The Practice of Saying Ha Ha!

by Lance Ekum on · 38 comments

Laughter can be so connecting.  I'm sure you've had those moments…moments where you've started to laugh, and it's taken you to a very good place.  It's like you can feel the stress leaving your body, like everything seems a little bit lighter, like at at that moment all is good and right in the world. 

Today I have a special guest and personal friend here with us – Katie West, from The Levity Project.  Katie's life mission is all about bringing more joy and levity into our world. She does this in a number of ways – everything from coaching clients on incorporating laughter into daily activities to public events of bringing laughter and lightness out into the world.

Is laughter easy for you?  Perhaps sometimes it's not.  Maybe it feels awkward to laugh in some situations.  It's one thing to laugh behind closed doors.  And it can be another altogether to laugh in a public place.  What will people think? 

Below, Katie shares a part of the journey she has been on to get to where she is today.  And today that is a place that is very much laughter-filled!  Was it always this way for her, though?  Continue reading, as Katie shares….

The Practice of Saying Ha Ha!


Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Mount Baldy
Creative Commons License photo credit: Drewski Mac

“I will not play tug o' war. I'd rather play hug o' war. Where everyone hugs instead of tugs, Where everyone giggles and rolls on the rug, Where everyone kisses, and everyone grins, and everyone cuddles, and everyone wins.” ~ Shel Silverstein

More than three years ago, I invited my husband to come with me to a laughter class as a date. We had never heard of it.   Upon arriving at the class, the leader, Jen, explained how laughter yoga was the practice of laughing for no reason and that it was a body-mind wellness approach.   Jen told us that our brain does not know the difference between real laughter and fake laughter, so by just saying, “Ha, Ha, Ha”  we feels as good as if we have really been cracking up over a joke or with a good friend.

Immediately, I loved the concept.

But halfway through class, when we began the laughter yoga exercises, I was wide eyed with discomfort.  Having always shied away from the stage or doing anything in which I looked “foolish”, I found myself quietly going through the exercises hoping no one would see me.  People all around me were having a grand time, some really laughing and some just practicing saying “Ha Ha Ho Ho.”   I was still trapped behind a forced smile of awkwardness.

Then, a petite woman came up to me and started doing “humming laughter”. It was if she could read the discomfort in my eyes and was encouraging me to have fun as she hummed exuberantly.  Her easy presence made me burst out laughing.  She was not caught up in what I thought of her or what anyone else thought. She was caught up in simply having a good time for no reason at all.

I marveled at this freedom.   Then, moments later, a man came up to me and shook my hand excitedly as part of another exercise.  Only, he did not let go when I tried to and just kept shaking and shaking until I was laughing so hard, I could barely stand up!  It was as if he was helping me to shake away any nervousness or self-judgment.  Finally, I began to relax into the joy of it all!

By the end of class I was rolling on the floor with everyone else in hysterics over NOTHING!  The laughter was real and felt so freeing to just laugh without thinking something was funny, yet at the same time everything felt funny.

I still remember vividly the energetic shift in my body as my husband and I re-entered the cold, winter air that night.  It was a buzz that lasted long into the spring.  That was the first winter I loved living in a cold climate…I kept laughing to stay warm!

In the years since that class, I have watched time and time again, how laughter frees me up from worrying what I “should” do to what feels right deep within me to do.   I find that practicing laughter allows us to connect to ourselves deep within so we no longer put the same emphasis on what others are thinking or saying or doing.
Instead, we have the unique opportunity to live within our hearts in this very moment. And I believe when we are able to do that, we have all that we need to approach each moment of our lives from an open and grounded place.
By bringing more laughter into our lives, even in the challenging times, we are inviting abounding joy to enter our experience.  From here, we can celebrate the good that is present so much more easily.

I love looking back to that blustery laughter-filled winter night as a great shift in my life in which I stopped living the life I felt comfortable living and started living the life I knew I deeply wanted and had always dreamt of living. 

A Special Event
Saturday, November 7th:  Katie and The Levity Project movement are coming to Chicago!  Get all the details right here!  This will be a day filled with laughter and joy, and one I'm excited to be taking part in, too!!  If you are near the Chicago area, check this out – for the cost of getting to downtown Chicago, you can be part of a very special day!

Keep up with Katie by subscribing to her blog, and following her on Twitter.

Lance writes stories from his heart, aiming to inspire and motivate, as you align more fully with YOUR true peak. When he's not here, you can find him hanging out with his family, riding a bike, or just generally acting goofy.   Sign up for the Thoughts from the Treehouse newsletter and get additional inspiration in your email inbox!
Lance Ekum
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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

John November 2, 2009 at 9:10 pm

Ha ha ha!

