Tuesday, May 31, 2011

LAUGHING WITH GOD: NOT TAKING OURSELVES TOO SERIOUSLY

My laughter ministry got a mention in this editorial in Owatonna.com. Indeed, it is a great thing to laugh with God!


Martin Luther once said, “If I’m not allowed to laugh in heaven, then I don’t want to go.” Laughter is something that each and every one of us needs in our lives. It’s healthy to laugh.

I firmly believe that God has gifted each of us with a sense of humor, in one way or another. I remember a few weeks ago I was at text study, and we were talking about death and heaven/hell.

When I left, slightly unnerved, I got into my car, and when I heard what song was playing on the radio, I couldn’t help but laugh. It was “That’ll Be The Day (That I Die.)” Laughter brings us hope, encouragement, and joy. Far too often, I think we take ourselves too seriously. Stress causes so much pain and suffering in our lives. We need laughter to balance our lives.

Pastor Laura Gentry, a pastor in Northeast Iowa, has been named a Laughter Ambassador by Laughter Club International. Pastor Laura has introduced laughter ministry to the congregation she serves in Iowa. They get together weekly and laugh together. She says that laughing together weekly has boosted their joy and given them another opportunity to share their Christian love with each other through laughter.

She says that this laughter ministry has helped them gain a greater appreciation for joy in their faith lives, and their laughter club has made the congregation she serves a more compassionate congregation. She has made several laughter CD’s that can be used as laughter resources for personal or congregational use. These CD’s contain several laughter workouts that have you laughing out loud in many different ways. It feels a bit ridiculous, but that’s the point. The point is to laugh, to be silly, and “make a joyful noise to the Lord.” (Psalm 98:4)

We find many verses in Scripture that talk about joy and happiness. For example, in Ecclesiastes 3, we read, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” There is time in our lives to laugh. What wonderful news this is. In Luke 6:21, Jesus says, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” There are several other verses that allude to joy and happiness in the Bible, and laughter can have a wonderful effect in our lives, and in our faith.

Of course, the text also says that there is a time to weep, and a time to mourn. Not every moment of our lives can or will be filled with laughter. There are times to be serious, and we know when those times are. But laughter is a gift that we can use when we’re feeling sad, depressed, angry, or frustrated. In an article that Pastor Laura wrote for the ELCA Board of Pensions, she talks about scientific studies that were done on the effects of laughter on the body.

In these studies, gelatologists (that is, people who study laughter, or “gelos,” the Greek word meaning “laughter,”) have found that laughter has several health benefits, such as improvement of the function of blood vessels, prevention of heart disease, boosts in the immune system, reduction of stress hormone levels and hopefulness in the lives of people. Laughing can help make us healthy.

God has blessed us richly with the gift of being in community with one another. One of the ways in which we can build community is to laugh with one another. Tell someone a joke, make a silly face, or laugh for no reason at all. Laughter is contagious, after all. God has gifted us all with a sense of humor and when we laugh with each other, it creates a bond of joy, peace, love and happiness. Laughter creates joy in our lives, and joy reminds us of how blessed we are in the grace and love that God has given us. For we know that our God is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing.” (Jonah 4:2). May we all find joy and laughter in our lives; and when we laugh, may it be a “joyful noise to the Lord.”

Monday, May 30, 2011

MAKING LAUGHTER A PRIORITY

One of my students, Mary Harris, was featured in this article in the Times-Republican of Central Iowa about the laughter club she runs in Marshalltown.

Making Laughter a Priority

Lively laughter club promotes happiness and health

By MIKE DONAHEY, TIMES-REPUBLICAN
T-R PHOTO BY MIKE DONAHEY
Several members of Trinity Lutheran Church’s Laughter Club are shown recently in the sanctuary doing the “Elevator” a club exercise. Clockwise left are Jeff Harris, Martha Schwandt, Sherry Allen, Rev. Gregg Davison and facilitator Mary Harris.



The sanctuary of Marshalltown's Trinity Lutheran Church was alive with hearty laughter Wednesday night.

Much of it was deliberate.

The occasion: The church's Laughter Club was in session for its weekly half-hour meeting from 5:30 p.m to 6 p.m.

Facilitator Mary Harris was dressed appropriately, with a multi-colored wig and coveralls.

