Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Response to Violence

Is It Really?

Today I am reading entries on Facebook from some laughter/humor colleagues asserting that yesterday’s shootings at an elementary school are proof that we need more laughter. Here’s one, "If we'd laugh more, there would be less violence, wars, fight... and we all laughed... really hard..."

Oh, my!

I am reminded of the man in an early documentary video about laughter in India. His cure for the troubles of the world, “Laughter alone is the solution!”

Oh, my!

A good argument could be made that laughter, humor, and mirth have survival value. But, “laughter alone” is hardly the solution.

What image do such assertions project about the mission, passion, and work of World Laughter Tour, its thousands of members, and others who form the loosely organized laughter movement? Over-simplified short-hand figures of speech can be easily misinterpreted, and portray the movement as seemingly not very thoughtful, perhaps even overly zealous for laughter.

I urge you, my readers and members of the World Laughter Tour, to project a more reflective and considered position. One that appreciates complexity, but is not deterred from ideals.

Situations and events have multiple causalities.

For instance, when we seek to foster a dozen new intergenerational laughter programs next year, or next February, when I present a program of classroom activities and support for caregivers in early childhood education, or when we promote laughing toys for kids, it is not because we believe that laughter is the only best medicine.
A Tool, Not the Whole Toolbox

Laughter is like an electric drill, a tool that delivers a desired result: a hole in the right place at the right time. It is not the whole toolbox. When the Beatles sang “All You Need Is Love,” that was a figure of speech.  We recognize that love is an action verb, not merely feel-good emotion.

What we call laughter programs encompass tools and experiences for more positive emotions and attitudes (emotional education); positive engagement with life and positive relationships, through Good-Hearted Living, for example. We synthesize evidence-based information from science, Positive Psychology, and ancient practices, in clinical, educational, consulting, corporate, and volunteer work.

We help individuals use life energies to choose and modify their life and work directions. We help individuals identify emotional and attitudinal factors, many of which can be self-administered practices that improve health and increase life satisfaction and well-being for clients, patients, residents, students, employee, and others.

And, yes, we have fun doing it.

What's so funny? Sometimes, we can't exactly explain why we are laughing. That's OK. But, my over-riding mission is to give people good reasons to laugh such as a good job, reasonable income, healthcare, adequate food, freedom from pain and fear and chaos. Now, that's a world you can live with. To get ideas for love-in-action, please re-read "FULL-BELLY LAUGHTER" and pass it on.

We can imagine a better world. And, anything we can imagine we can make happen.

The advice that medical researcher Dr. Lee Berk so generously offered to me at the beginning of the World Laughter Tour, I now offer to you, “Don’t ever get discouraged. You are doing the right thing.”


Sunday, December 9, 2012

You may say that I’m a dreamer...

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
"Imagine" by John Lennon

I need your help. Thank you in advance, my dear blog readers.

Actually, I am trying to enlist you in furthering the mission of the World Laughter Tour: Together, we can lead the world to health, happiness, and peace through laughter.

The operative word here is TOGETHER. I can't do it alone.

Did you know that the logo of World Laughter Tour is called The Happy World?
Happy World

Thousands of individuals around the world are already carrying the mission forward. One of the ways we are doing this is by encouraging people everywhere to try my program called Good-Hearted Living(tm) [GHL].

GHL is the most WONDERFUL, POWERFUL method I have ever discovered for improving life satisfaction and well-being. Put into daily practice, people find they have more positive attitudes, more positive emotions, and more positive interactions with others. In other word, greater life satisfaction and well-being. This, in turn, greatly increase the likelihood of having more laughter in their lives, which brings a multitude of benefits for mind, body, and soul.

And, you can be part of the movement, too. Especially if know someone who is fluent in a language other than English.

First, a word about THANK YOU. One of the six parts of the program is the practice of gratitude.

My friend, Nekane DeLeniz, whom I met in Caracas, is beautiful spiritual teacher, a woman both wise and smart, with a heart of gold. She posted this on Facebook:

It inspired me to search for THANK YOU in other languages. With help from friends (and computer technology), I have been able to put together this list:
Bedankt (Dutch)
Ank-thay Ou-yay (Pig Latin)
Masha danki (Papiamento )
Todah rabbah (Hebrew)
grazie mille (Italian)
Sapcibo (Russian)
Dankon (Esperanto)
Diakuju (Ukrainian)
cume on (Vietnamese)
Arigato (Japanese)
Tak dig (Danish)
Kiitos (Finnish)
efharisto (Greek)
Takk deg (Norwegian)
Obrigado (Brazilian Portuguese)
Mahusu mahuyu (Guajiro)
Size Teşekkür Ederiz (Turkish)
Na gode (Hausa)
شكرا لك Shukran (shoe-cron) (Arabic)
感谢您 (Xie Xie: Chinese)
Σας ευχαριστώ (Greek)
आपको धन्यवाद देता हूं। (Hindi)
감사합니다. (Korean)
ขอขอบคุณที่คุณ (Thai)

Here's where you come in. You can help raise the GRATITUDE consciousness of people around the world by adding to the THANK YOU list (send me you additions, please) and distributing it everywhere.

Here's something else we can all do. Through the kindness of friends, the basic instructions for the GHL program have been translated into English, Mexican Spanish, Chilean Spanish, Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, and Japanese. Nancy Jones even created a kid version. I have put them all into a single pdf file that you can have and you can distribute.

Copyright Disclaimer: Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

If you can help us get this translated into even more languages, we can touch even more lives and further the mission of a healthier, happier, and more peaceful --and laughter-filled-- world. Do you know someone who would translate this? Simply send them the file and have them send me their translation. They may contact me with any questions. I will keep posting the additional translations for you to distribute. Soon, the world will look like this:
I'm just saying...imagine...


PS I recently recorded a one-hour Webinar about GHL. You can get it, along with myriad extras such as videos, the slide images, and articles.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Funny Fridays! Let's Make It Official

'Tis the season to lighten up and give gifts, so let's be sure to include gifts of laughter and humor. Annually, let's Make the First Friday in April (National Humor Month) and the last Friday in November, officially Funny Fridays!
I have submitted those days to Chase's Calendar of Events
Laughter lifts spirits, reduces stress, connects us to others, makes happy memories, and has healing effects. We need laughter now more than ever, so let's devote at least a couple of day to creating, buying, giving, exchanging, or otherwise sharing gifts of laughter to tickle the funny bones of friends and family. 

