Laughter's the best medicine
A lame joke doesn't stop Louise Stevens from getting the giggles.
Ms Stevens says she laughs all the time. When she wakes up in the morning, when she's cooking dinner and even in traffic when everybody else is getting road rage.
She swears by it to reduce stress, lower blood pressure and generally brighten your outlook on life.
She calls it "internal jogging" and has been holding Laughter Yoga at Browns Bay and Glenfield for just under five years.
"It changes the entire blood chemistry, oxygenates the body and they say 10 minutes of laughter is worth 30 minutes on the rowing machine."
Around 20 regulars share a laugh each Saturday in Browns Bay and the Glenfield group is constantly growing.
"We're mad," Ms Stevens says.
"Nowhere else would it be socially acceptable to laugh uproariously for 20 minutes straight – that's why we come here."
Laughing was first used as a therapy in 1995 by Indian physician Madan Kataria and now extends to over 60 countries.
Ms Stevens says people don't laugh like they used to, "it's because people are so stressed".
"When people laugh it's only for a few seconds, or to be polite – it's hardly true laughter," Ms Stevens says.
To get the health benefits you need to spend 10 to 12 minutes deep belly laughing she says.
Cancer sufferers, people with disabilities and those suffering from depression find the classes particularly healing.
"I had a lady who'd just been diagnosed with cancer, she went from not laughing for eight months to laughing all the time – she has her life back," Ms Stevens says.
"One man had such bad depression he spent up to three days a week in bed, now that's down to once a month if that," she says.
Theatre-like scenarios and role play are used to get the ball rolling in classes, and Ms Stevens says the infectious nature of laughter means it's hard not to feel happy.
"For some laughing is an effort and they take life too seriously," she says.
"After this people say they actually, really laugh now and they use it to brush things off that would usually bother them."
For just a gold coin donation Laughter Yoga classes are held each Tuesday in Glenfield and in Browns Bay on Saturdays.
Call Louise Stevens on 444-6842 for more information.
North Shore Times