This is going to be new… I hope I do it right…

See you Saturday, Lance! (Hope I get there in time – first time traveling alone to the big city of Chicago O_o!)
.-= John´s Last Fabulous Post ..Grab Missed Opportunities By Not Caring About the Outcome =-.


Zeenat{Positive Provocations} November 3, 2009 at 2:58 am

HI Lance and Katie,
I was all giggles going through this idea…cause I so so love it. I believe in laughter therapy. I wish I was there….I would’ve surely joined you guys.
I used to hold a laughter club meeting every week when i was residing in muscat..before I got married and had my little angel, that is….. We used to come together to share funny stories of what cracked us up all throughout the week…and share jokes and tease…and finally end it in mindless laughter. I would always give the group members a nudge to try and remember what made them laugh like crazy all through out the week…and remember that feeling when they were down..and ofcourse also share it when they came for the meeting so we could all have a good laugh. I so miss that 🙁
Since, I have relocated and had a baby…so more attention to family. I am all inspired to start it again after reading this. I might just have the very first Ha Ha Ha session here soon…:)
.-= Zeenat{Positive Provocations}´s Last Fabulous Post ..Possibilites&Individualities {Inspirational Quote} =-.


Positively Present November 3, 2009 at 5:33 am

Great post, Katie! You’ve made me realize that I need to bring more laughter into my life!
.-= Positively Present´s Last Fabulous Post ..inspired by the opposite of love =-.


Trish @imaSUcceeding November 3, 2009 at 6:18 am

I LOVE laughing..give me a goofy show…a crazy kid…I love to laugh. I need to laugh…or I think I may cry all the time.

Laughter is my “drug” of choice.
.-= Trish @imaSUcceeding´s Last Fabulous Post ..Not Too Much =-.


Jeanne November 3, 2009 at 7:27 am

So lovely is everything you share?
.-= Jeanne´s Last Fabulous Post ..Love is all you need =-.


Evelyn Lim November 3, 2009 at 7:55 am

Ahhh….two of my favorite bloggers in one post! Thanks, Lance, for featuring a most awesome lady.

Katie, I enjoyed the tip you shared that the brain could not tell the difference between a real or fake laughter. I have not tried laughter yoga before but it sure sounds interesting! Most certainly, I resonate with the idea of laughing at myself! All the best to your coming events!
.-= Evelyn Lim´s Last Fabulous Post ..Abundance Tapestry is Live =-.


Joanna November 3, 2009 at 7:56 am

Now that sounds like a conference that will make you LOL! Have a blast. I can’t wait to hear all about it!
.-= Joanna´s Last Fabulous Post ..Eggs-ellent Progress =-.


Evita November 3, 2009 at 9:12 am

This is awesome Katie and Lance thanks for featuring Katie!

It is so true that our brain does NOT know the difference between a fake and a real laugh – it sends out the “feel good” chemicals through our body either way! This is so important I think to know about because laughter not only makes us feel good in general, but actually encourages better health internally and helps things like increase our immune system.

This is one of the reasons why I LOVE funny movies and stay away from horrors or violent dramas – because on the same principal our brain cannot tell the difference for the most part if we are in a “fake” dangerous situation or in a real one and hence it acts accordingly by sending out “stress” signals. This of course has the opposite effect on our health and well being.
.-= Evita´s Last Fabulous Post ..Evolving Being In Action: Marcomé =-.


Karl Staib - Work Happy Now November 3, 2009 at 9:38 am

That’s awesome that you took your husband with you. I bet he was good morale support. I think it’s important to have a friend or partner join in with us when we step outside our comfort zone.

We need to create the life that makes us feel alive. That means trying new things. I tried laughter session in a Yoga class. It was embarrassing and exhilarating.

Good luck on Nov. 7th.
.-= Karl Staib – Work Happy Now´s Last Fabulous Post ..Unconventional Guide to Self Acceptance =-.


J.D. Meier November 3, 2009 at 10:07 am

Beautiful insights. I hadn’t heard of laughter yoga before and I’m a fan of learning about new techniques or practices.

For me, I get my doses of laughter from friends and sitcoms. When there’s no laughter, I make some.
.-= J.D. Meier´s Last Fabulous Post ..3 Stories for Improving Your Thinking, Feeling, and Doing =-.


