Norman Cousins, Adjunct Professor of Medical Humanities at the University of Columbia and Executive Editor (and then Editor-in-Chief) of the Saturday Review, discovered the healing powers of laughter when he was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. He watched humour-laden television programmes which helped him overcome his pain and reduced his symptoms. (Columbia University Press, 2003).
That was back in the ’60s and ’70s. Then in 1995, Dr Madan Kataria, a physician from Mumbai, India, set up the first Laughter Club in the world (Laughter Yoga, 2005). Now there are over 800 such clubs all over the world including Malaysia, Singapore and the United States.
Nine years later, in January 2004, the CHIJ Katong Convent (KC) Laughter Club was officially born. Immediately, a partnership with Tampines East Zone 5 Laughter Club was established. Laughter Club sessions were held for four consecutive Sundays in January 2004 at Jamiyah Home for the Aged in Tampines. The therapist from the Home had informed KC Laughter Club that the residents there were not motivated to exercise. So laughter exercises which incorporated “shadow” kicking and boxing were designed to make the residents move their limbs. It was so successful that, as of this year, laughter sessions are now conducted at Foo Hai Elderly Lodge on a regular basis.
For the uninitiated, the whole concept of the laughter club may be mind-boggling or even ludicrous. However, research has shown that laughter helps to reduce stress, boosts our immune system, and lowers the blood pressure besides providing relief from other ailments (Kemp et al., 2004). During laughter sessions, endorphins are released in the brain; endorphins have pain-relieving properties and also affect physiological processes such as feelings of euphoria (Columbia University Press, 2003). That is why after bouts of laughter we feel “high”.
The laughter sessions help to exercise the heart, lungs and the abdominal muscles, and promote bonding and a general feeling of happiness. Since laughter has no boundary, people of different races and religions can easily bond. Besides the obvious benefits of laughter, we acquire values such as being caring and kind, and develop a sense of humility.
The KC Laughter Club is the first and only of its kind among schools in Singapore. Groups of students are trained to conduct laughter sessions for the community. Pupils are trained in laughter techniques, to create laughter exercises, and to take the lead in becoming laughter leaders.
The KC Laughter Club had even presented its innovative project “Community Service with Laughter” on Enovation Day 2004, organized by the E4 cluster. It is a simple, fun and innovative service provided to the community by KC students as part of their Community Involvement Programme (CIP). This innovative project was considered unique because it was different from the usual CIPs done by schools. In fact, this project could be extended to other Homes and organisations so that more people can enjoy laughing and be happy. Happy people are “healthy” people which will result in better performances or higher productivity which will ultimately benefit the organization as well as the nation.
[Editor’s note: The video of the laughter club in action is currently unavailable. Sorry about that.]
Columbia University Press. (2003). The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia (6th ed). New York: Columbia University Press. Encyclopaedia information on Norman Cousins on Answers.Com. Retrieved October 26, 2005, from http://www.answers.com/topic/cousins-norman
Kemp, G. et al. (2004). Humor and laughter: Health benefits and online sources. In Helpguide. Retrieved 10 August, 2005, from
Laughter Yoga. Retrieved August 7, 2005, from http://laughteryoga.org