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Laughter Club provides dose of good medicine

Come to giggle, come to chortle and above all come to relieve stress with this New Port Richey group.

By CAROLYN HOPKINS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 28, 2003

"Laugh and the world laughs with you, weep and you weep alone."

It has long been known that laughter is good medicine. But laughter is now being used in the latest stress-reduction therapies.

This makes 56-year-old Bunnie McCormack smile. That's because McCormack is a certified laughter leader, who has just started a Laughter Club in New Port Richey.

McCormack says people in Laughter Clubs learn a systematic method of chuckles, chortles, giggling and guffawing that can help reduce stress and prevent hardening of the attitudes. The laughter routines are taught without the use of jokes or comedy.

"There can be many sensitive issues around humor. Many people don't get jokes or are offended by them. So jokes are skipped altogether in class. We laugh with each other, not at each other."

At first the laughter exercises might seem a bit contrived, but soon peals of genuine laughter ring out.

"Laughter is a universal language. A good thing about practicing laughter is that it can be done anywhere.

"Laughter Clubs are for people who want to have fun, stay healthy and who desire a positive tool for dealing with the stress of daily challenges," McCormack said. "Laughter regenerates body, mind, soul and psyche."

As with any routine, practice is essential. So there are daily routines to help add more laughter to your lives.

Mondays are for complimenting others. This is to overcome the tendency to criticize and be judgmental, but instead to look for the good in others and tell them about it. Tuesdays are for flexibility. An open mind lets the laughter in. Wednesdays are for gratitude. An attitude of gratitude brings serenity and laughter. Thursdays are for kindnesses and to think of ways to make another person's life a little easier. Kindness creates healthy relationships. Fridays are for forgiveness, when you let go of anger. Releasing anger makes you healthier. Never hold a grudge.

And weekends? They are for chocolate or any favorite food, a time for leisure, pleasure and relaxation.

McCormack has been an educator for 32 years. She is a media specialist at Chasco Middle School in New Port Richey. She first learned about Laughter Clubs through the Internet. She and her aunt signed up for a class in Orlando in July, where they both received certification. McCormack said her aunt, at 81, is a "real hoot" and that older people relate to her. They taught a class recently at St. Petersburg College and for Hospice, where they were well-received.

Laughter Club

The Laughter Club meets 6:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesdays at the New Port Richey Recreation Center, 6630 Van Buren, New Port Richey. For information, call (727) 848-1838.

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