The master of movie comedy, Charlie Chaplin, said, "A day without laughter is like a day without sunshine." I say, let's bring rays of sunshine to this too-often commercialized, tension-filled season by making the last Friday in November 'Funny Friday' (and to National Humor Month, and while you're at it, any other Friday during the year).

Laughter is a kind of medicine for the good it can do. And, the sound of mirthful laughter is contagious. What we have here is something the world needs now more than ever--something positive that we can catch from each other!

Many people who used to think that laughter was silly or that jokes were immature, have made the surprising discovery that laughter has its own natural, healthful benefits. Every system of the body functions better when you laugh. Laughter has survival value.

I have built an online catalog of things that laugh or that induce mirthful laughter. People love to hear the sound of laughing. In the Old Testament, Sarah laughed with joy and named her baby Isaac, the Hebrew word for laughter. The earliest recordings are of the human voice laughing.

Our 'child' lies dormant within each of us and our normal, intended state is to be healthy, magical, and childlike. I recall being a kid whose family spent summers in Atlantic City. One time, I redeemed my winning Skee-Ball tickets at the Penny Arcade for a battery operated mechanical laugh box that came in an orange drawstring bag. All summer, we kids on the beach in my neighborhood never tired of playing with it and falling down again and again in peals of laughter.
Out of that experience, I began to collect other mechanical laughing devices along with audio and video recordings of laughter. There's actually a DVD of 15 minutes of nothing but laughter, called The Gift of Laughter.

Now, we have electronic toys like the ingenious Laffy Laffalot, gadgets like realistic laughing key chains, family laughing games, and even children's books that laugh. The World Laughter Tour online catalog also lists various 'amusements' like a whirring, light-flashing wizard's wand, Happy Pills, laughing key rings, and books of jokes & funny stories for all ages from 3 months to 103. George Bernard Shaw observed that, "People don’t stop playing because they grow old, they grow old because they stop playing."
Family Laughing Game
Laughing Happy Pills
Terrific Joke Book
It has been said that the halls of heaven ring with the laughter of the saints. As you make your gift lists for this season and all through the year, be sure to include laughter and humor. They are appropriate and welcomed gifts for almost any occasion.
Three Suggestions:
1. As you make your gift list, think about what you know about each person's sense of humor and match it up with something suitable. Don't send off-color jokes to someone who is more reserved.
2. You don't have to spend a lot of money. A humorous greeting card will do just fine, and you can make your own.
3. Search online for jokes, riddles, or witticisms on topics that you know each person would appreciate (sports, a hobby, kids, business, etc.) and print out a compilation to add to a card or gift.
Your gift of laughter will be memorable for all the right reasons. Gifts of laughter are permission to lighten up, let go and have fun, and they make lasting connections. As Victor Borge said, laughter is the shortest distance between two people.
Award-winning psychologist, Steve Wilson, also known as The Joyologist and The Cheerman of the Bored, has spent 30 years specializing in applied and therapeutic humor with a humanitarian mission. As Director of National Humor Month, he intertwines science and ancient wisdom with substance and humor to lead the world to health, happiness and peace through laughter. More than six thousand people have completed his unique training in how to create therapeutic laughter, and tens of thousands more around the world have been uplifted by his talks, classes, books, and articles. He established the World Laughter Tour, Inc., in 1998, to be a rich resource and inspiration for improving productivity, health, and well being in business, healthcare and education.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Post-disaster humor, laughter, resilience, and action

Humor and laughter can offer post-disaster healing, but timing and receptivity are critical considerations.

“Now, more than ever.” We have said these words about therapeutic humor and laughter many times during the past dozen years. Perhaps, some would say, too many times.

Some of our laughter & humor colleagues have been hard hit by Sandy; many were spared. Weather experts tell us to expect and prepare for more frequent and damaging weather events.

"People throughout history have used humor, stories, music, dancing to cope with human tragedy," said Melina McLain, a San Francisco-based disaster response coordinator for the United Church of Christ. "Tapping into our own creativity makes us feel less powerless. The psychologist Carl Jung said, art is the cure for suffering."

Photojournalist Richard Misrach's video documentary gives an interesting perspective into the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It’s pretty amazing to see both the reoccurring responses from those affected within the community as well as humorous responses after such a life changing event.

Yet sometimes, trauma is so overwhelming that our hearts go numb. When that happens, what should we do with our laughter, with our empathy, with our compassion?

One thing for sure, it will be good for us to stick together. And, to act.

WizeOne sez: The snowflake is God’s most fragile creation, but look what they can do when they stick together.


We might seek a sense of balance in the stark-but-astute observation of George Bernhard Shaw, “Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh."

Some might ask, “How can you laugh at a time like this?” Some spiritual teachers might reply with a question, “How can you not laugh at a time like this?”

Or, we remember Ecclesiastes, “There is a time to laugh and a time to cry. A time for all things.”

Grief, a very unpleasant emotion, is the process necessary for healing from loss. Psychologist Annette Goodheart taught us why grieving can take a very long time: we cannot do it all at once; we do it in pieces; in many, many pieces. For a time, laughter may not be accessible. Eventually, laughter—the great emotional balancer—is possible again. "Just because you're miserable," she said, "doesn't mean you can't enjoy your life."

We take hope from our colleagues who study the humor of disasters. (Google "humor and disaster" for a plethora of reports.)

The father of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman, and others report that following traumatic events, the large majority of people have resilience and bounce back; a small percentage actually are stronger at some time after the trauma; a small percentage have great difficulty coming back to normal functioning.

Logic can help, but it is not enough.
Platitudes can help, but they are not enough.
Science can help, but it is not enough.
Prayer can be comforting, but it is not enough.
What, then, is "enough"?


Perhaps we need to take action, remembering that no sincere act of compassion or charity is ever to small. Maimonides taught that the highest degree of charity is what helps a person be strong and capable enough that they no longer require charity. The next highest degree is giving anonymously so that the donor and the recipient are not known to anyone. But, you don’t have to stop there because there are at least six more degrees of charity. And, it is worth repeating: no sincere act of compassion or charity is ever too small.

