Laughing Club: Fake it Till You Make It (a wrap-up of PY281, Personality)

I’m pretty sure the people walking past Tutt Science this morning thought my class was going crazy. There we were, standing in the quad in front of the science building, maniacally laughing as we playfully charged each other, our mouths open to a roar and our eyes squeezed together. We were pretending to be tigers and lions as we ran and laughed. And that was just one of the laughing exercises we did.

Before our final exam, Tomi-Ann held a laughter club with us. She explained that each day in India, people travel to local parks to perform various exercises (spiritual and the like). One day, a man went to the park and wanted to make people laugh, so he told jokes. He began to gather a crowd; who doesn’t like laughing, after all? After a few days, however, he ran out of jokes. Since he didn’t want to disband his newly formed laughing club, he decided to try out a radical new idea. What if he got people to fake laugh until they actually laughed? And even if they didn’t actually laugh, would fake laughing still have the same health and emotional benefits as actual laughter? Thus, laughing yoga was born. Our lion laughing exercise actually stems from a yoga pose called “lion” designed to open the throat.

Our professor, Tomi-Ann Roberts, spent time in India studying emotions (and laughter!) when she was last away on sabbatical. She’s now well versed in laughing yoga and gives presentations on it for groups at CC and beyond. So today, before our final exam, she held a laughter club with us. And let me tell you, that stuff works! For one exercise, we walked around shaking other peoples hands as we laughed. Generally, I would start with a fake “Ha! Ha! Ha!” but by the end of the exercise, I would actually be laughing. For another exercise, the group split in half and we pretended we were in a giant fight and were arguing with each other. Instead of yelling with words, we laughed and pointed at each other. Pretty soon, we weren’t laugh-fighting but laughing together. For the final activity, we all sat down in a tight little vertical line with people’s legs on either side of the person in front of them The idea was to look like a little Viking ship, which we did. So we all did two giant row motions together, “Ha!”-ing with each row, and then, on the third row motion, we all fell backwards so that everyone’s head was on the stomach of the person behind them. And I can testify, it is impossible not to laugh when you feel a rumble of laughter on your stomach and hear it as well. It was a glorious moment, laughter echoing across the quad. I understand why Tomi-Ann made us go outside for the exercises, because our laughter was uncontrollable, uncontainable, and just plain loud. It was awesome.

Having laughing club before our test was a strategic move, too. Laughing opens you up and gets the creative juices flowing, so after 15 minutes of straight laughing, we were ready to take on the test. And the guy who started this laughter yoga business turned out to be right: fake laughing, even if it does not transition to real laughing, has many health benefits, but fake laughing often does transform into genuine laughter about nothing. Fake it till you make it.

Personality culminated with a paper due Monday (a psychobiography of another person), group presentations on various personality theorists on Tuesday (one presentation featured multiple clips from the Fight Club. Yeah, my class is awesome), and a final exam today, Wednesday. I’ve learned a tremendous amount the past three and a half weeks, everything from my Myers-Briggs personality type (INFJ) to the importance of embracing my ultimate destiny of death in order to fully live in the here and now of the present (sounds a little grim, but the idea is really rather positive). In learning about various personality theorists and theories, I’ve learned and thought more about my own personality, who I really am. I haven’t been able to nail down the central tenants of my personality, but I think that’s a good thing. It means I’m still growing. It means I’m in the process of becoming who I am. And that’s what this class has been all about, learning various ideas and frameworks for becoming who you are. The fictionalized Friedrich Nietzsche in When Nietzsche Wept, a book we read the first week of class, tells another fictionalized historical character to “become who you are.” Those words have become somewhat of a mantra for the class.

So cheers to a fantastic block! Now, it’s off to Westcliffe, Colorado, to hang out with some wolves (via, Breakout, a community service club who is taking students like me to volunteer at Mission:Wolf!!) Gotta love block break. Aaaaawwwwoooooo!!!!

Here’s a short and informative video about laughing yoga. Maybe you can try out some exercises yourself!