Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Here we are on the cusp of 2009. Many people make plans on this celebratory evening, hoping to change the course of the coming year for the better. This is nothing new. As far back as 153 B.C.E. humans have been making new year's resolutions.

Some people vow to change their lifestyle by cutting out those extra calories or exercising more. Others hope to change their spending habits, perhaps to tame their credit card debt or save more. Britney Spears, on the other hand, has declared that her new year's resolution is to stop biting her nails.

But the question is, can Britney and other determined resolution-makers achieve their goals in 2009 or will they give up by mid-January? According to Wikipedia, recent research shows that while 52% of participants in a resolution study were confident of success with their goals, only 12% actually achieved their goals. Men achieved their goal 22% more often when they engaged in goal setting, a system where small measurable goals are used (lose a pound a week, instead of saying "lose weight"), while women succeeded 10% more when they made their goals public and got support from their friends.

As a person whose life has been transformed by the power of laughter, I urge you to consider making a laughter resolution. Do you want 2009 to be a more joyful year?  Do you hope to have less stress and more enjoyment? Do you want to be able to boast of greater health and happiness? Do you want to become engaged in more meaningful work? Then declare 2009 to be a "laughing year!"

How can you make it a laughing year and really stick to it? Use the research wisdom to your advantage by setting measurable goals, make them public and get support.  Let's look at each one of these.

Don't stop with simply saying it is going to be a laughing year—specify how much you intend to laugh each week.  Here are some examples:
•  I am going to laugh every day for at least 15 minutes.
•  I am going to laugh for at least a portion of my commute time.
•  I am going to laugh every week while I am dusting the house.
•  I am going to attend laughter club regularly.
•  I am going to read Laughing Laura's blog and heed her suggestions, no matter how ridiculous they may seem!

Write your goals down. This totally helps. After each week, assess how you are doing. Perhaps you can even keep a laughter log and give yourself stickers when you get your laughing accomplished. Cheer yourself on. Shout: "Very Good! Very Good! Yay!" Smile. Give yourself a laughing pat on the back.

I have always found that making my intentions known helps me stick to it. I guess it is the natural desire to save face that keeps you working toward your goal. So share your laughing resolutions with your friends. If you have a blog or other Web site, post your plans there. You wouldn't want to let down your fans, now would you?

As with any goal, you will do better with your friends gathered around you, cheering you on. And I am willing to bet your friends could use more laughter in the coming year as well. How about making a mutual resolution to laugh more—a positive laughter pact?  

Decide together how you can accomplish your plans to be more joyful.  Maybe you could attend a laughter retreat together like, for example, the one I'm leading January 9-11 in Wisconsin (click here for details). Perhaps you should make a common committment to attend your local laughter club together or start your own club if there isn't one yet. Whatever you decide, having a friend or friends to share the laughter plan with will help it get accomplished.

Laughter networks are popping up all over now that Laughter Yoga is flagrantly flinging joy throughout the earth. Find extra laughter friends at You can also locate people who love to laugh through networking sites like Facebook and Myspace. Even if your laughter friends live far away, you can always pick up the phone and laugh together. More friends means more laughs. So gather them up and get to giggling.

Whatever your resolutions are for this brand new year, you can add laughter to them! Laughter makes the sun shine no matter what's going on in your  world. It can radically redefine your life in a most delightfully astonishing way. And because it is FUN, it is an easy resolution to keep. When the dieters have returned to their Twinkies and Britney is back to biting her nails, you'll still be laughing.

I wish you the very best.  May all your dreams come true in 2009, the year of the laugh!  HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Amazing—that's right—amazing. According to the dictionary "amazing" means startlingly impressive. As I get to know people of all sorts, I am amazed by them. Each and every person we meet is incredible in a multitude of ways. Unfortunately, we don't often recognize the sheer splendor of the amazing people in our midst.

That's why I made up a simple chant that's being used by laughter clubs around the world. It goes like this:

I am amazing!
You are amazing!
We are amazing!
Ha ha ha ha ha!