Keeping these in mind might help us have the energy and resilience to think about what we can do, and to do it.

There are non-religious spiritual aspects to our work.


“Some human beings are too hungry to be laughing,” is the subtitle of my call to action, “FULL BELLY LAUGHTER”. We could add that some are too cold, scared, sad, angry, stunned, or grieving. Understandably, these are natural human emotions that block access to laughter or make humor seem inappropriate, untimely, and in bad taste.

Read or re-read the attached paper, breathe deeply and stay open to your mind’s suggestions for the actions that are right for you. Then, do them!

Again: the snowflake is God’s most fragile creation, but look what they can do when they stick together.

Love, light and laughter,




Friday, October 26, 2012

We didn’t see it coming.

Pam and I have a standing joke that one of us is sleeping with the boss. On Boss’s Day recently, we argued about which one of us should send flowers.

We never intended it.

We didn’t plan it.

It was never a goal.

There is no precedent for it.

We didn’t see it coming.

Yet, now we find ourselves with a constituency of thousands of CLLs that is at least 85% female.*

It is high in our consciousness.

In many places, women are at a disadvantage, but in World Laughter Tour,  women not only lead a global movement for health, happiness, and peace, they also lead the businesses that fulfill the mission and generate incomes that help feed their families.

When we aim to help CLLs be competent and confident and successful in this funny business, it is largely about women.
Because we have launched our series of online classes for better business**, I thought you might also appreciate this video. Perhaps it will inspire you.

As always,


*I have a theory about why that has happened, but I am saving it for another time. What do you think?

**Our webinar class covering brilliant business basics is available now.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Guest Blogger: Dr. Bob Nozik - HAPPINESS, HUMOR, & LOVE

Bob Nozik, MD*
In future BLOGS I will show you ways for increasing your happiness, I promise.  But today I want to let you in on a rather provocative concept of mine relating happiness, humor, and love in a way I bet you’ve never heard before.

My interests primarily have to do with finding ways for raising people’s enduring happiness.  However, I discovered early on that laughter and humor are inexorably entwined with happiness.

What I want to do today is give you, the reader, a unique insight into what I consider some amazing parallels between happiness, humor, and love.

I’ll begin by making a few key observations for each of the three, tie them together and draw some conclusions.

Happiness: There are two distinctly different kinds of happiness: the common “hedonic” and the much rarer “eudaimonic” happiness. 

We all experience hedonic happiness, five, six, seven or more times every day of our lives.  It is the happiness that comes to us whenever something happens we want or like.  Examples would include when our favorite sports team wins a game; winning the lottery; finding a great parking place.  Note that it comes from things outside of our self.  This kind of happiness feels great but never lasts as long as we want.

Eudaimonic happiness, unfortunately, is rarely seen in our society.  It is internally generated and is relatively independent of external events.  Best of all, once we learn how to get and maintain it, it won’t ever leave.  Also, it feels different from its hedonic cousin.  Hedonic happiness comes on as an exuberant, joyful blast while eudaimonic expresses itself as a deep, enduring, inner peace and contentment.

Humor: Humor comes from incongruent or surprising situations and jokes resulting in the emotion of mirth.  Humor, says Rod A. Martin (Psychology of Humor, Academic Press, 2007) is “a broad-based term that refers to anything people say or do that is perceived as funny and tends to make others laugh…”  We bump into humor all around us and most of us experience humor a number of times every day. 

Most of us highly value having a good sense of humor.  In fact, a recent study reports the 80% of us believe we have a better than average sense of humor.  Those with a good sense of humor find humor in almost everything and everywhere.  Some of those with the most highly evolved sense of humor develop what is called a humorous perspective where they find humor in almost every aspect of life, even including death.    Though few reach it, this represents the highest level of sense of humor.

Ardent Love: As in the case of happiness and humor, there are two kinds of amorous or ardent love; the rather commonly seen romantic variety and the much more rarely encountered mature love.  Most of us will experience the passion and heat of romantic love a number of times--five, six, or more times--before we settle down with “the One.” 

It should be noted that 50% of marriages end in divorce and, in my view, at least 50% of those remaining stay together, not because the marriages are successful but due to inertia, fear of being alone, or other fears. 

The number of truly successful long-term marriages, the kinds based on what I call mature love, is very rare indeed.  Still, most of us know one or two couples who not only still love, but truly enjoy and respect each other after 20, 40, or even more years together.

Summary Chart: Let’s chart the parallels we can make from what’s just been said humor, happiness, and love.

Category/sub cat.       Onset             Incidence        Duration         Life Impact
A) Humor                      Rapid              Common         Brief                 Small
B) Sense of Humor        Gradual          Rare                 Long                 Great

A) Hedonic                    Rapid              Common         Brief                 Small
B) Eudaimonic              Gradual           Rare                 Long                 Great

A) Romantic                 Rapid               Common         Brief                 Small
B) Mature                     Gradual            Rare                Long                 Great

Perhaps these similarities between humor/happiness/love are just serendipitous; however, I suspect that the linkages between them are real.  All three have an emotional component (humor, hedonic happiness, and romantic love) and, as the chart shows, they are remarkably similar in their presentation, course, and effect.  Similarly, all three have enduring life-path elements (sense of humor, eudaimonic happiness, and mature love) which are also quite similar in their course, development, and impact.

Could it be that humor, happiness, and love are really just variations of our basic humanity?  I suspect they are linked in a fundamental way.  And, while I am unaware of any research joining them in this way, I suspect that if we looked, we would find that the people who enjoy eudaimonic happiness also possess a strong sense of humor and enjoy mature love. 

"Love doesn't make the world go 'round, it just makes the ride worthwhile."

"Love may make the world go 'round, but laughter keeps us from getting dizzy."

What do you think?  

Bob Nozik, MD, has been writing and speaking on happiness since developing his own deep, inner, nearly constant happiness 25 years ago.  Bob is Professor Emeritus from University of California San Francisco Medical Center, having retired in 1999.  He is the author of two books on happiness: 1) "Happy 4 Life: Here's How to Do It," and "Happy Tymes Rhymes: Just for the Fun of It."  Both books can be ordered from or by contacting Bob at:  

Please subscribe to my blog and share it with friends.
Steve Wilson

Friday, June 22, 2012

No laughing matter - Indian yoga gigglers banned

No laughing matter - Indian yoga gigglers banned is the headlne of a June 19, 2012, news report fro Mumbai, India. Click on the headline to read the report.

