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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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A laughing matter

Iowa congregation reaches out with laughter club

Earlier this year the congregation I serve—Our Savior Lutheran in Lansing, Iowa—made history by holding what we believe is the first church laughter club meeting in Iowa. That’s right: a laughter club.

If you're happy and you know it, raise
If you’re happy and you know it, raise your arms. That seems to be the message from the Laughter Club at Our Savior Lutheran Church, Lansing, Iowa.
Just what is a “laughter club”? This movement began in 1995 when Madan Kataria, a family physician from India, wrote an article called “Laughter: The Best Medicine” for a monthly health magazine. He discovered an overwhelming body of scientific literature describing the benefits of laughter on the human mind and body. In particular he was impressed by American journalist Norman Cousins’ book Anatomy of an Illness. He decided to field-test the impact of laughter on himself.

The next morning he went to the park where he knew he could find other health-conscious people. He asked four of them to start a laughter club with him, and within a few days the group had grown to more than 50.

In the beginning everybody stood in a circle while one person came to the center to crack a joke or tell a humorous anecdote. Participants had fun and felt the benefits all day.

But after about two weeks the stock of good jokes ran out and the sexist and off-color humor emerged. Two women were offended and complained. It was clear that an alternative to jokes had to be found if the club were to survive. He told everyone to come back the next day to try a new method.


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