There were flying monkeys, propelled through the air in sling-shot fashion. Mock bowling and joke telling were also on the agenda in the lively and fast paced meeting.

Harris did not lecture.

The activities were interactive, with all in attendance taking part.

Members laughed out loud for the sake of it. They turned from their place in the pew and laughed at each other. In one exercise, members would pick a piece of real or imagined lint of their clothing and laughed. A crowded "pretend" elevator was another skit which generated even more laughter.

Joining Mary Harris for this particular meeting was husband Jeff, Rev. Gregg Davison of Trinity and parishioners Martha Schwandt and Sherry Allen.

During the course of the meeting it was evident that there was more than laughter and rubber-band powered toys to the meeting.

The purpose, of all the exercises, according to Mary Harris is to make laughter a priority in people's lives.

She was serious about it.

Before each exercise, she spoke briefly about how laughter, in general, could make people happier and healthier.

She also said that laughter made people more resilient to stress, improved sleep and people were less prone to catch colds and flu.

Throughout the meeting Harris was using what is called laughter yoga.

Put simply, laughter yoga, according to an Evangelical Church of America website,elcabop.org/Home/LiveWell/Wellness, "was developed in India by Dr. Madan Kataria who figured there had to be a good way to harness the healing power of laughter. The method combines laughter with deep breathing techniques to maximize the benefits of the workout."

Mary Harris trained with a master trainer of Laughter Yoga, Rev. Laura Gentry of Lansing.

Gentry was trained by Kataria.

He said of her: "She speaks from her heart and inspires people with her true , joyful spirit. Laughing Laura is surely one of my best laughter professors."

It was Gentry's presentation at Trinity in June, 2009 that motivated Mary Harris to learn more.

"I saw her presentation," Harris, an elementary school educator said. "I know I could do that."

She went to Trinity's parish council and asked permission to form the club and use the church.

Her request was approved.

Mary Harris had another reason for learning about laughter.

"There was a lot of stress in my life at the time," she said. "My mother was in her 22nd year of Alzheimer's (disease) and if you have lived with that for awhile, its just is always there, it is always there."

There was more.

"And it's not something you laugh about," she said.

The Laughter Club provides relief.

"This is good," Mary Harris said of the club meetings. "It's good balance."

Member Sherry Allen said she "enjoyed a great good night's sleep" after attending her first session some time ago.

Davison said he attends the meetings periodically because "mostly because the provide stress relief," he said. "Everything I've read said that laughter is good for the body. I believe it.'

He had more to say.

"I think Jesus laughed a lot," Davison said, "considering some of the disciples he had, sometimes it is better to laugh than to cry."

The church Laughter Club meets each Wednesday in the church sanctuary during the school year


Contact Mike Donahey at 641-753-6611 or mdonahey@timesrepublican.com


ATTENTION NEW BLOG SUBSCRIBERS: Here's the secret link for your 100 Free Laughter Yoga Exercises. Happy Laughing!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

NEW BOOK ON INTUITIVE EATING PRAISES THE BENEFIT OF LAUGHING

Author Jane Bernard has just released Am I Really Hungry? This book is a liberating guide for everyone who’s tired and frustrated with traditional diets. The product description says:
Instead of calories and rules, you get 10 tools to depend on for eating intuitively. It's 'good-bye' dieting and 'hello' long term-satisfaction with your body and yourself. End yo-yo dieting. Learn to eat when you're hungry and stop when you're not. No inner critic. No calorie counting. No forbidden foods. With this revolutionary book learn to recognize signals in your life that keep you in control. Am I Really Hungry? reveals how intuition connects the pleasure of eating with the satisfaction of being in sync with your body. Gain insights into how emotional reactions to eating interfere with real needs and learn to use intuitive tools to put an end to confusion created by old habits. Connect with your intuition, get satisfaction and look great.
I bring it to your attention because in the section about combating stress, this book uplifts the power of laughing. She even quotes me in it. Here's how it reads:
They say, "laughter is the shortest distance between two people." In fact, humor equalizes tension creating emotional balance and releasing stress. According to Reverend Laura Gentry, also known as 'Laughing Laura,' "Laughing makes the heart connect. It makes small issues dissolve and enhances our ability to forgive." (p. 131)
Here's a customer review:
5.0 out of 5 stars This book changed my life!, May 19, 2011
This review is from: Am I Really Hungry?: 6th Sense Diet:Intuitive Eating (Paperback)
For years I was the typical yo-yo dieter. I've joined weight loss programs and lost weight, only to regain that weight and more after "finishing" the program. I spent years feeling guilty when I ate a "forbidden" food or when I didn't weigh and measure everything first. Finally, I found this amazing book that frees you from the restrictions imposed by pre-planned, one-size-fits-all diet programs. This book shows you how to enjoy a new guilt-free relationship with food. It teaches you how to use your own body signals, your five senses and your intuition to gain self-reliance and satisfaction. Now, I can attend social situations without the fear of losing control and binging because I "blew it". Since nothing is forbidden, there is no guilt associated with your food choices. I find myself reading and rereading this amazing book as I continue learning how become more and more in tune with my body.