It triggered my flashback to 2003 when flying ice-water taught Certified Laughter Leaders a lesson when I convened the First International Symposium on Laughter in Kissimmee, Florida.

There were 125 of us when Dr. Kataria and I were leading the first 6 a.m. laughter session at the conference hotel. The morning’s venue was around the hotel swimming pool which was centered among the guest room buildings.

We started as usual with the traditional clapping and chanting HO HO HA HA HA. The group was uber-enthusiatic, LOUD and HAPPY.

Very quickly, an angry man's voice from one of the guest rooms above us echoed down to the pool, “Shut up! I’m trying to sleep!”

We fell silent for a moment. Then some of our laughter group start shouting up to the unknown complainer, imploring him, “You need laughter! This is good for you! You should be down here with us!” And they started clapping and chanting even louder than before.
Then, as if raining down from the heavens, a pitcher of ice water was thrown over a balcony, drenching some of our laughers.
Liquid message received.
We stopped the session. Urged everyone to be silent, and quietly explained to our group that we must respect that laughter is not appropriate all the time, there are times when laughter and humor are not welcome, and we must not force laughter on anyone.

Whenever you discover that your laughter or humor is annoying, you must stop it. It is antithetical for us to annoy people with what we do. If you annoy others with laughter and humor, insisting even that it is for their own good (Oh, no!) you violate our most important values and strategies. You violate the social contract that guides all of us to respect others and do no harm.
In that situation, it was incumbent upon us to move away to where we would not bother anyone. We scouted the property and quickly found an area in the parking lot and another, grassy area; both were away from the guest rooms.

We moved immediately and held all subsequent outdoor sessions in those two spots.

No more problems.

A legendary teachable moment. Great object lesson, now often taught in our training.

Maybe the groups in India mentioned in the attached article didn’t get the message. Well, they will now, I am sure.
If you hadn't gotten the message elsewhere, now you know, too!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Happiness Equation

Consider the basis of your expectations. To the extent that you can make more accurate predictions about outcomes in your future, you increase your chances of feeling happiness.

Consider that gratitude is easier to come by when disappointment is minimal.
Tony Robbins gets this, but my mother got it long before Tony Robbins.

Mom and my sister, 1939
She died of ovarian cancer when I was turning 21.
From her diagnosis to her demise was just a matter of a few weeks.
My being rocked by the sudden, unpredicted loss of such a healthy—not to mention significant—woman, propelled me into my quest for meaning.
It  led me to the life-long philosophy, “Don’t Postpone Joy!”

Before her untimely death, my mom was able to offer me many valuable lessons and advice that I was too young and brash to take to heart at the time. I have been sorting it out ever since, and now I can look back on it with amazed, and sometimes amused, appreciation.

Among her many talents, intelligence and abilities, my mom dispensed a wealth of armchair psychology and old-world philosophy. Having landed in Brooklyn for a few years, her Austrian and Hungarian immigrant parents lived with us in a typical Philadelphia "row home," providing a daily amalgam of superstition, philosophy, and Orthodox Jewish law. She was fascinated with the idea of "neurosis". In an era (the 1940s and 1950s) when Freud was all the rage, neurosis was everybody's condition, and psycho-pharmacology, especially the use of barbiturates, was taking off like a rocket.

Some of her advice was patently superstitious and just wrong. For example, we only spoke the names of serious illnesses (polio, cancer) in hushed whispers, as if saying them out loud would make them worse or bring them on to somebody else. If you dropped a knife it meant that company was coming; to avoid bad luck, never put a hat on a bed or open an umbrella in the house. And, this strange warning was issued, "If you laugh before breakfast, you will cry before supper!" Really? Don't be too happy early in the morning? Really?

Even before I was a teenager, she taught me this formula for happiness:
Where H=Happiness, R=Realization, and E=Expectation.

In other words, with any actual outcome or situation, the greater your expectation had been, the less happy you are likely feel.

Conversely, the smaller your expectation, compared to the actual outcome, the happier you will feel.
Prescription for happiness: Keep your expectations low.
In the pseudo-biblical vernacular: She or he who expecteth nothing, ain’t gonna be deceived.


By necessity, most of the decisions, plans and actions that you will make in your lifetime must be based on less than perfect knowledge of the future. By necessity, your expectations rely on predictions and your happiness relies not necessarily on lowering expectations, but on your ability to adjust your expectations appropriately.

Dictionary Definitions of related terms
Expect: to look forward to; regard as likely to happen; anticipate the occurrence or the coming of.
Predict: to declare or tell in advance; prophesy; foretell.
Wish: to want; desire; long for (usually followed by an infinitive or a clause): I wish to travel. I wish that it were morning.
Hope: the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best: a person or thing in which expectations are centered.
Belief: something believed;  an opinion or conviction, e.g. a belief that the earth is flat. Confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof.
Evidence: that which tends to prove or disprove something; ground for belief; proof; data.

Here's my point:
  • Expectations are a type of prediction.
  • Predictions are statements, beliefs or hopes, about the future.
  • Statements about the future cannot be labeled "true or false"; until the event happens, predictions and expectations can have some probability of being correct.
  • That probability, the odds of correctly forecasting something happening in the future, will be more or less accurate depending on the basis for calculating those odds.
  • When you know how "good" the evidence is for your prediction, your can adjust expectations accordingly; you can minimize the risk of disappointment, and maximize your happiness --and gratitude-- related to the event you predicted.

He or she is a forecaster of weather events, predicting the weather in statements about the future, and couching those predictions as the odds of the occurrence of some weather phenomenon.

For example, when you hear that the forecast is for a chance of rain you can make plans about taking an umbrella or not, leaving early for an appointment, driving or not, etc. What will be very helpful to your planning is knowing the percentage of chance of rain. A 10% chance of rain may influence you differently than a 90% chance of rain.

Whether its the weather forecast or your best friend telling you about the new neighbors who are about to move in, or a co-worker telling you about the forthcoming policy changes, or a TV ad telling you what will happen if such-and-such candidate is elected, you need ot be asking, "How do you know?"

