Robin Graham

Laughter Sessions

Making laughing easier (notes for facilitators)

I feel that as Laughter facilitator, I should guide people yet allow the workshop to take its course without forcing an agenda or set of exercises. I must both participate, and stand back and observe.

Sometimes, people who have come to the workshop might start a supportive laughter process themselves that builds on something we have been doing. They might change an exercise or suggest a new one. As facilitator, I want to be able to go with the flow of the workshop, making the necessary judgements to allow the group to try an exercise for as long as it seems of benefit to the whole group.

This workshop is about freeing the spirit. It is not about constraining it with rules. So if you are becoming too serious or controlling, step back, and laugh!

Here are some tips to help make it easier to laugh in the Laughter Session:

  • The facilitator of the Laughter Session must be comfortable with the exercises he/she suggests (the facilitator needs to be uninhibited!)
  • In these sessions, some people will find the exercises easier to do than other people. Everyone may need to be encouraged to join in, yet no one should ever be forced in to do anything; and people should never be put in a situation where they feel isolated.
  • Each person will go through their own reactions to the exercises. Everyone has their own "process." Some people might cry, and the group has to know that tears are good too.
  • You may need to set the expectations at the start. Remind people that making laughter sounds is good for us - even if we are not actually laughing. Explain that people might like to have a go at the games and see what happens. Say that different people will have different reactions, and that some people will find this easier to do than others. And reassure people that however they respond, it is fine.

Tell people that we are going to end with a laughter meditation.

  • You can get people "centred" by using breathing exercises or stretches. This is particularly important before trying meditative laughter.
  • Sometimes people say that they do not want to force their laughter. So to get people laughing in the first place, you can use the four laughter sounds, and get people to just say them (maybe while looking into one other person's eyes). The sounds are "ho ho ho" and "ha ha ha" and "hee hee hee" and "hu hu hu".
  • You can play with the pace of the laughter sounds. For example you can start slowly and then get quicker.
  • You can play lots of games with laughter. For example, you might agree not to laugh until something happens, and build up the tension.
  • It is sometimes good to count into an exercise ("one, two, three, go") so that people start together and participate as a group.
  • You might try to raise your hands up towards the sky while laughing. (If sitting, try raising your legs and arms up sometimes).
  • You might get people to look into each other's eyes while laughing: sometimes you might pair people up, or sometimes you might encourage people to look into lots of different eyes during.
  • You can play other games with sounds.
  • You might use other ways of "playing", such as playing percussion instruments (to make lots of noise and reduce inhibitions) or drawing with crayons (for example, drawing a "laugh" or a "smile").

The best way to learn how to run a Laughter Session is to try. It can last maybe five minutes to start with.

For a 5-6 minute Laughter Session, maybe shake out your hands and feet, breathe in and out a few times, then try the meditative laugh.

For a ten minute Laughter Session, you might add the laughter and crying sounds before the meditative laugh.

For a fifteen minute Laughter Session, before the meditative laugh you might add the laughter and crying sounds, then send some laughter and other sounds around the room for people to copy or modify, and finally add some more stretching and breathing to ground people before the meditation.

Activities during Laughter Session

There are many exercises you can try. These are the ones we have tried in Manchester.

  1. To start a session, maybe use some percussion instruments and invite people to make as much noise as they like for maybe a minute. (The sound will probably naturally draw to a close). Repeat this if participants enjoy it. Maybe on the second or third time, ask people to start to use their voice as well.
  2. It is probably good to get people to make faces at each other as a way of relaxing the face.
  3. Play with the idea of shouting. Maybe people would like to pretend to shout, but very very softly.
  4. Practice as a group the four laughter sounds while placing hands on the area of the body in which they seem to originate. The facilitator may make one of these sounds, then get everyone to copy. Maybe try different rhythms and sequences. Then repeat these as the four crying sounds - screwing your face up when you make the sound.
    • Ho - from the tummy or sides (do not draw attention to the tummy if the group includes people who are very self conscious about having a big tummy)
    • Ha - from the chest
    • Hu - from the throat
    • Hee - from the top of the head (place finger tips on the top of the head)
  5. Pass a sound around the room. The facilitator or anyone else can start, and with eye contact, pass the sound to the person next to you. Do this with a string of sounds as well.
  6. Practice crying like a baby - put your arms and legs in the air and wave them around, and go "Waaaaaa!"
  7. Pass other sounds around the group. Maybe animal sounds (moo, oink, baa, woof etc), or abstract sounds.
  8. Everyone to repeat together one of the laughter sounds, slowly and quietly at first, but then getting faster or louder, or both, to a climax (20-45 seconds). You can repeat this with arms in the air, or standing on one leg etc. Look into each other's eyes as well.
  9. Imitate laughs - each for about 15-30 seconds. There are several we can try:
    • the belly or Santa laugh - ho ho ho;
    • the squeaky or "cocktail" laugh (hee hee hee);
    • the donkey laugh, where the laughter is punctuated with the sound of a donkey (can also be done with horse or pig sounds);
    • a monkey laugh;
    • and the silent laugh - with no sound at all. This is the best - it is difficult to laugh and make no sound.
  10. Every one to laugh together on a given signal - for example, when a door is opened, or a car passes a lamp post.
  11. Try laughing with different mouth shapes - for example, mouth open wide, or lips together.
  12. With mouths open wide, make any sounds.
  13. Make up little dialogues - for example greeting each other - with laughter sounds.
  14. Make music by singing a song, but instead of words, sing to one of the laughter or crying sounds. Simple nursery rhymes or Christmas Carols can be good for this. (Remember to allow the use of the percussion instruments if available).
  15. Only with a group where there is a sense of trust - and even then maybe in pairs, so that the rest of the group does not hear:
    • Saying something that is getting you fed up or depressed
    • Saying it again, and this time ending the sentence by putting in laughter sounds - for example "I haven't had a good night sleep in weeks hee hee hee."
    Maybe taking it one step further:
    • Repeating it in a jolly voice
    • Finally changing the words of what you are saying to find a positive aspect (I have been able to sleep well for four hours each night).
  16. The climax of a meeting, or for a short meeting the only exercise done: The Meditative laugh. Before this, you might like to do some stretches. There are Qi Gong exercises that are very grounding. They are based on slow movements, feeling rooted, and gentle abdomen breathing. Then agree with the group to keep making any of the laughter sounds for maybe 5 or 10 minutes. People need to keep going, despite the discomfort. People may like to stand and swing their arms to get the momentum going; also sitting or lying down is OK. The longer people try this and keep it going, the more the benefit. Once finished, let people sit quietly. If you have done the meditative laugh for a long time, maybe sit for five or ten minutes. Sometimes during this time, the giggles and laughter just bubble up. This is a real release of inner stresses.
  17. End with a visualization or relaxation exercise.

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