This chant enables people to shout it out loud—to celebrate their own amazing nature and that of everyoneelse. Then we laugh for joy and feel so happy and affirmed. Usually, I have people move about the room pointing to themselves and others as they chant it.

That's why I put "Amazing" on both my commuter CD, Laugh Your Way There, and my new laughter album, Today is a Laughing Day. It is my goal to make more and more people feel amazing and to spread the affirmative message. Yippeeee!

Hear a sample of this happy chant at this link to

So please remember: YOU are amazing and we ALL are too!

Friday, December 26, 2008


According to a scientific study conducted at Vanterbuilt University, laughter has been proven to burn calories. That's right! Laughing raises your energy expenditure and, thus will increase your heart rate by up to 20 percent.This is exciting news: it means that laughing about 10 extra minutes a day, would increase your energy expenditure by 10 to 40 calories per day, which could translate into about 4 pounds a year! Click here to read the study.

Okay, so I admit that it may not be the most effective exercise plan in the world, but I would argue it is the most fun. You will have to do quite a bit of laughing to burn off those Christmas calories you've ingested over the past month. According to the study, it would take 15 minutes of a hearty chortling to burn just 2 Hershey's Kisses and a whole hour to burn a chocolate bar. But every calorie counts so laugh, laugh, laugh!

So here are a few ideas for holiday-themed Laughter Yoga exercises I recommend you try in this festive season. Get the whole family to join you and the laughter will keep rolling.

Grab your belly and laugh like Santa. Ho ho ho! Really go for it, perhaps even run around the room tossing gifts at people while laughing. Try doing it for a whole hour (you know, because of that extra pound of fudge you just ate). After everything you say, add a big, jolly "ho ho ho!" It'll make you feel great and as an added bonus, it will drive your relatives crazy.

Snicker like a devious little elf. Try not to get caught but keep going "he he he!" all the same. Tip toe around and giggle quietly. Having a ridiculous hat like mine definately helps.

Sip your cup of hot chocolate and pretend it is oh so hot. Exaggerate your shock. Fan your mouth. Laugh. Fan. Laugh more. Take another sip. Repeat. Just keep in mind that if you use real hot chocolate for this exercise, you'll be taking in more calories, which will take another hour to burn off. But if you are enjoying the laughter, go ahead! Notice my "ha ha ha" mug. This is a special gift from my dad, who apparently was served coffee in it at a restaurant and knew I would want it so he begged the waitress to sell it to him. ha ha ha!

Make up holiday Laughter Yoga exercises of your own. If there are children around, they will be of great help. Enjoy yourself and keep laughing because it will boost your health and happiness. Happy Holidays! Ho ho ho!

Saturday, December 20, 2008


A Joyful Purpose
Artists William and Laura Gentry

by Michele Pettit

“The quickest way to find your purpose
is to do the things that feel most joyful to you.”

I found this quote stuck in my notebook after meeting Laura and William Gentry for an interview. The funny thing is I wrote this quote before our chat, but I’ve found no better way to sum up their art. The Gentrys bring joy to their shared endeavors, as well as to their individual works that is easy to pick up on; it radiates when they talk about art.

William and Laura create with words, paint, photos, movement, music, and laughter. They meld multiple disciplines. William is a photographer and composer. Laura is a dancer, painter, writer, filmmaker, songwriter, and Laughter Yoga instructor. They unify their artistic disciplines with shared enthusiasm. As William describes it, “Art is a healthy endeavor. When you are collaborating, the process and the connections are strong. Art empowers people.”

William was born and raised in Alaska. He describes himself as an observer as a child, watching and checking out details. His mother Verona still lives in Anchorage, Alaska. “My mother inspired me musically. My father inspired me visually. Shortly before he passed on, my dad presented me with a camera. Now I could capture all the things I was exploring.“ he says.

Laura is a native Iowan. She was an energetic and artistic young girl. A family vacation to Germany introduced her to an artist married to a distant cousin. The man had a fabulous art studio hidden away in his attic. This was the moment she felt the magic and knew she wanted to be an artist.