Your knowing the basis of a forecast is critical to your setting your expectations and, therefore, to your happiness. Did the weatherman consult tea leaves or was modern meterorological science involved?

By the way, whatever the prediction, a careful forecaster will be correct. A 90% chance of rain also means a 10% chance of "not rain". If you tote your umbrella to work and it doesn't rain, don't blame the forecaster; the prediction included the "no rain" possibility, too.

Examine the basis for your expectations and for your predictions of outcomes in your life. Are they based on lots of personal experiences, or on claims made by an actor paid to be in a TV commercial. Are you pinning your hopes on good science or on your most recent Fortune Cookie?

The more important the outcome is to you, the important it is to have a solid basis for your prediction/expectation.

For example, going out to dinner at your favorite restaurant, you will probably pile the family in the car and drive over there. You are actually predicting that the restaurant will be open, and you are acting on that prediction. If it turns out to be closed for renovations, your disappointment over your casual prediction/expectation will likely be minimal and short-lived, and you will find another restaurant.

However, if the restaurant were 150 miles away and the trip required an overnight stay, you probably wouldn't just start driving in that direction. Your happiness and gratitude are at greater risk if you fail to do some checking and, instead, act as if you are 100% certain it was still there and still open, with hotels with vacancies nearby. You could reduce the risk of disappointment to yourself and your family, and increase the likelihood of happiness for them, by doing some calling ahead. You would then make a better prediction and adjust your expectations accordingly.

Typically, adjusting your expectations to maximize your happiness and gratitude takes practice, but I predict that you will say it is worth the effort.

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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Happiness at the molecular level

Here is a cross-section of a blade of grass, prepared for viewing with a microscope. It was done by Di Davis who asks that you respect her copyright of the image.
Doesn't it look like the grass is full of smiley faces?

Can you imagine a cross-section of a human cell showing something similar?
I can, and it is an amazing, amusing and wonderful thought.

Maybe, someday we'll have this kind of evidence proving that we can create happy human cells.

The source didn't say, but I'm assuming that the specimen is, like, lawn grass, and not the kind you smoke. That leads to a whole other discussion.

I'm just saying...

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Friday, May 25, 2012

Better With Age

Pro-aging looks like this.

"Old age and treachery always overcomes youth and skill."
~Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard


I am grateful that at the age of fifty I had a significantly positive, long-lasting, life-changing experience. It happened during a men’s drumming retreat weekend in the Texas woods.

Around the campfire, we discussed rites of passage, why they are significant, and how they are maintained in Native American cultures but largely discarded in contemporary “American” culture, where we have come to worship youth and discard our elderly. Too bad for America.

The retreat leaders prepared us for a rite of passage that would induct all of the men age fifty and older into a Council of Elders. The campfire ceremony took on a sacred aura. The larger group was instructed in the importance of respect for the wisdom of elders. I’m not sure how it affected the other “elders” but, in a mystical flash being formally elevated to this status changed my mindset about aging from fear and anxiety to positive expectancy.

The anticipation of more wisdom and the insights one can only attain with age has stayed with me. It makes it easier for me to embrace and accept the changes that come with aging.

Native American Elders
I did not know then that studies would later show that this kind of attitude is associated with increased longevity and better health. I feel like a lucky guy to have been in that place at that time.

A great advantage of the work that I do with laughter –which I now believe can accurately be described as delivering happiness—is that I can do it for as long as strength, energy and enthusiasm hold out. I expect there will be large numbers of us doing a great job of it in our 80’s, 90’s, and beyond.

Rx: A Lifetime of Laughter

Long ago, I discovered that there are aspects of therapeutic laughter that cannot be taught.

They can only be learned from experience.

In some health & human services occupations these insights might be called “clinical judgment”.

It takes practice and feedback, trial and error sometimes, in order for us to form the mind-body pathways that we call higher skills, mastery, and smooth delivery.

Think about learning to ride a bicycle, drive a car, tie your shoes, fold an omelet, or navigate your hard drive.

With repetition, those pathways are virtually permanently programmed into our psycho-bio-neurological systems. Often, they feel like a combination of A-ha! & Ooh-ah! & Ha-ha!

Leading therapeutic laughter and delivering happiness, and doing it really well, is like that.

If you keep having experiences—even so-called failures—and you learn from them, you are getting better with age.

It means that you can look forward to getting even better with more aging.

It means that you can enthusiastically embrace a pro-aging mindset even in the midst of our anti-aging culture.

"Elder" Wavy Gravy at Earthdance 2006

The best is yet to come.

Okay, that long-winded set-up leads to an important question for discussion. Positive psychology and Happiness expert, Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD, suggests we think about and exchange our ideas about aging this way:

Regarding any part of your life, in what ways have you developed and improved over time, with age?

Thinking back to any earlier point in your life, you might want to finish the starter: “If I knew then what I know now…”

Please respond here –and include how long you’ve been at it-- so we all can learn from each other.


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Sunday, May 20, 2012

The kanji Warao (Laughter)

Kanji Warao (Laughter)
The Japanese have ancient understandings and traditions about laughter, happiness, and contentment.  Now, you can own a beautiful limited edition reproduction of a modern interpretation of that relationship: the kanji Warao (Laughter).

A wonderful gift of laughter.

A symbol of the reach of laughter through the ages and around the world, this unique collectible conversation art piece graces home or office as a contemporary expression of the earliest representation of laughter as a universal language.

 Exclusive limited edition keepsake symbolizes ancient respect and embracing of laughter
 Printed with old-world elegance on 24 lb archival quality Southworth parchment paper
 Acid & lignin free (won’t yellow with age)
 Overall size 8.5”x11”
 Suitable for matting & framing
 Affordably priced in keeping with universally lucky numerology
 Comes with Certificate of Authenticity

(shown matted, for example; shipped unmatted)

A portion of proceeds provides financial support for the artist Kazu Mori, and Osugi Musical Theater.

Here is some folklore history…

The Shichi-fuku-jin (七福神) is the Seven Gods of Luck in Japanese folklore. They are comical deities, often portrayed riding together on a treasure ship (takarabune). They carry various magical items such as an invisible hat, rolls of brocade, an inexhaustible purse, a lucky rain hat, robes of feathers, keys to the divine treasure house and important books and scrolls.

