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What Are Community Laughter Clubs?
“In all my wanderings in the pursuit of happiness, I never really got happier than in the most infections atmosphere of this quite mad, but loveable, group of laughter clubbers.”
Charles Wooley, Anchor 60 Minutes Australia
Community Laughter Clubs are a worldwide network of social clubs run by volunteers where like-minded people get together just to laugh as a form of exercise. They do so in a variety of public places or indoor venues.
This is not a trademark. Community Laughter Clubs are 100% independent. They do not report nor receive orders from anybody and do not pay royalties.
Community Laughter Clubs all over the world adhere to a common code of conduct: they are not for profit, non political and non religious. All are welcome.
Anybody and everybody can start and run a Community Laughter Club.
Community Laughter Clubs are part of a worldwide grassroots social movement. They are not intended as a commercial project.
What happens in a Community Laughter Club?
Community Laughter Clubs usually meet to laugh for about 45 to 60 minutes.
Here are two videos to give you an idea of what to expect.
You do not need to bring anything beyond a big smile and a bottle of water (you may get dehydrated from laughing a lot).
Benefits of running a Community Laughter Club
What do fun and success have in common? They rarely happen by themselves. You have to work on it. If we make no regular effort to have fun, serious things will interfere to the point of blocking the laughter, fun, and good communication that could be there.
The more you do it, the better you get at it and the more you benefit from it. Being involved in the running of a Community Laughter Club gives you the discipline to laugh on a regular basis, and laughing on a regular basis becomes addictive.
Research tells us that it is 30 times easier to laugh in a group than to laugh on your own. We know so many good things in life, but we don’t have the motivation to practice them. If we do it in a group though, it happens in a much easier way.
People who run / actively participate in Community Laughter Clubs achieve much more on many levels. Personal development is tremendous:
- Communication skills improve.
- Self-confidence improves. Introverts loose their fear of speaking in public.
- You develop more connections and make new friends.
- You get to be in the news (Laughter Yoga is very media friendly).
- Your capacity to laugh goes up significantly, adding more laughter into your life.
- Your ability to cope with challenges improves a lot.
- Your health improves.
- You forget your worries.
- You go home with a refreshed mind.
- You contribute to making the world a better place. It is the responsibility of every Community Laughter Club member to help to make those around them happy. Laughter should be reflected in one’s behavior and attitudes towards others. The members of Community Laughter Clubs do not only laugh, but they also practice ways and means of sensible living.
Basic guidelines and how to start a Community Laughter Club
- No one needs permission to start a Community Laughter Club. No registration is required although appreciated (it helps to put even more people in touch). You can register your Community Laughter Club for free here. It will show on http://www.laughteryogaamerica.com/maps/
- Though there are no rules and regulations that oversee the conduct of Community Laughter Clubs, we do recommend basic guidelines for functioning: Community Laughter Clubs are Non-Political, Non-Religious, Non-Exploitive, Non-Competitive, Non-Perfectionist, Non-Threatening, Everybody is welcome!
- You do not need to incorporate the terms “laughter” or “yoga” in the name of your club if you don’t want to. Read this
Free vs fee
Community Laughter Clubs are different from laughter sessions in that they are intended as a form of community service, not a commercial venture. It doesn’t mean that there can’t be an exchange of money (many Community Laughter Clubs have a donation box), but it does mean that both the time of the instructor and the money of the participants are freely given. They are void of expectations.
Don’t plan to make money leading Community Laughter Clubs. Most likely you won’t. What you will gain in a Community Laughter Club is far more valuable than money, for touching someone’s life has no price. An old man was once wheeled in to the Community Laughter Club of Vishwa Prakask in New York City. He was carrying an intravenous feeding tube and an oxygen mask with him, and was too weak to even participate. All he did in that session was observe and smile. As it turned out, hearing the sound of laughter was his dying wish.
Most clubs do not charge any membership fee. Some do ask for a small contribution in order to cover the expenses of hand-outs, hall rental etc. There is nothing wrong with putting a donation box out to help cover whatever club expenses you may incur (e.g. photocopies…) If there are expenses involved, say how much you need at the end of each session. If you don’t get that money back over at least 4 sessions and it is important enough to you, simply stop and try again somewhere else.
I was very touched once by the example of Luis Gomez from Mexico. Luis puts his hat on the floor at the end of his public laughter sessions and invites those who have enjoyed and benefited to give something to help him cover expenses. Then he always adds that if anybody needs money, the hat is were it is and they can help themselves.
