Marlene Chertok was recovering from chemotherapy when she began looking for ways to positively impact her health. Even though she engaged in yoga and qi gong every day, she needed something more, but wasn’t sure what that might be.
Through her research, Marlene discovered a fascinating documentary called “The Laughter Clubs of India,” inspired by Dr. Madan Kataria. After seeing the documentary and seeking additional information, she learned that laughter offers the following benefits:
- Boosts the immune system
- Lowers blood pressure
- Increases blood oxygenation throughout the body, improving brain health
- Reduces stress hormones
- Tones the abs, especially “belly laughs”
- Releases endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers
- Produces a general sense of well-being
- Lightens the spirit with long-lasting effects.
Marlene quickly identified the problem: she had “lost her laugh.” Additionally, she discovered that she wasn’t alone. As we transition into adulthood, the majority of us (worldwide!) lose the ability to laugh. That playful, easily accessed laughter from childhood is replaced with a brief, polite, society laugh.
Even though something as simple as smiling every day plays a major role in improving our health, converting a smile into a hearty laugh can be difficult. Marlene learned that laughter is more than laughing at jokes or a romantic comedy on TV. It’s the ability to laugh more often—daily, if not hourly—without reasons or prompts. Too early in life, we get swept up with busy-ness and forgo the opportunity to play, relax, and laugh. Finding her laugh became Marlene’s healing mission.
As she continued her inquiry, Marlene found that laughter resources are scarce, with the exception of the documentary. However, she persisted and eventually located and visited a community laughter club in California. (Turns out, laughter clubs are a thing!) Through her visits, she discovered that reintroducing laughter into one’s life requires a LOT of practice. Her new friends taught her exercises to help with the process, and they trained and encouraged each other via long-distance phone calls. Marlene soon grasped the connection between yoga, laughter, and deep breathing.
With practice and encouragement from her laughter club friends, Marlene traveled to Toronto, Canada, to pursue her Master Yoga Leader Certification. With certificate in hand, Marlene returned to her hometown of St. Louis to offer laughter yoga classes.
What does it take to get your laughter back?
Laughter is like any other muscle in the body: if you don’t use it, you lose it. To maintain a true laugh requires intentionally keeping laughter in your life. In order to unlock your laughter, Marlene recommends adding these activities to your life:
- When you feel stressed, STOP, LIGHTEN UP, RELAX, and don’t be such a grown up!
- Stare at yourself in a mirror. Start by smiling at yourself. Smile from the heart. Then, graduate to a giggle and a chuckle.
- Add yoga, Tai chi, qi gong, and similar meditation activities to your regimen.
- Develop your sense of curiosity and wonder by regularly exploring the world around you. Experiencing “awe” has a way of making you laugh.
- Play silly childhood games with your grandchildren.
- Learn to love yourself again.
Additionally, Marlene challenges us to remember the following points:
- You didn’t lose your laugh overnight. Working out the tangles takes a while.
- Make an effort to find your true laugh.
- Feel good in your own skin.
- Let yourself have fun.
- Be kind and patient with yourself.
- Just like a smile and a hug, laughter is contagious. Share it everywhere you go.
Since her initial diagnosis in 2003, Marlene’s community laughter club is celebrating 14 years of success in reintroducing laughter, play, and silliness into life. The entire process has been a life-affirming experience for her, resulting in a profound sense of health and well-being.
Marlene invites everyone to get hooked on laughter!