One of the Shichi Fukujin, the seven Japanese Shinto-gods of luck. Hotei ("cloth bag") is the god of happiness and laughter and the wisdom of being content. He is the patron of the weak and the children. Hotei is depicted as a very fat man with a big belly (a symbol of happiness, luck and generosity), carrying a huge linen bag containing precious things, including children, on his back. He may sit in an old cart drawn by boys, as the Wagon Priest. He can be compared with the Buddhistic Mi-lo-Fo.

The Story Behind the kanji Warao (Laughter) By Artist Kazu Mori
Deriving from various calligraphic and historical models, kanji are essentially Chinese orthography characters (hanzi) used to write Japanese in forms referred to as logograms, idiographs, or indicatives. Because of the way they have been adopted into Japanese, a single kanji may be used to write one or more different words (or, in some cases, morphemes). From the point of view of the reader, kanji are said to have one or more different "readings". Deciding which reading is meant depends on context, intended meaning, use in compounds, and even location in the sentence. Some common kanji have ten or more possible readings.

ABOUT THE ARTIST: Kazu Mori is an interior designer and calligraphy artist living Komatsu in western Japan. His calligraphy graces a wide variety of objects in Japan - signs, menus, wall hangings, cups, clothing, and more. He also does calligraphy as performance art, drawing characters of thanks, hope, peace, and laughter on very large rolls of paper held up on a stage or at a festival. He has done shows not only locally but in the UK, France, China, and elsewhere.
Kazu Mori
This kanji, “Warao” was commissioned as a poster for a performance by the Osugi Musical Theatre (OMT), Komatsu, Ishikawa, Japan.

Because of a long-standing friendship founded on love of music, art, laughter, happiness and peace, the kanji has been made available to World Laughter Tour, to use for special recognitions and for raising financial support for the artist and OMT.

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Intuitive Logic

Helen Marie Szollosy is a Certified Laughter Leader who continues to amuse, amaze, and inspire us. Helen channels her life experiences and intuition into grand products like the video she recently sent me. She touches so many lives with laughter. *

Helen, writes: “I thought you might enjoy this healthy, healing positive mantra video I made this evening. Sit, feel, heal, face, replace - relax - be grateful and thankful- and generate happy cells!”

I am putting the link to this video on my desktop to keep it handy. What a great way to start the day.

What is the source of Helen’s prolific output?
I am sure there are many personal sources for her, as there are for any of us; she has shared some of hers with us.

But, there are two energy or motivational sources in particular, that I think those of us in the field have in common: I call them a Hippocratic inclination and intuitive logic.

We sensed that it would not be harmful if we could get others to try a few things like making the effort to look for the lighter side of situations, or infusing a workplace, classroom or sickroom with humor.

We sensed that it would not be harmful and that there was logic to the idea that positive outcomes were likely.

We were not drawn to working with humor and laughter because of being comedians, nor because we were overwhelmed with evidence. In the early days, there was little or no evidence. But several theories abounded.  In fact, many of us got started because of a rather ephemeral affinity for laughter and humor.

Norman Cousins supposedly humored himself well from a painful and perhaps nearly fatal illness that had no known medical cure. He wrote about his experience. While single case studies are often where science begins, it is hardly considered solid evidence. Yet, it became foundational to a movement for applied and therapeutic humor and laughter.

My Grandmother's Hippocratic Oath
My maternal grandmother emigrated to United States from Vienna, as a teenager, around 1900. She came with a kind of Hippocratic do-no-harm mentality. You could hear it in the kindly tone of voice she used when she recommended an enema for every ailment. In broken English, with a strong Austrian accent, she would  persuasively note about her prescription, "It vouldn't hurt!"

And, those of us drawn to work with humor and laughter had an intuitive logic about the topic. Without demanding hard-boiled scientific evidence, we somehow "knew" that laughter and humor are good for us. The Western world is fraught with deep cultural ambivalence towards humor: it loved, hated, and feared. Admonishments to grow up, get serious, quit fooling around, and dedicate ourselves to hard work, are probably rooted in Puritanical religious ethos.

But some of us "knew" that human beings need large doses of laughter and humor. And, we were willing to encourage others to try it.

In the courses I designed about applied and therapeutic humor & laughter, we have never claimed that what we encourage others to try will cure anything. But "try this" is an invitation to perform an personal experiment, to see what happens. Do you like the results, or shall we try something else?

You Become A Medical Experiment
My doctors, with all of their training, do exactly the same thing. They examine, diagnose and prescribe. With each prescription comes "Try this." You become a science experiment with your own health and well-being. The doctor does not guarantee a cure. In fact, if the prescription does not work, you do not get your back. That is not the contract.

Following this logic, I created an ethical foundation for Certified Laughter Leaders conducting therapeutic laughter sessions, during which they encourage participants to try various practices. The "contract" is not the promise of a cure.

The contract is the promise to do one's best, to be up to date on the evidence, to do no harm, and to continue to help search for whatever might have a positive effect on health and well-being.

Sustaining Motivation
We turned two energy sources --do-no-harm and intuitive logic-- into action. And, now, in some important ways, the best scientific evidence is coming in, proving that we were right.

It has been my great joy for many years to be associated with thousands of colleagues who are similarly motivated: to keep the world from spinning totally out of control, to offer pathways to a little bit better balance, to happiness; to encourage others to make humor and laughter therapeutic allies.

* To learn more about Helen:
HA HA Helen Marie Szollosy, O.S.E. (Outlook Shift Engineer!)
Gold Member: A.A.T.H. (Assoc. for Applied & Therapeutic Humor)
Speaker, Singer, Certified Laughter Wellness Program Facilitator, WLT
Live Life! Laugh Often!
facebook:  LAFOLOT
Mechanicsburg PA


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Happiness Comes to Laughter's Gate

Shaken (and Stirred) To My Roots
Within 24 hours this week two of my most important world's intersected in a fusion of zeitgeist, the spirit of the times. Thinking about it has just about blown my mind, opened my heart, and filled me with gratitude and joy.