Important considerations before you start a Community Laughter Club
First and foremost, do your homework: prepare or train. You need to understand the method (you can learn the basics for free here. For a more structured and professional approach consider our in-person or online trainings. You may also be interested in our inexpensive Laughter Yoga ebooks, CDs, or DVDs.
Everything after that starts with you. A well known witticism reminds us, “You are unique, just like everyone else.” Although every laughter leader brings their own personality and history to the challenge of organizing and conducting the laughter sessions, the most effective leaders are found to be dedicated, passionate & compassionate, stimulating, persuasive, compelling, energetic, vibrant, full-of-life, animated, whole-hearted, accepting, optimistic, “encouragers”.
Set the tone: believe in yourself and others. This is going to be your baby for a while.
Once you are motivated, there are two important questions you need to answer.
When will you meet?
This is entirely up to you to decide. There is a crowd for every day and every hour. Some Community Laughter Clubs meet as early as 3:30am every single day. Others never start before 8pm. Some meet on week-days, others only on week-ends. Some happen first thing on Monday morning. Others enjoy laughing but only on Friday evenings. In short, there is no clear trend. Laughing in the morning will give energy for the day. Laughing in the evening will relax you from your day.
Deciding when you will meet is not really about finding out when people are available – if TVs and radios broadcast 24/7, it’s because there is a public in need of something 24/7 – but rather when you are available. There must be a leader (someone who knows how things work) and that leader will be you for a little while, so you are the only one who can decide.
We strongly suggest you try to have a weekly Community Laughter Club. It’s much harder to create awareness in the community when you just meet once per month.
Where will you meet?
Renting a commercial space should be the absolute last resort. It is the easiest answer, but in no way the only one.
There are plenty of available free facilities and you can have one, but you need to be creative.
All the nice and free community resources are likely to be in high demand, but this is the first thing you may want to investigate. Never assume, always check:
- Banks sometimes have community rooms if it helps the community
- Businesses closed on week-ends
- Community centers
- Church facilities
- Local associations, hotels, retirement communities, or non-profit organizations in your city: they provide the space, you provide the free activity
- Local gyms sometimes have community rooms for use
- Schools, High Schools, Colleges and Universities, Community Colleges
- Parks & recreations facilities
- Public libraries and hospitals usually let you use their meeting room for free up to a specified number of times per year as long as your meetings are free and public
You can try to hook up with an existing activity or program that people already attend on a regular basis. Part of the reason why Community Laughter Clubs are so popular in India is because they take place in public parks where lots of people go daily for their morning walk. In a way they are a captive audience. Look into your local free and for-fee calendar of events, both online and in print. This will tell you who is doing what, when. Contact these groups and introduce yourself and Laughter Yoga to them. Maybe they would like to add your session to their program? Several people we know have successfully partnered with their local YMCA, senior center, or a support group.
There are lots of private resources that are potentially available but will never be advertised. How will find them?
- Ask, and keep asking. Share with as many people as you can think what you are looking for, and ask for ideas and suggestions. Someone may volunteer their home. A business may volunteer their space.
- Don’t remain idle while you are waiting for someone to contact you. Go back to your local calendar of events, and pro-actively contact all the organizers of the free gatherings. Chances are they have been active for a while and know the community well. Pick their brain and ask for advice. While you are at it, get them to like you too. Sales is first and foremost a transfer of enthusiasm.
- Meet the owners of your local Yoga and Dance studios. They may be interested in hosting a free community event once a month or more frequently.
- Contact your local Lions Club and Kiwanis group and ask for their support. Their members are well established in the community and may be able to help you.
- Ask your local church(es), retirement communities, schools and universities if they have available free space on your chosen day and time. It could be a basement, or a gymnasium.
Sponsorship of image?
Why not ask for sponsorship money to local businesses to pay for space rental? Community Laughter Clubs provide a genuine service to the community. This will require a bit more preparation and lots more convincing, but it is possible. Our preferred approach is on the phone or face to face rather than in writing. If someone asks for you to mail them something, the answer is always “of course” but offer to drop it off in person. More often than not you will realize that it is a very convenient and polite way to say “can I get rid of you that easily?”
The question is not if you will find something, but what you will find.
If you can, try to find a room that has chairs (important) and is clean enough so that you can lay on the floor if you want to. Big spaces are fine because you can always gather in a corner (it creates a more intimate space).
How to start your Community Laughter Club
“Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
All you need to start a Community Laughter Club is the desire to do so. They are part of a social movement, not a commercial enterprise.
The best option is to find an existing Community Laughter Club, attend for a while, and learn how it works by doing it.