Jane Bernard is an intuition expert and educator. Her IntuEating for Success programs promote physical and emotional health around diet and eating by relieving stress, sharpening focus and concentration, and focusing on holistic health and fitness. Jane is author of FINE TUNING, Connecting with Your Inner Power and talks on national TV and radio internationally helping others to find success and opportunity through their 6th sense. She is has been a Zen Buddhist for over 20 years and has degrees in Philosophy and Special Education.
Am I Really Hungry? is available at Amazon.com.

Monday, May 23, 2011

LAURA'S INTERVIEW WITH KIDS THESE DAYS


I recently gave an interview to the award-winning radio program, Kids These Days, based in Anchorage, Alaska. It is below and at this link.

After a serious show about caregiver stress, we'd thought we'd wrap last week's topic with a light and happy way for families to relieve stress: Laughter Yoga! Meet Laura Gentry AKA "Laughing Laura" - She's a bright light in the world and we're happy to introduce her to the KTD! crowd because her laughter yoga and music CD's and DVD's are so much fun.

Laura directs the Iowa School of Laughter Yoga. She is a Laughter Yoga Master Trainer and has been named a Laughter Ambassador by Laughter Club International. Laura and her husband are the producers of a number of educational resources including the film “Laughter Friends: A Laughter Yoga Workout for Kids,” which has been recommended by the American Library Association and sent to US miltary bases around the world to support healthy families a part of Operation Military Kid. She has led laughter yoga around the US and in 3 foreign countries (so far). Also known as the Reverend Gentry, she is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. We interviewed her last week:

Kids These Days!: Laura, what is laughter yoga and how did you become "Laughing Laura"?

Laura Gentry: Laughter yoga is a simple method of laughing and doing deep yoga breathing. It is used throughout the world by people who seek to enhance the health of their mind, body and spirit.

I became Laughing Laura almost 5 years ago by taking a two day class to become a certified laughter yoga leader. I loved it so much that I went on to become a teacher of the method and produce laughter yoga resources. My first such resource, was a film for children. Just for fun, I called myself "Laughing Laura" and the name has really stuck!

KTD!: What are some of the benefits of laughter yoga; why do you find that people practice it?

LG: Laughter yoga has many benefits! Here are some things it does:
• Improves overall sense of well being
• Boosts happiness
• Strengthens and balances the immune system
• Releases endorphins to naturally relieve pain
• Decreases the level of stress hormone
• Lowers blood pressure
• Nurtures creativity
• Reduces risk of heart disease
• Floods the body with a natural "happy hormone"
• Helps manage and overcome depression
• Deepens inner peace
• Breaks social isolation and fosters new friendships
• Develops self-confidence
• Alleviates the discomfort of specific physical challenges
• Cultivates your childlike playfulness for a happier you

I think people do it for overall stress management and wellness. It is just plain fun and you can feel the positive effects immediately. You breathe deeper and feel joyful and at peace. :)

Laughing Laura with her laughing friends

KTD!: You've produced a DVD called "Laughter Friends" and a CD "Today is a Laughing Day" which is a collection of fun songs - both for children - what was it like making those and what was it like working with the kids?

LG: It was an absolute delight producing these resources for and with children. My intention was to encourage the natural playfulness of kids and kids at heart. Play increases imagination and can even increase emotional intelligence. So the process of creating them was all about big fun! The kids jumped right in and helped invent laughter yoga exercises and the collaboration was quite exciting.

KTD!: Why might laughter yoga be something that is especially suited towards children, and is this something that parents and kids can do together?