The Gentrys met in seminary in Berkeley, California, and married in 1996. They lived in L.A. for five years, and then came to the small river town of McGregor, Iowa in 2001, for their work as pastors. William is minister of the First Congregational Church of McGregor. Laura is minister of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Lansing.

William’s photography

William says his focus in photography is to remember things, document and share them. He doesn’t manipulate photos with digital programs. He has appreciation of the power of light in a photo. “There are no tricks. My photographs capture what you would see if you were there. Like the street photographer Gary Winogrand, I photograph things to see what they look like.”

Many of William’s projects focus on people. His Portraits of Senior Citizens highlight the beauty and wisdom of the elderly. “Along the Way” features portraits of people met in daily life: “These are people who serve coffee, ring up groceries, share the sidewalk with you and sell movie tickets. Stop and consider what will happen if you pause to acknowledge them as fellow human beings.”

Laura’s Laughter Yoga projects

Laura states, “In 2006 I became involved in the worldwide laughter movement. Laughter Yoga was a wonderful way to integrate my gifts in the arts with a mission to increase world happiness. I have embraced laughter as a vehicle for healing. As a result, my art has become more playful and exuberant.”

Laura utilizes her experiences in theater, dance, and music in Laughter Yoga work. Last year she released a Laughter Yoga DVD for kids, “Laughter Friends,” featuring children from Decorah and the surrounding area, aged four through 14. She released “Laugh Your Way There,” a CD for commuters in 2008. This month she is launching an album of children’s music called “Today is a Laughing Day.” Laura wrote the lyrics and collaborated with William and Luther professor Tom Bourcier to compose the music.

Her latest project is a marketable poster, “Live a Laughing Life,” featuring painting and words of inspiration to bring more laughter to your life.

Collaborative Endeavors

Most of what the Gentrys make involves viewers as part of the participation. In some cases the art isn’t created until the audience participates. This is the case for one of their joint endeavors, “Living Word.”

On one level, “Living Word” is a collection of portraits published as a book by Penfield Press in 2005. On another level, the project was about the engagement of all involved. 100 participants mused individually about their identity in order to choose a personal, one-word definition. People chose not only adjectives for themselves, but also adverbs, conjunctions, nouns, prepositions, and verbs. Laura created t-shirts for each person, and William took the portraits. William looked for the moment when the participant reflected their word, whether it was “inspiration”, “giggle”, “bridge”, “now”, “hungry”, “adventurous” or “free”. The Gentrys were surprised by the positive choices people made when faced with defining themselves in one word. “People became part of the art as they were photographed.” Laura says.

Both Laura and William are Art-o-Artists, which means they create pieces for Art-o-Mat machines, a worldwide project featuring old-style vending machines. Instead of cigarettes or candy, these machines offer small pieces of art. William currently has photographs available as bag tags and Laura makes ceramic sculptures called stray eggplants. Laura says, “The founder’s concept was Equality in Art. Everyone should be able to afford art and art should be available in regular places. For about $5 you can buy a piece of original art. I hear back from Art-o-mat buyers and have an online gallery with nearly a hundred of their photos. In fact, William and I are going to be visiting an eggplant owner in Japan this month. This art connects people.“

When I ask the Gentrys if it takes bravery to put art out into the world, they agree they can feel vulnerable when they share their work. “Art is personal; but this is where real sharing between people occurs.” Laura says, “If you don’t express what is in you, it will be lost lost. No one else in the world offers the same creative gifts that you do. If you don’t create, you’re depriving yourself and others.” William adds, “Art needs to be shared. Someone out there needs what I’m doing. Someone will relate and understand.”

To the Gentrys, art is about participating in life joyfully and passionately. You can find their latest projects at their website:


Michele Pettit graduated from Luther in 1992 as an English major; and took plenty of theater and art classes because she loved them. She’s been Library Director at McGregor Public Library since 1999, where she started a weekly writers group (which still meets every Wednesday). She enjoys journaling, looking for symbols in dreams and waking life, writing poetry, panting, and reading.

This article was published in the Winter (December 2008/January 2009) Issue of Inspire[d] Magazine.

All photos in this article by
William F. Gentry II.