FatFighterTV November 3, 2009 at 10:16 am

How interesting – I have never heard of laughter yoga. Would love to try it sometime. I love to laugh – it is such an awesome feeling!
.-= FatFighterTV´s Last Fabulous Post ..10 ways to get fit while you’re glued to the computer (like you are right now!) =-.


TB--Milwaukee November 3, 2009 at 10:37 am

I try to laugh often and when there’s kids around, it’s usually pretty easy to do so. Have heard of this before and actually took part in a laughter exercise during a WW meeting a while back.
.-= TB–Milwaukee´s Last Fabulous Post ..FREE OREOS!! =-.


Tess The Bold Life November 3, 2009 at 10:58 am

Hi Katie,

It’s great to hear more about you and how this all started. I can’t say enough about how laughter has healed my life. I laugh loud and often and the two years I worked for other people I was constantly in trouble for being to loud. Is that ridiculous or what. I think they just didn’t know how to join in and were too shy too learn.
.-= Tess The Bold Life´s Last Fabulous Post ..Inner Productivity by Chris Edgar =-.


Audra Krell November 3, 2009 at 12:22 pm

I was very interested in Evita’s comments, yes the brain has only one way of responding to stimuli, fake or not! We have to be very careful what we put into our hearts and minds. On one hand it’s sad that society has to practice something that used to be so natural, on the other we have Katie to remind us that it’s okay to just try it and to do so with freedom.
.-= Audra Krell´s Last Fabulous Post ..No Fall, Just Pumpkin =-.


Jannie Funster November 3, 2009 at 12:51 pm

Oh, you guys are gonna have soooooo much fun! Wish I could be there too, but I will in spirit, of course. Will you shout my name out loud and lift your levity to my name? 🙂

And I’m thinking the next time I shake some one’s hand I’m not gonna let go! Let’s hope they have a good sense of humor!
.-= Jannie Funster´s Last Fabulous Post ..Baby’s First Halloween =-.


Jodi at Joy Discovered November 3, 2009 at 12:51 pm

Hi Katie and Lance,
Thank you for this post, it’s excellent! I love laughter…a friend of mine has a family motto that they say when they encounter tough situations or people. With a big smile and laughter in their voices, they say, “Fxxx ’em if they can’t take a joke!” When my friend first shared this with me, I thought it was so scandalous! But the idea behind it is that it helps her and her husband to see how ridiculous the situation is and laugh it off. So now I say it, too. Mind you, I don’t say it out loud, but every single time, without fail, it makes me burst out laughing and I’m able to move on. That phrase, and laughter, keeps me from getting ‘hung up’ and elevates me back to my joyful state. Best to you today!! Jodi
.-= Jodi at Joy Discovered´s Last Fabulous Post ..A Gardening Tale =-.


Keith November 3, 2009 at 7:14 pm

Hello Katie and Lance!

Wow Katie! I love this whole laughter thing! Humor is such a huge part of my life and who I am. I have always used it to calm me when in situations that make me nervous.

Laughter certainly does a body good as Evita pointed out.

It was so cool to hear of your background and see how you got into this Levity thing!
.-= Keith´s Last Fabulous Post ..Keep The Faith! =-.


Lynn November 4, 2009 at 4:06 am

I love the idea of a laughter club. A wonderful way to stay positive.
.-= Lynn´s Last Fabulous Post ..Yoo hoo!, thought and never too late =-.


Katie West/The Levity Coach November 4, 2009 at 5:47 am

Yahooo! Lance, it is such a treat to be on your blog. And I so love reading everyone’s comments! To echo many people, I think we know that laughter is a valuable tool to help us feel good and have more perspective in our lives. But it can be hard to laugh sometimes as an adult with all that we have going on!!(Kids laugh 300-500 times a day and adults only 12-15)

I think that is why the practice of laughter/laughter yoga has been such a shift for me in my life. I have always been joyful, but could definitely get “STUCK” in my thinking or feelings. By allowing myself to say “ha ha ha” even when it is hard, I feel more free and fluid to deal with life’s challenges. It is like an express train to the present moment and I always make better decisions from the present moment than from being caught in the past or thinking about the future.

Lance, you cultivate a community that can and is changing the world. There is such a positive force here. Thank you for providing the vessel for us all to come together! May we all help each other to keep laughing as we continue to grow and as we help the world shine more too.

And hey, let’s see if as adults we can raise that laugh count from 12-15 to at least 100!


