At the end of a long day I am being told about the benefits of laughter, even if it’s not real, my unrefined body being apparently unable to tell the difference.
Feeling fairly apprehensive about an evening of false merriment with a bunch of strangers, I eye up a fellow laugher’s glass of wine. But regretfully, I decide an objective viewpoint of a laughing class requires sobriety.
Set in the cosy, funky basement of The Book Club, a group of us wait for instructions from Ilana Gorban, an actress from Brazil and our tutor. A wonderful advert for fun and amusement, Ilana’s petite face is constantly lit up with an infinite smile.
We learn that the positive effects of a chuckle were originally researched by a doctor in India and now there are thousands of laughter clubs all over the world. Laughing 20 times a day can boost our immune systems, decrease the stress hormones and release the happy ones.
I’m psyched up for some endorphins to come my way but realise there are ice-breaking tasks to be done before the main event.
We stand with our eyes shut rating our current energy levels from one to ten. Next, a bit of socialising, and Ilana points out how people’s lack of proper attention means they often instantly forget new names. On to group work to recall the last thing that really make us laugh. ‘Feeding back’ feels a bit like a work training day but soon we’re up in a circle ready to roar.
Ilana teaches us four phoney laughs – a ho ho ho Father Christmas belly laugh, a more natural ha ha ha from the heart, some shoulder-led he he hes and an unnatural nasal squeak. Not my usual Monday night but it’s so strange, it’s quite funny.
After the break, it’s game time. Now I feel like I’m in a drama workshop. Eyes open, eyes shut, trying to remember names, sense reactions, have a conversation starting sentences with alternate letters of the alphabet.
Then we have to convince the rest of the class, Apprentice-style, they could not live without a randomly selected object. It’s fun and silly and I suddenly realise the room is full of laughter that is genuine. We congratulate each other on our sterling performances by shaking hands and laughing. My cheeks are starting to ache.
Your disposition will determine how you respond to receiving a random compliment and affirming it three times before offering one yourself. Like it or loathe it, you definitely won’t be thinking about your dinner.
Life can be so busy and serious; the class was a welcome relief to be immersed in a weird work/drama/group therapy session which forced me to focus on the present. I left more energised than when I arrived and I slept like a log that night.
And there’s nothing funny about that.
The Laughing Class takes place every month at:
The Book Club
100-106 Leonard Street
Tel: 020 7684 8618
Image by wickenden courtesy of Flickr