For more press on Laughing Laura, visit the Press & Testimonials page.

Friday, December 19, 2008


a humorous prescription for better health

Words by Nina Anderson

Yoga has adopted a new pose, but this one doesn’t call for super-human flexibility. Laughter yoga, a trend in exercise and
mental health, isn’t your traditional yoga class. All you need to know is how to laugh.

According to the Laughter Yoga International website,, this method was developed in 1995. Dr. Madan Kataria, a physician in India, was intrigued by the idea of incorporating giggles into everyday life. After researching the effects of laughter as a form of medicine, he started the first laughing club with only five members. It continued to grow, spreading the fit of hysteria all the way to the Midwest.

“Laughter is exceptionally healthy,” says Laura Gentry, founder of the Iowa School of Laughter Yoga. Classes around the country combine deep, yogic breathing with silly actions or motions to get you chuckling. These movements can be anything that’s funny: pretend you just ate something sour, swat away imaginary mosquitoes or make loud noises.

If those techniques don’t work, start with fake laughter. When you laugh, your brain releases endorphins that immediately improve your mood and relieve stress. The brain doesn’t know the difference between fake and real laughter, so you’re still getting all of the benefits. “Once you hear yourself laugh, you realize how absurd you sound, so you start to really laugh,” says Mary Margaret Anderson, a laughter leader and teacher in Plymouth, Minn.

But this new exercise can do more than brighten your day. A study conducted by researchers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., found the average person burns up to 50 calories with 10 to 15 minutes of laughter. That means you could lose four pounds a year by chortling for 10 to 15 minutes each day. No wonder your abdominal muscles ache after a good chuckle.

Another huge plus—laughter acts as an anti-aging agent. With each “ha-ha,” you generate more blood flow to facial tissues, which makes your skin shine. But one of the most important things laughter can do is boost your immune system by creating antibodies.

Lori Hoover noticed a difference after her first training session with Gentry. “[Laughter yoga] really allows us to dump all of the intensely serious aspects of our lives,” Hoover says. “The weight of the world just goes away.”

Work a chuckle or two into your daily routine to reap the benefits. “Laughter is extremely user-friendly,” Gentry says. “It’s pretty easy to get people laughing.” She suggests giggling at anything and everything—so go ahead. Laugh. I downward-facing-dog dare you.

Try some of these techniques to work laughter into your daily routine.

With both physical and emotional benefits, laughter is something that should be worked into your everyday routine. Here are some fun and simple ways laughter yoga leaders suggest to keep you chuckling throughout the day.

Whistle while you work. Laura Gentry, founder of the Iowa School for Laughter Yoga, suggests laughing while you clean your house. Use different pitches for each giggle to match what you're cleaning with.

Laughter language. Grab your friends and have a conversation using only a variety of chuckles—it will be almost impossible to hold in your real laughter.

Rush-hour snicker. Gentry also found that one of the best places to laugh is in your car on the way to and from work. She even created a CD of laughing exercises to chortle along with during your drive.

Bubble bursts. Laughter yoga leader Lori Hoover's favorite way to laugh is by pretending you're blowing bubbles while giggling at them. It's an easy way to laugh and Hoover claims it's stress-relieving as well. "Every time I imagine I'm blowing those bubbles, I think of all my problems and worries going away in them," Hoover says.

Cell phone chuckle. Simple things like holding your cell phone to your ear—even when there's no one on the other line—is another great way to laugh, according to Gentry.

This article was published in December 2008 by

For more articles about Laughing Laura, visit the Press & Testimonials page.

Friday, December 12, 2008


On average, children laugh about 350 times a day. They are veritable laughter fountains. Adults, on the other hand, laugh far less: somewhere around 17 times daily. Alas, the heavy responsibilities of adult life weigh heavily upon us. Hence, stress and stress related illnesses are on the rise.

One of the reasons that adults do not laugh as often as children, is that they forget to play. Playfulness in an innate gift that people of every age possess. It is a life-giving trait that can keep us healthy and happy. It is just that we grown-ups do not practice it often enough. Just as a muscle that is not flexed grows weak, so our childlike, playful sensibilities diminish if not practiced.