LG: Laughter Yoga induces laughter through playfulness, not jokes. So even though your sense of humor is different from that of your child's, you can laugh together. It actually helps children develop emotional intelligence by opening up their expressive nature. And because of the release of endorphins, that makes you feel good, laughter yoga creates a special bond among the laughers that cannot be understated. What a wonderful activity for parents and grandparents to share with their kids!

KTD!: Do you plan on coming to Alaska anytime soon to do a laughter yoga retreat?

LG: If you want me there, I'll come! I'd love to teach a certified laughter leader class sometime soon. It is a two day class.

KTD!: What is your favorite aspect of working with children?

LG: What I love most about working with children is their creative imagination. When kids are encouraged to think creatively, they really shine. Their inventiveness inspires me.

KTD!: Thanks, Laura!


Learn more at www.LaughingLaura.com

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

LAUGHTER E-STUDENT MAKES A SPLASH IN FLORIDA

Dr. Howard Leslie took the Iowa School of Laughter Yoga certified Laughter Yoga Leader e-course and became the oldest Laughter Yoga Leader in the country. He was featured at the International Laughter Yoga website and this blog. Now, he's in the news again for his ongoing laughter yoga work. The following article was published in News-Press of Southwest Florida. I just wanted to share it with you because he really inspires.




Written by
FRANCESCA DONLAN
fdonlan@news-press.com


He calls himself Ha Ha Ha Howard.

At 93 years old, Howard Leslie is the oldest certified Laughter Yoga teacher in the United States, according to Laughter Yoga International (laughteryoga.org).

Leslie, a retired Fort Myers podiatrist, started laughing for a purpose.

He wanted to help his beloved wife of 69 years, Gladys Leslie, who has Alzheimer's disease. He learned that Alzheimer's patients responded best to affection, touch and approval.

Laughter Yoga offered all three.

He got his Laughter Yoga leader certificate from the Iowa School of Laughter Yoga after taking an online class three months ago.

"Laughing is free and it doesn't leave a bad taste in your mouth and you can't overdose on it," he said. "It's amazing. It's contagious and it's a good thing to catch."

His neighbors at Seven Lakes, a gated retirement community in south Fort Myers, are catching it and spreading it around.

Leslie teaches a Laughter Yoga class for Seven Lakes residents once a month at the community's auditorium.

The class combines laughter with yogic breathing. Laughter is simulated in a group with eye contact and childlike playfulness.




The concept of Laughter Yoga is based on a scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter, and both get the same physiological and psychological benefits.

Bonnie Jordan, 71, has attended two classes and came for another one last week.

"I'm very relaxed when I leave here," she said.

Jordan joined about 40 residents who gathered for some hearty laughter.

"If you could get a pill that boosts circulation, reduces stress, increases brain function, reduces blood pressure and promotes relaxation would you buy it?" he asked the class.

"Yes," they shouted in unison.

And then Leslie turned on the charm - part teacher, part comedian - and helped everyone in the 30-minute class let loose and laugh.

His Laughter Yoga class is done standing while participants clap and chant, "Ho. Ho. Ha, ha, ha."

They recited this cheerful chant and threw their hands in the air.

They chanted while pretending to have ants in their pants or stepping on hot sand.

They chanted as they gave each other hugs, waddled like penguins and slapped high-fives.

The exercises made Dorothy Gerger, 86, laugh in a way that she hadn't in a long time.

"It's like being a kid again," she said. "It was great."

Carol Triola, 75, finished the class with a smile.

"It was energizing and fun being part of the whole group," he said. "I got a lot of hugs, too."

Leslie's wife, Gladys, who moved to a nursing home last year, sat patiently in a chair next to the group.

He interacted with her throughout the class.

He's laughing for both of them.

"My feeling and belief is that whatever I give to the participants will come back double to me to enhance my good health and good attitude so that I may continue to care for Gladys and benefit those who join me," he said.

Laughing will help push you through all of life's challenges, he said.

That's why he makes his neighbors do one final cheer in class.

"We are the happiest people in the world. Yes! We are the healthiest people in the world. Yes! We are the Seven Lakers who love to laugh. Yes!"

Howard Leslie, 93, right, interacts with Peggy Gieseke during a Laughter Yoga class recently. Leslie is the oldest Certified Laughter Yoga Leader.



Contact Howard at: howard100@webtv.net.







