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Spreading happiness through therapeutic laughter

Spreading happiness through therapeutic laughter


By Holly Carpenter, BSN, RN

If you want to create positive change in your life, you first have to change your reality,” writes Shawn Achor, Harvard researcher, lecturer, and author of Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness and Sustaining Positive Change.

Happiness is the August theme for ANA’s Year of the Healthy Nurse, and to gain insight, ANA spoke with Arizona Nurses Association member Debbie Harbinson, MHI, RN, CNOR, HNB-BC, a Certified Laughter Leader.

What is a Certified Laughter Leader?

A Certified Laughter Leader receives substantive training in the science of laughter, psychology of humor, and the experience of mirth. The training program, “How to Create Therapeutic Laughter,” offered through the World Laughter Tour, prepares the participant to become a qualified leader for laughter clubs and other therapeutic laughter activities.

Upon completion of training, the participant is asked to subscribe to a code of ethics and traditional laughter club values. These values are best practices that enhance and nurture attitudes and emotions to improve health, increase happiness, and result in a satisfying life.

Spreading happiness through therapeutic laughter

Though being a healthcare professional is not a requirement, many nurses, physicians, psychologists, counselors, activity therapists, health educators, marriage and family therapists, social workers, and healthcare volunteers find this role transforming in their personal and professional lives. I found growth in my own attitude concerning work-life balance as I taught the current scientific research and the ancient knowledge in mirth and play, which is critical in all stages of human development and organization.

What are the duties of a Certified Laughter Leader?

Certified Laughter Leaders may be called upon to work with any interested audience, including patients, and typically deliver current research and strategies on laughter and humor in a systematic and therapeutic format called a laughter club. The leader uses a combination of visual aids, playful activities, laughter exercises, and meditation to stimulate the mind, body, and spirit in a prescribed method. The laughter club may take place in various settings, such as hospitals, corporations, fitness centers, nursing homes, prisons, spiritual centers, and the community.

Can we, as nurses, increase our happiness quotient?

Absolutely! Try viewing a situation through a different lens. For example, Achor discusses how to rethink stress: stress is inevitable, but its negative effects are not. Turn your attention to research, which reveals that during the stress response, hormones are released that improve memory. Focus on your new-found memory improvement and how you can leverage stress in other areas of your life.

What are some happiness tips?

  • Identify and spend time with joyful people in your life.
  • Maintain a daily practice of laughter through cartoons, videos, jokes, or seeking out a laughter club.
  • Remind yourself of your ability to change and sustain positive growth. Write down your three greatest occasions of change and keep them visible.
  • Over 21 days, start each day with total attention and visualization of three things you’re grateful for and then journal about them for 45 seconds.
  • Your mind wants to keep you safe, scanning your environment for anything negative. So, turn off any unnecessary noise and pursue the information that will create success in your life.
  • Fuel your day with nutritious food, exercise, and rest.

Finally, by being a nurse, you have the power to make a remarkable difference in people’s lives. Realizing and contemplating your work as service can shelter you from depression and unhappiness.

– Holly Carpenter is the interim director, program operations, in Nursing Practice & Innovation at American Nurses Association.


Find happiness resources at

To become a Certified Laughter Leader, go to

american nurses association journal august 2017 ana frontline
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