So what do we do? We need to cut loose a bit more. It doesn't mean we should shirk our responsibilities, but we need to create more balance in our lives. The more stress we've got, the more we need to play. Laughter club is a great way to do this. Getting to act silly with others is a fabulous way to develop a more advanced playful nature.

Once you practice this, you'll develop a sense of silliness and have the courage to boldly play—even apart from the safe zone of laughter club. To bring you inspiration on this front, I decided to go for a dinosaur ride today. This lovely little guy is sturdy enough for adults and yet I've walked by him for years and NEVER taken a ride. Well, this afternoon I decided to seize the day and not let this delightful opportunity for fun pass me by. My fabulous roving photographer husband captured it all so I simply HAVE to share the pics with you. May they inspire you to cultivate your inner child today!

Oh, what a wonderful ride! Woo hooo!
Okay now for the treacherous dismount...
Thank you, Mr. Dino, let me give you a pat on the head.
Oh, I love him so much!
See? Now I have no stress! And the best part about all this is that as a Laughter Yoga professional, this is not goofing around, this is professional development!

Thursday, December 11, 2008


My debut album, Today is a Laughing Day, has officially released! The whole shipment of CDs arrived by UPS to our home today. Pre-orders have already been shipped! Can you see that I'm a little bit excited??

Just in case you didn't know, you can order it at the Laughter Shoppe and at

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Today, I did a laughter presentation at the Great River Care Center in McGregor, Iowa. It was an inservice for the entire staff. Administrator, Cheri Leachman, wanted to treat them to a fun-filled afternoon, complete with a catered Christmas party following the meeting. So, she decided Laughter Yoga would be the ticket.

The staff members had no idea that they were in for a less-than-serious laughter-filled seminar and were rather shocked when I showed up in my pink flamingo costume. But once they got adjusted to the idea that laughing at work was okay, they threw themselves into it and had a fabulous time. Not only that, they learned about the health benefits of laughing and how to laugh more with care center residents.

“I was so glad to be able to surprise the staff with this laughter experience! I think it is going boost them for a long time.” Said Leachman, who, as you can see pictured above, got into the spirit of laughter herself.

The photos, of course, were taken by William.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Free Laughs is another song on my album Today is a Laughing Day. This song is dedicated to my husband, William, with whom I love to give out free laughs.

This jazzy little tune was inspired by the popular YouTube video of free hugs in which a person stood around in a public place with a sign offering free hugs. I thought it would be fun to give out free laughs because people can always use those. Laughter is so contageous that it always uplifts people. We all ought to give out lots of them!

by Laughing Laura ©2008
Dedicated to my husband, William,
with whom I love to give out free laughs

I love you
and so I’ll laugh with you
and we’ll giggle a lot
before this song is through
You and me we go: he he he!
and we give out free laughs
to everybody we see!

Free laughs! Free laughs for you!
Free laughs! And laughs for you too!
Free laughs for everybody!
tee he he, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha he he he,
Yeah, the laughs are on you and me!

You can hear a sample of this song at this link to

Monday, December 8, 2008


Another song from my album, Today is a Laughing Day, is called Smile Millionaire. You see this concept works like magic: the more you smile at people, the more they smile back at you. And every smile you receive makes you happier. So you have to give smiles generously in order to become a smile millionaire.

It is my hope that this song will start a smile movement and we'll all be as rich as rich as rich can be!

by Laughing Laura @2008

1. I have made an amazing discovery
that when I smile people smile back at me.
Soon I’ll have so many smiles that I’ll declare:
“I am a smile millionaire!”

I’m gonna be a smile millionaire.
I’ll have a million smiles to share.
And I’ll be as rich as rich as rich can be
with all of the smiles that folks have given to me.
Oh I declare, I’ll be a smile millionaire!