Our 12-year old granddaughter, Libby, is doing a school assignment that requires her to interview her grandparents and learn something about their lives as children and what they have learned. I found myself getting deeply introspective. As I answered her queries, what came into focus sharper than ever, is my fascination with laughter as a significant path to understanding happiness and promoting love & peace.
Two of my favorite cousins and my Pop-Pop c.1950

Within a day of starting that interview process, I had e-mail from Gart Westerhout in Komatsu, Ishikawa, Japan. He sent me the Japanese translation of Good-Hearted Living(tm), which he and local volunteers had been working on for a year.

The Legendary Birds of Peace Laughter Session
The first laughter therapy club demonstration in the United States took place during the Spring of 1999, in Washington DC.

It happened that I was searching the Internet for any information about laughter, and I found Gart Westerhout. It was only the 3rd year of the Internet but Gart was searching, too.

Gart is the English-speaking director of a community theater group based in Komatsu, Ishikawa, Japan.

They put on original musicals at home and abroad, as well as producing school shows. When they were accepted to perform their show “Birds of Peace” at the Smithsonian, Pam and I were invited to see the performance, then have an American pizza party, followed by a laughter club demo out on the mall between the Washington and Lincoln Memorials. It was a real “first”!

The cast and crew were all volunteers from Komatsu, amateur actors; spoke no English. It did not matter. We overcame language barriers with laughter, pizza, signs, gestures, and my yo-yo tricks. It was a magical memorable afternoon. If you have visited our home, you have seen the large ceramic “lucky” frog which graces our home. They brought it to us as a gift of a friendship which remains to this day.

Click here to see a short piece from the finale of their recent production all about laughter.
The translation of one the most repeated line they are singing is: "Happiness comes to the laughing gate," or "Good fortune comes to those who laugh."

For this production a hand-painted poster, using an ancient technique called “kanji”, was commissioned to a local artist, Kazu Mori. It is titled Warao, meaning Laughter.
The kanji "Warao"

The artist has graciously given us exclusive permission to reproduce this beautiful, uniquely appropriate print, suitable for framing. It will soon be available for sale through World Laughter Tour, with a portion of proceeds going back to Kazu and the Osugi Musical Theatre.

I hope you enjoy the video. I found it very touching and hopeful for the future. I will let you know when and how to get your own print of the kanji Warao.

I am ecstatic over Gart's enthusiastic response to the idea that we will develop a series of live Internet exchanges between World Laughter Tour Certified Laughter Leaders and the children and other citizens of Komatsu. And, we will be sending a Laughter Ambassador to Komatsu.

Reaching halfway around the world to each other, Gart and I are doing our happy dance together.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Green Eggs and LAM

"There isn't a lot of fun in medicine,
but there's a whole lot of medicine in fun."
Josh Billings

Thanks to Catherine Lawrence, Toronto, Canada, here is a terrific example of laughter and humor being allies for a very worthy cause. And, a wonderful opportunity for you to get involved with people who are Laughing Out LAM on May 3rd across the globe.

A Certified Laughter Leader for 11 years, Catherine is a pioneer in the field of applied laughter practices, and Trailblazer with World Laughter Tour.

Green Eggs & LAM began as a grassroots organization based in Toronto, Canada, founded to raise awareness and funds to support ongoing dialogue, ground breaking research, treatment and, with hope, a cure for Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (or "LAM" for short), a rare and devastating lung disease affecting women and girls worldwide. Since 2007, Green Eggs and LAM has successfully raised significant funds and increased awareness of this little-known disease. One hundred percent of every dollar raised is directly donated to fully engage and pillar brilliant and dedicated scientific minds towards saving the lives of the thousands of women and girls diagnosed with LAM but will inform and impact lung cancer, lung-related illnesses and other diseases.

Spearheaded by Founder and LAM patient, Catherine Lawrence and championed by a remarkable and diverse team of business professionals, Green Eggs and LAM proudly designs their fundraising efforts in unique and creative ways. Inspired by Catherine's commitment and expertise in the power of laughter to heal, Green Eggs and LAM works to inspire joy in the face of adversity while encouraging patrons to engage and support cutting edge research.

This is our point of difference at Green Eggs and LAM - to coordinate a clear and powerful effort to support LAM research but to focus our energy also in the joy and power of laughter in the face of adversity. We work hard and we love to have fun and encourage you to do the same!

LOL: LAUGH OUT LAM (MAY 3, 2012) On May 3rd, 2012, Green Eggs and LAM will host an evening of comedy in Toronto, Canada, with brilliant and internationally acclaimed comedian Caroline Rhea and friends. LOL: Laugh Out LAM!, is chaired by Global TV's Leslie Roberts and community philanthropist Theresa Mersky.

Funds raised by Green Eggs and LAM are used to support LAM iPS stem cell research led by Dr. William L. Stanford, Ph.D., in partnership with the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine.

Read all of the details as well as brilliantly fun ideas for participating in any one of many special events.

World Laughter Tour supports Green Eggs & LAM
through the sale of LOL fun bling jewelery.
A portion of all sales of our sparkly rhinestone LOL pin/decor
between now and May 3, 2012,
goes to support Green Eggs & LAM.
A feel-good message will twinkle and shine with this beautiful glittery rhinestone pin.
A very attractive attention-getter & conversation starter.
Comes with both a saftey lock pin and small eyelet so it can hung from a chain.
A great gift!
LOL is ½” x 1.25”
US$8.00 + s/h

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Up, Up, and Away: The Evolution of Laughter Practitioners

The Roots and the Evolution & Growth of the World Laughter Tour's Practitioners
The First Certified Laughter Leaders (July 2000)

Proposition: Life is a psycho-social game.
     Corollary: If you don’t play the social part right, you will go ‘psycho’.

Proposition: Laughter is one of the universal attributes of human beings.
     Corollary: It gives us a clue to universal laws for playing the game and not going ‘psycho’.

Proposition: Improving psychosocial working conditions and educating workers on stress-coping mechanisms is beneficial for the physical and mental health of workers.
     Corollary: The benefits include increased productivity among workers, reduction in absenteeism and employee turnover in addition to other costs borne by employers.
Proposition: The human brain is wired for laughter.
     Corollary: The human brain can be rewired.

Proposition: Laughter is vitally and critically important to the successful game of life. A life without laughter is dreadful.
     Corollary: A dreadful life is likely to be void of laughter.

