Don’t Make Me Laugh

Imagine you have free time. . . and you’re with a friend. When your friend says, “What do you want to do today. . . “ And you reply, “I’m up for anything,” Do you REALLY mean it? Does that mean you’ll do anything you usually do, or something more?

When participants in “The Adventure Club,” sign up each month for their mystery activity, they really mean, “I’m up for ANYTHING.” Without knowing in advance, adventurers have shown up to go blacksmithing; learn a minute of choreography for a Bollywood musical;  and play a song  together on the steel drums. Sounds awesome, huh? Maybe you have to step out of your comfort zone a little. . . That’s the point.

Then there are times when you get thrown into the deep end of the discomfort pool. I got to experience that last month, when our Adventure Club activity was “Laughter Yoga.”

Now, I really do think I’m an up for anything kind of girl. But, this drizzly, cold Sunday morning followed a late night party at my house.  The party was alcohol free, but when I woke up in the morning I felt suspiciously like I had a  hang-over.  I wasn’t worried, though – Adventure Club had a way of chasing away any pain.

Once we reached our location and the activity was announced, there was a mixture of responses. Some people looked nervous, others were excited, and still others still weren’t clear about what they were in for. I think I fell in the third category, leaning toward nervous.

If you’re not familiar with it, Laughter Yoga is a practice involving prolonged voluntary laughter. It’s  based on the belief that forced laughter provides the same physiological and psychological benefits as spontaneous laughter. Laughter yoga is done in groups, with eye contact and playfulness between participants. Forced laughter soon turns into real and contagious laughter. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work.

So, how do you work yourself into laughter? Here’s an example of one activity . . . We would pretend to get on a moped and turn the handle to start it while saying, “Ha Ha Ha Ha,” in the rhtyhm of a moped starting. Then, when it got going, you said, “Ha Ha Ha Ha” instead of “putt putt” while you drove your imaginary moped around. Or, you pretended to step on hot sand and said, “Ha, Ha, Ha” instead of “Hot, Hot, Hot.”

So, there we were . . . 20 women driving our pretend mopeds around in a living room. Now that I look back, I think, how could that not have been hilarious? Oh yeah, I was mortified at the time. We moved from one activity to another, to another and as we did, some women were starting to crack up . . . a couple were laughing hysterically. Three quarters of the way into the activity and my headache was starting to be a comfort because it felt sane. I didn’t even want to let go of my inhibitions and be foolish and have fun. I wanted to be at home. Asleep.

The last activity of the experience was the “highlight.” Everybody lay down with their head in the center of the room and laughed for 3-5 minutes. I have to give it to my group. They got what I didn’t. It was a full eight minutes of laughter before we stopped because several women just couldn’t. I took that time to get a little shut eye, all the while breathing out a little ha ha ha ha. I’m no doctor, but I think my body could tell the difference between laughter and that poor excuse for breathing with noise.

At the end of the event we all went our separate ways. I don’t have any scars from it, and in fact I’m glad I tried it. Since then, I’ve had women tell me how valuable that experience was and how they’re going to pursue it on their own. Others talk about it and immediately fall into laughter. In fact, that’s exactly what I do when I remember it. I’m sure there’s some health benefit to the delayed laughter, as well.

One thing that experience did not do was make me less of an “I’m up for anything” person. Adventure Club is happening again soon, and I’ll be there anticipating great things. I hope it’s not too stressful. Maybe we’ll just have to jump out of a plane or something.

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Adventure Club Guidelines — For Organizers

These are the guidelines we use for preparing an adventure in Humboldt. They could be easily translated to suit another club.

  • If you have an activity in mind, ask to reserve a month with the club’s coordinator. Sometimes it could be as much as three months in advance.
  • Choose activities that challenge participants to learn or try a variety of activities.
  • You may teach something you know, or plan an activity that’s new to you.
  • You may invite a co-organizer to help with your event.
  • KEEP THE ACTUAL ACTIVITY A MYSTERY!
  • Keep activity costs under $35/person. Ideally, they should cost between $15-$25/month.
  • Once or twice a year, the group can collectively decide on adventures that cost up to $100/person – allowing for adventurous activities like rafting trip, canopy tour, or a day trip on the Skunk Train. (Or something like that ) These will be non-mystery events.
  • Post an event to Facebook about three weeks prior to your event, so people can schedule their day and confirm participation. Include the date, time, cost, what to wear, and any special physical requirements.
  • If there is a group size limit, and more than one section is needed, create a poll – in a comment within the event – with the different times. Have people select which time they will attend.
  • Find out how you will pay for the activity. Usually, it is sufficient for everybody to bring their payment to the event. If you need to pay in advance, work out a way to collect from the participants. (Maybe open a PayPal account?) We haven’t had this problem, yet. If you need to make sure you have a specific number show to cover the cost for a workshop, be sure to let people know that they will need to pay even if they don’t show for the activity.
  • Update “where to meet” info on the Facebook Event for participants two days in advance. To do this, edit the event location. (Usually it just says something like “TBA” or “Eureka.”)
  • Bring nametags to the event. (Or call Susan and make sure she brings them)
  • Get a group photo to post on your Group Facebook page!