2. Now even when I have an ouchy
or I feel crabby and oh so grouchy
I’ll keep on smiling so that I can declare
“I am a smile millionaire!” [Refrain]

3. Oh you, my friend, can become rich too!
when you smile, people smile back at you
Soon you’ll have so many smiles that you’ll declare:
“I am a smile millionaire!” [Refrain]

You can hear a sample of this song at this link to

Friday, December 5, 2008


Turkey the Turtle is the name the most popular song on my album, Today is a Laughing Day. This song was inspired by and dedicated to my pet snapping turtle, Turkey, who truly is a star. Yep, that's him pictured above, dancing in the ha ha ha spiral. Isn't he a fabulous character?

We adopted Turkey in 2001, immediately after we moved to Iowa. He was a brand new hatchling making his way to the Turkey river when we nabbed him, took him home and named him after the river he never reached. In all my years of owning turtles, I have never before had such a hearty and fast-growing turtle as Turkey. We put him into a ten gallon tank but after just three months, he outgrew it and we moved him to a thirty gallon tank. Three months later, he again outgrew his home and we had to buy him the biggest tank we could find at Petco: a seventy five gallon tank that is now the centerpiece of our living room.

Turkey has been our most beloved pet and now weighs well over fifteen pounds. He's attempted some daring escapes and made some trips to the veterinarian but we love him all the same. He's emotionally involved in all that happens in our home and he has many fans. Sometimes people come by just to visit "Turks." So you can see why he inspired such a silly song.

Listen to a sample of the song with the Amazon widget below. 
You can buy the MP3 download for just 99 cents. It's fun to use at laughter club.


Here are the lyrics

by Laughing Laura © 2008
dedicated to my snapping turtle, Turkey, who is truly a star

1. My turtle’s name is Turkey, he is so very perky!
He taps & taps & taps his toes,
he spins around & around & wiggles his nose

Turkey: (wiggles nose)

GIGGLER: Hey, wait a minute! A turtle doesn't have a nose, it has a beak!

Laughing Laura: Yeah, well that doesn’t bother Turkey,
he wiggles it anyway & we can wiggle our noses too.
In fact, let's wiggle our noses while making the silliest faces possible.
Turkey will love it!

GIGGLERS: (wiggle noses & make silly faces)

Turkey, Turkey the Turtle!
He leaps over the hurdle!
He flaps his tail — it goes flap, flappy!
I flap mine too— it makes me happy!
He’s the funniest turtle by far!
Turkey the Turtle—you are a star!

2. My turtle’s name is Turkey
he is so very perky
he hops & hops & hops by a frog,
he spins around & around
and barks at a dog.

Turkey: Arf!

GIGGLER: Hey, wait a minute! A dog can bark at a turtle
but a turtle can’t bark at a dog!

Laughing Laura: Yeah, but Turkey doesn’t know that so he barks
anyway & we can bark too, even though we aren’t dogs.
Are you ready to bark? Here we go!

GIGGLERS: (bark like dogs)


3. My turtle’s name is Turkey
he is so very perky
he wiggles & wiggles like I don’t know how
he spins around & around
& moos like a cow

Turkey: Moo!

GIGGLER: Hey, wait a minute! A turtle can’t sound like a cow!

Laughing Laura: Yeah, well Turkey thinks it’s cool
to act like a cow. Let’s try it with him. It’s lots of fun!

GIGGLERS: (moo like cows)


4. My turtle’s name is Turkey
he is so very perky
he kicks and kicks, he is so kickin’
he spins around & around
and acts like a chicken

Turkey: Bawk! Bawk!

GIGGLER: Hey, wait a minute! A turtle can’t make chicken sounds!

Laughing Laura: Yeah, but chicken sounds are a blast to make.
Let’s be chickens with Turkey!

GIGGLERS: (cluck like chickens)


5. My turtle’s name is Turkey
he is so very perky
he skips & skips like a lanky giraffee
he spins around & around
and lets out a laugh.


GIGGLER: Hey, wait a minute! A turtle can’t laugh!

Laughing Laura: Yeah, but Turkey thinks everything’s so funny, he’s got to laugh & we can laugh & skip all at the same time! Let's go for it!

GIGGLERS: (skip & laugh)


© Laura E. Gentry 2008