By definition, laughter is an expression or appearance of merriment or amusement, but the members of Laurie's Laughoholic Club know that it is much more than that.

Reasons to laugh   • Strengthen your immune system. • Make your cheeks sore.

• Enhance your cardiovascular flexibility.

• Increase your spirit quotient.

• Think more clearly.

• Put a devilish twinkle in your eye.

• Increase your intellectual performance and information retention.

• Forget what you were laughing about.

• Replenish your creative juices.

• Destroy your conservative reputation.

• "Pop" yourself out of emotional ruts.

• Dampen your undergarments.

• Release and transform your emotional pain.

• Develop abdominal muscles of steel.

• Rebalance the chemistry of your stress and tension.

• Create stress and tension in others.

• Create perspective and remind yourself of the bigger picture.

• Wonder why you wasted all those years being serious.

• Experience a deep connection with other human beings.

• Confuse and confound family and friends.

• Draw yourself in to experiencing the present.

• Help yourself live and die, laughing.

• Join a growing group of giggling gurus.

From Dr. Goodheart

Laurie's Laughoholic Club is one of thousands of laugh clubs around the world that are part of a global organization called Laughter Yoga, which was founded in India in 1995 by Dr. Medan Kataria. A psychologist by the name of Steve Wilson traveled to India to study the organization and brought it to America, calling it the World Laughter Tour.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE VIDEO Certified Laughter Leader Laurie Nathanson first heard about Laughter Yoga from her yoga instructor.

"It's really a form of yoga because it's body, spirit and mind," Nathanson said.

She started the free, all-ages laughter club in April 2008, two weeks after her mother died suddenly.

"Personally, it saved me from slipping into a deep, dark depression," said Nathanson, who has been running the club ever since.

Laurie's Laughoholic Club went on its first outing May 23 to The Clean Comedy Show at the Grace Inn, but the club's main events are its meetings. They are held on the first Sunday of every month at the fire station at 4110 E. Chandler Blvd. from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. The meetings include stretching, deep breathing and, of course, laughing.

The laughing exercises usually include improvisations, which can be anything from making funny faces to waddling like penguins. Nathanson prefers improvisations rather than jokes because "not everybody has the same sense of humor."

She described laughter as "internal jogging" and "an addiction that is good for your health." One of her many regular club members, Laura Smitherman, was diagnosed with Stage Four Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma 23 years ago. She used laughter to help with her healing process.

"Being able to laugh about things really helped me get through it," Smitherman said. "People don't realize how their emotions affect their immune system."

Nathanson said even faking a laugh can lead to the same beneficial results.

"Your mind and your body will respond to fake laughter the same as real laughter," she said. "It is contagious. You want to catch this thing."

Laughter can give people the chance to feel like children again, and help them relieve their stress and stay sane, Nathanson added.

She hopes everyone who attends a meeting will be able to "try to find the funny side of life."


Christina O'Haver is interning this summer for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a sophomore at Arizona State University.

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