of Good-Hearted living:
After the concept of the laughter club was developed, the two founding members Dr. Kataria and Steve Wilson felt more was needed for the program to balance mind, body and spirit.
Steve Wilson asked the question: What attitudes contribute the most to unhealthy stress?
Anger, fear, worry, perfectionism, faultfinding, inflexibility and overwork
These attitudes and states of mind rob us of laughter.
Principles of Good-Hearted living
Steve Wilson developed 6 daily practices as a way to combat these negative tendencies.
- Mondays are for compliments.- “A kind word often goes unspoken, but never goes unheard.”
- Tuesdays are for flexibility- “A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.”
- Wednesdays are for gratitude – “As you go through life, let this always be your goal: Keep your eye upon the donut, and not upon the hole!”
- Thursdays are for kindness – “Kindness is like magic. It transforms the giver and the receiver.”
- Fridays are for forgiveness. – “When you forgive, you don’t change the past, you change the future”
- Weekends are for chocolate – “If you’ve got melted chocolate all over your hands, you’re eating it too slowly!”
Mondays are for compliments:
The laughter club leader led us through a compliments exercise. For every letter of the alphabet we were to say three different statements using a word.
A – Amazing
The statements were:
I am… Amazing
You are… Amazing
We are… Amazing
We continued to do this for a word with every letter of the alphabet.
The lady encouraged us to go home and write down each of these words. Each week put up a new word somewhere visible to help me remember my own divinity and to think about others and their worth and try to compliment others more.
3 lessons I learned from Laughter therapy:
1. Posture can influence your emotions
One exercise we were asked to do was lean forward with our shoulders rounded in and head down and say the words “I am happy”.
Honestly it didn’t feel right. The posture and the emotion did not match.
As I went through physical therapy school the importance of the mind, body, and spirit connection was emphasized. (as much as a scientific program could). I definitely believe this statement to be true.
Your body posture can definitely influence your emotions. I know I am guilty of this especially in new situations where I sit with my arms closed and slumped posture which signals a closed off position – where you are not inviting or welcoming to your surrounding. As I went through school interviews I was told not cross my arms and keep them open because from a body language perspective it is more welcoming.
I have seen first hand with the power of exercise. Exercise can help you live a happier life. As you exercise and work to strengthen your body and improve your posture this helps improve overall body alignment and relieve pain which can help with your overall attitude.
2. The benefits of deep breathing
One exercise we were asked to do was pretend you are holding a rose and breathe in to smell the rose. This activity encourages you to take a deep breathe. I know that I don’t deep breathe enough. I am going to make another parallel here to Physical Therapy (because that is what I know). The foundation of lower abdominal and a pelvic strengthening program starts with deep breathing or learning diaphragmatic breathing. There is something about breathing and mastering your breathe which can affect your postural strength and motor control.
3. I probably care too much about what other people think
This activity was a little bit of a challenge for me. It was hard to let myself go and just really get into it. I am of the personality where I like to be supportive. I honestly wanted to try and participate as much as I can, but this one was tough.
I found myself looking to others to see what they thought of the activity. The premise of laughter therapy is to start laughing for no reason, but fake laughter can turn into real laughter and ultimately it is to help let go of your inhibitions and be in the moment. Like I said it was hard. I am probably to serious and have a hard time letting go.
Would I recommend Laughter Therapy to others?
It was an interesting experience and I would recommend it to others to try. I was definitely not converted and I do not have plans to attend a regular laughter club, but it was a good Relief Society activity.