October 25, 2010

CHRIS MILLER
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Laughter can draw people together. When people laugh together, they find a common spiritual connection.

For years now, Jean Munro has hosted a workshop, Holy Hilarity: Laughter for the Health of it. People continue being amazed by what they learn and experience at Munro's workshop. She teaches people that joy comes to those who laugh and to those who listen and see it.

Of the 48 participants in the most recent Oct. 12 session, many said when they laughed, they could feel a joyful movement in their bodies and in their psyches. Laughter lessened their tension, anxiety and anger.

"One lady said that she was sitting in the room and it was so much lighter than when she came in. She thought it was a really dark room, and she said, 'Now it looks quite light!' It just goes to show that the reaction is instantaneous in your body," said Munro.

The morning seminar covered the spirituality of laughter and its health benefits. Held at Providence Renewal Centre, the workshop focused on how people find the fruits of the Holy Spirit and interact with God through laughter and through relationships with others.

People came into the workshop with the mindset of improving their health by learning the ins and outs of laughter – the best formula for spiritually uplifting, stress-free living.

Everyone can laugh at a joke, but jokes are subjective, she said. That's why learning to laugh unprompted and heartily is so important.

TEACHING LAUGHTER

"You can teach people to laugh. Most people know how to laugh, but they just don't know how to laugh spontaneously. You have to encourage them to let go," said Munro.

Jean Munro

Spur-of-the-moment laughter can be practised as an exercise, and can actually turn quite physical, expanding the lungs and even making one feel light-headed. With practice, exuberant laughter has many health benefits that most medications and other treatments do not.

"We talk about how laughter is free and it's simple. It has no known side effects - and it really does work," she said.

Someone down in the dumps can feel uplifted through laughter. Through laughing, the body releases emotional tension, improves breathing, reduces loneliness and increases self-confidence.

FINDING GODLINESS

Munro has expectations for those who attend her workshop, namely that they find godliness in the little things in life.

"I hope they leave here with an Aha! moment, and they've seen the divine in the laughter, so they will attach the idea that we were given this laughter to get to know God better, to interact," said Munro.

While laughter, humour and goodhearted living cannot promise to make all bad things in life go away, they do offer the promise of joy, cheerfulness and optimism. Practised laughter gives a storehouse of peaceful joy in the brain.

"Spontaneous laughter helps prevent hardening of the attitude," she said.

Her advice to people is to start each day with good choices, good thoughts and, of course, a good laugh.