Friday, May 13, 2011

GE HEALTHCARE GETS HEALTHIER WITH LAUGHTER YOGA



On May 9th, I had the incredible opportunity of leading two laughter yoga workshops at GE Healthcare in Waukesha, Wisconsin. This demonstrates how serious GE Healthcare is about promoting workplace wellness. One of the workshops was open for all employees to attend if they so desired. The second one was for a staff meeting. In both workshops, the GE Healthcare community had a delightful time laughing, relieving stress and boosting their own health.

My sister, Dr. Kathleen Phelan—a graduate of the Iowa School of Laughter Yoga and is now known as "Laffy Kathy"—assisted me in this laughing endeavor. It was so exciting to lead the laughter yoga sessions with her. We've got a great synergy.

Art Larson of GE Healthcare explained the event in this way: "We had Laughing Laura and her sister, Kathy, attend our GE staff meeting. The only person that really knew what to expect was our 'Health Ahead' committee member. Everyone else was in for the surprise. I noticed immediate interest by our team, a team that normally manages through a great deal of stress each day. While there was hesitation as we began, by the end of the session everyone felt a lot better than they did when we started. Laughing Laura and Kathy put us at ease with a combination of solid clinical examples on the effects of laughter on body and soul and some great exercises to do as a team. We all really enjoyed the session and had a great time exercising with laughter!"

One of the event organizers, Naresh, wrote to me: "Thank you so much for coming! I have been laughing ever since. You made all the participants feel comfortable to come out and explore the lighter and funny side of life. It was simply great and you two are fabulous! Ha ha haaaaa!"

The other organizer, Shari Lynn, added: "I've received a lot of positive feedback. You and Kathy were a big hit here!"

I also was forwarded an e-mail from a lead engineer who wrote of the session: "It was nice to see a pastor getting a hold of this for good health...she has a very unusual talent. I must admit, the session impacted me. When I laid down to go to sleep, I started chuckling! :D"

Though we didn't have my photographer husband, William, along, we did manage to get a few pictures of the hilarity and post them here.

The Ha Ha Sisters

The morning workshop

Doing the "elephant laughter" exercise in the second workshop

More laughing trunks with "elephant laughter"

Laughing for no reason

"Santa laughter"

Laughter meditation (Yes, that's a group of serious employees cutting loose by laughing on the floor of their conference room!)

The Ha Ha Sisters with one of our new
laughing friends from GE Healthcare

Shari Lynn and I showing off our laughter-wear


More new laughter friends from GE Healthcare
(As you can see, they are amazing!)

Laughter yoga is fantastic for stress management. It can help bring about greater wellness and increased efficiency. To read more about laughter yoga as a business tool, click here. Laughter yoga CDs and other resources can be found at The Laughter Shoppe. Bring laughter and levity to your workplace by calling me, Laughing Laura, at 563-880-2699 or Laffy Kathy at TallDoc@wi.rr.com.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

CELEBRATING NURSING HOME WEEK WITH LAUGHTER YOGA

It's National Nursing Home Week. This is an opportunity to honor all those who contribute to our nation’s nursing homes—residents, family members, employees and volunteers. To celebrate, I offered a laughter yoga program at the Great River Care Center in McGregor, Iowa. Laughing is a wonderful way to increase the quality of life for residents as well as staff of nursing homes. It's a great form of exercise for people of all ability levels. Here are some pictures from that joyous event.









Photos by William F. Gentry II. www.thegentryjoint.com

Sunday, May 8, 2011

CELEBRATING CHILDREN'S MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK WITH LAUGHTER YOGA

May 1-7, 2011 was National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week. This is a week dedicated to increasing public awareness about the triumphs and challenges in children’s mental health and emphasizing the importance of family and youth involvement in the children’s mental health movement.


To help celebrate National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, I was invited to lead laughter yoga at Quakerdale of Waterloo, Iowa—a statewide, private, not-for-profit family and children's service agency providing a continuum of preventive and therapeutic services in a Christian environment. Youth and families are often referred to Quakerdale by the Iowa Department of Human Services or Iowa Juvenile Court Services.


Laughter yoga boosts mental health by increasing the body’s happy hormones and connecting people with one another. To demonstrate this, I led two laughter yoga workshops with caregivers and group home residents. What a wonderful time we had laughing together! My husband, William, took the following pictures of the workshops.