You do not necessarily need to travel. There are online (and on the phone) Community Laughter Clubs.
In case there are no Community Laughter Clubs near you and you have a limited budget, start by exploring our website and learn as much as you can about how the method works. Make use of our free resources:
We encourage you to either attend a training in person or learn with us online. There is a tremendous value in it on a personal level. It will of course also take you at the speed of light through the learning curve of what to do and how to best do it.
Get the word out
There is no value in being the best kept secret in town. To get people to come you have to let them know first that you exist.
Below are many ideas that look beyond just inviting your friends and relatives.
You don’t have to implement them all – you would not even be able to unless this was your full time job.
Aim to do at least one per week. Just one, but no less than one.
Be patient and don’t give up. It typically takes 6 months to 1 year for a new Community Laughter Club to establish itself.
Create a website
Having a website is no guarantee that people will find it, but it’s an easy way display information in a place that virtually everybody can access.
Here is the easiest way to do it. It will cost you about $13/year, all included:
- Buy a domain name, e.g. mylaughterclub.com.
- Create your website. We suggest you use the free service http://sites.google.com. You will need to open a (free) google email account to use it.
- Forward or mask your domain name so that when people try to access mylaughterclub.com they are automatically redirected to your site on http://sites.google.com/mysite
- If you are more internet savvy and aren’t afraid of html and mysql databases (using them is easier than you think), consider getting a basic hosting plan with www.traxworks.net/ and learn to use wordpress. Traxworks has a very good tech support. WordPress is a powerful content management system that has extensive online documentation (learn how to install and use it here).
Post in calendar of events
Insert your club’s details in calendar of events (there can be a lot of those, both online and in print), and post a flyer on local notice boards. Do not pay for advertising unless you are doing this as a business venture. Even then, advertising has never worked for us nor anybody we know.
What are the largest businesses in your area? Maybe they have an internal newsletter with a calendar of events. Call their human resources department and find out. You are providing a service of value to their staff and it’s on their free time.
Many private schools send out a weekly newsletter that often includes upcoming social activities in town.
Some people in the USA find www.meetup.com useful, but it costs $72 every six months.
|Come Laugh Your Way to a Happier, Healthier LifeThe [city] Community Laughter Club is a great occasion to laugh to release stress, improve your health and happiness levels, and connect with other optimists. Please bring a big smile.[Who, when, where]Families are welcome. No prior experience or particular clothing or equipment are required. This meeting is free and public. Donations are welcome to help cover costs.In consideration of those who are environmentally sensitive, kindly refrain from wearing perfumes, fragrances, and scented products. See you there![Email, phone, website]|
The challenge with this approach, is that it can be a very time consuming as you need to renew your (free) ad every week or fortnight.
Ask for help. You don’t have to do it all yourself.
Do the best you can.
Leverage the power of the media and social media
Go meet your local TV and newspapers journalists. Ask for the person in charge of healthy living news (they may have a different title, but that’s a good place to start). A new Community Laughter Club in town is news. Do not just email or fax a press release. Bring it in person and find out who the person in charge of social events is. Talk to them. Make an appointment and come back if you need to.
Morning radio talk shows are always looking for a good story and someone to interview. Why not you? If you are unsure on what you will talk about, it is time for you to revisit Lesson One and Two of this course. Gradient laughter, Just laugh, Humming laughter and Laughter vowels are good exercises to do on the radio.
Target people who know people
Local Yoga and dance studios, Doctors, psycho-therapists, the staff and owner of local small health-food stores, the organizers of local support groups are all prime targets for you. Meet them and invite them to come and experience your sessions. If they like it they are very likely to refer lots of people to you.
Hand out business cards
These are easy and relatively inexpensive to make. You can ask everybody you meet to take a few with them and hand them out to people they think could be interested.
www.vistaprint.com will give you 250 business cards for the cost of shipping (their logo will be printed on the back).
It is unwise to believe that you will be available to lead your Community Laughter Club every single week. You are not expected to do everything yourself.
Form a core group, quickly. This is a group of people who like this activity, keep coming back and are willing to help you.
Empower them to lead some exercises on a regular basis. Share with them the leading of your laughter sessions. Ask them to help you promote the Community Laughter Club. It will help you greatly and be much more fun that way. Community Laughter Clubs invariably tend to develop into social support networks.
Know that there is a lot of turnover in Community Laughter Clubs. Many come once and don’t come back. Life is like that. There is no shape on what success looks like. You have a great laughter session with just 2 of you if it comes down to that.
You will find more valuable tips and tricks about how to start your Community Laughter Club and make it thrive in our online training.