Proposition: An adequate amount of laughter makes life worth living.
     Corollary: A life worth living generates laughter.

What’s In A Name?

It's Official!
When I first saw people intentionally coming together in groups for laughing to improve health and well-being sans traditional humor (jokes and comedy), the leaders were called anchor persons. That was 1998, in Mumbai.

When I tried to apply the concept the following year in he United States, modeled on Activity Therapy well-known in the Western world, it proved to be a fascinating complement to the burgeoning field of applied and therapeutic humor but the title anchor person was not well received.

In the USA, Laughter Leader was a more acceptable title. I could see that the so-called expert model prevalent in the Western World --and my desire that this new field overcome years of resistance from the established health & human services communities-- dictated that Laughter Leaders should be certified. Hence: the evolution of the title Certified Laughter Leader.

It worked. As acceptance and respect grew, doors opened, and by now, probably millions of lives have been touched by laughter.

Now, with new evidence leading to improvements in techniques streaming in every week, the next logical iteration of titles within World Laughter Tour, will include the word Practitioner.

It’s A Neuro-Psycho-Social Thing

Reflect on the Connection

The neurological substrates that control smiling and laughing are mature at birth in all healthy human beings. Evidence for this is the fact that, even though they have never seen or heard laughter, people who are born blind and deaf will eventually laugh and smile.

In some cultures, the primal --first-- laughter of an infant is cause for joyous celebration because the community knows that it signals good health and a healthy environment.
Laughter is often referred to as a universal language because you can go anywhere in the world, and even if you do not speak their language, when you display genuine smiling and laughter, everybody knows what it means.

Dr. Robert Provine estimates that only 10% of the laughter in a lifetime is the result of jokes and comedy. Ninety percent of the laughter in a lifetime is the result of social interaction. This is an important clue to the social part of the psycho-social game of life.

We Need to Become and Create Social Support Providers
Through workplace studies, researchers have identified a cohort of individuals as social support providers.  
Studies show:
·       Low social support is as damaging as high blood pressure.
·       Social support is the greatest predictor of happiness during periods of high stress.
·       Social support providers are not only 10 times more likely to be engaged at work than those who kept to themselves.
·       Social support providers are 40% more likely to get a promotion.
·       Social support providers are happier (thriving and learning).
·       Happy employees have, on average, 31% higher productivity; their sales are 37% higher, their creativity is three times higher.

Roots and the Evolutionary Growth of Laughter Practitioners Initially, The World Laughter Tour, which I established in 1998, was built on the popular notion that there was healing power in humor and fun. Josh Billings had said, "There is not a whole lot of fun in medicine but there is a whole lot of medicine in fun." Norman Cousins’ near-miraculous recovery and subsequent scientific evidence lent credence to the idea.
It seemed reasonable and worthwhile to build on that idea to promote the development of “the sense of humor” for success in business, healthcare, and education.

I know now that showing people how they could develop a sense of humor was actually showing them techniques for rewiring their brains.
A closer look at the evolving scientific evidence led to the unmistakable conclusions that (1) for important reasons, laughter could and should be separated from humor; (2) the physiology, psychology, and neurology of the physical act of laughing was much easier --and more reliable-- to measure than humor; (3) the emotional state of true mirth as a possible pre-condition of the benefits of laughter and humor, had to be given serious consideration.

I am ever grateful to my friend and mentor, Dr. William Fry, Jr., for his many contributions to the science of laughter, perhaps especially for the essential concept of true mirthful laughter.
Although it was initially --and still is- touted by some as a yogic phenomenon, the group laughing activity that emerged from India in the form of the Laughter Club, was another clue to the social condition for laughing.

I have been able to train more than 6,000 practitioners of laughter therapy. Many of them are health & human services professionals, educators, and business people. Their more than 15,000 anecdotal reports, archived by World Laughter Tour, do not attain the status of peer-reviewed, double-blind studies, but anecdotes and case studies are the beginnings of science.
The anecdotal reports are unanimous: group laughter results in at least short term improvements in subjective feelings of well-being. Scientific studies now give evidence of why this would be true for laughter as well as for humor, such as adding the viewing of funny TV programs to standard cardiac rehabilitation routines.

Early on, I realized that group laughter sessions alone would not be enough to adequately rewire the brain for a healthier, happier lifestyle. There needed to be a rewiring in terms of the kinds of attitudes and activities that give rise to not only laughter but more positive thoughts, more positive feelings, and more positive interactions.
Rewiring requires practices that individuals can do on their own, repeatedly, both privately and in social situations.
Understanding this need gave rise to my creation of a program called Good-Hearted-Living™, which rewires the brain for more gratitude, flexibility, altruism, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, and guilt-free pleasure.

Based on research from Positive Psychology, we are now amplifying our training of laughter therapy practitioners to include a range and variety of Positive Activity Interventions (PAIs). Improvements in our methods amplify social connectedness.
Originally, it was thought that benefits primarily derived from laughter’s triggering of an endorphin release, but the advent of neurologic technology is giving us insight into connections between certain activities and attitudes and actions in the brain related to dopamine, the pleasure centers, and much more.

Practitioners will use Positive Activity Interventions (PAIs) to produce many beneficial effects. PAIs will include music, novel movement, gratitude, meditation, visual imagery, affirmations, non-competitive games, humor, and of course, true mirthful laughter.

(Used with permission.)

Onward & Upward
"The deeper you go, the higher you fly." ~George Harrison

Laughter was just the tip of the iceberg. We are now eagerly drilling deeper and wider and finding more of the rich resources that foster laughter, accompany laughter, and are produce in association with laughter.

Recently (2011) Ruth M. Buczynski, PhD, President and Licensed Psychologist, The National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine, contends that rewiring the brain can lead to such benefits as:
·       New hope for kids with learning disabilities
·       Freedom from harmful habits and ruts that ensnare patients
·       Innovative (and effective) ways to treat depression, anxiety, and OCD
·       Helpful insights for arguing couples who keep hitting all the same explosive triggers
·       New understanding in how to work with patients who have PTSD

Is it any wonder that I continue to embrace laughter? Breathlessly, I know that there is so much more to come.

Please forward this blog to those who will find the information and ideas useful or interesting.

I would love to hear your thoughts on these matters. Please add your comments below..