Laura Hegfield November 4, 2009 at 9:24 am

This is awesome! I love it, The Levity Project…I’m suddenly visualizing the scene in Mary Poppins where the children are laughing and rising with a certain gentleman (can’t remember his name)…actually levitating from laughter!

can’t wait to check out Katie’s site!
As always, thanks for connecting so many fascinating, light filled souls here on your site Lance!
What a gift you are…it’s like a party online!


Shermann Hinglemeister November 4, 2009 at 10:38 am

My friend Jannie wishes to say she is SORRY about the broken links to those “fabulous hats” on her current post — she has fixed them!

technikile diffikultees — blame blue bunny!
.-= Shermann Hinglemeister´s Last Fabulous Post ..10 Things I Could Do (But Probably Won’t) Tomorrow =-.


Lance November 4, 2009 at 12:14 pm

Ah, the treat is having YOU here! You shine giggles and laughs in this very real and unique way. The message you share is one that is so, so uplifting and moving. What I really love about this post is how you share a part of your journey, and that it wasn’t always like it is today. I think there’s much hope in that message – hope and belief that no matter where we are today, we CAN choose to live the life we desire. Whatever that is for each of us, and wherever the journey takes us – sometimes we have to put ourselves “out there” in those things that really matter.

And look where it’s taken you…to where you are today! Isn’t that awesome!! Not only that, but look at how this connects so much to your soul, and because of that – your passion for laughter is contagious! It is!! And that’s you, touching others (me) through your heart! Wow!!

Katie, you are on to something pretty amazing here – and are sharing that with the world in some awesomely cool ways! It’s an honor to have you here, and to call you friend…


Lance November 4, 2009 at 12:14 pm

@John – See you Saturday, my friend!!

@Zeenat – Hi Zeenat. The laughter club meetings sound fantastic! What a great way to get yourself into a “good spot”. I wish you the best (and biggest belly laughs) as you go forth and consider starting this up again!

@Positively Present – Laughter rocks!!!

@Trish – Ah, great point Trish. Sometimes laughter can be just the thing to pull us out of some “negative” situation we’ve gotten into (real or imagined). And that is really one of the very therapeutic benefits. Keep on takin’ that drug!!!! I will too…

@Jeanne – Thanks much Jeanne!

@Evelyn – You are too kind Evelyn! And I completely agree, Katie is one super awesome “lady”! She brings out the best in others, and that’s because she gets them to connect with that deeper need we all have to laugh and just “feel good”. It’s great having you back, Evelyn…I’m sure your time away was very reflective and good for you.

@Joanna – Saturday WILL be a blast, I just know it!! Thanks much Joanna!


Lance November 4, 2009 at 12:28 pm

@Evita – Hi Evita. Yes, laughter is just simply “good” for us…in so many ways. Physically and emotionally – laughter is like s workout for both the body and the mind!

@Karl – Having support when we venture into the unknown is a pretty great thing to have. That’s one of the wonderful benefits of having a spouse who understands you – their support is real and genuine. And I’m looking forward to Saturday – loads of fun!!

@J.D. Meier – Laughter yoga is a pretty new concept to me as well. Thinking about it though, what a great combo – laughter and yoga – two really good things coming together to bring about all sorts of feelings of “good”!

@FatFighterTV – Laughing just feels good, doesn’t it Sahar!! I have not tried laughter yoga either, although am thinking about it…

@TB–Milwaukee – Kids have a way of making laughter seem effortless. As adults, if we can get back to that – to where it feels so natural and carefree – how great would that be!

@Tess – Hi Tess. Yes, laughter can be so healing. And to think, you stirred things up because you laughed too much! And why does laughter seem “taboo” in certain situations – situations that as a kid would be very much laughter filled… Makes you wonder doesn’t it…

@Audra – Hi Audra. So, what are we feeding our brains? Hmm… If we could be more comfortable doing what feels natural – and really lets laughter and goodness permeate our souls – just think of how different our world would be. Katie is taking us there…helping everyone she touches to get more in touch with that inner child…and bring a little more peace and well-being to our world…


Lance November 4, 2009 at 12:45 pm

@Jannie – We are going to have fun!! I wonder if they’ll let me drive the bus???? Your spirit, Jannie, most floats around here all the time! How you do that, I’m not sure – it’s a really good thing though! Okay…I’ll shout “Jannie” to the world!!! Or, at least to Chicago!

@Jodi – Hi Jodi. And to that point of “Fxxx ’em if they can’t take a joke!” – it’s a great one. And it is, because it reminds us that our own humor and joy doesn’t have to be dependent upon what others think – that can be a real hang up sometimes. So, this is way awesome Jodi! Here’s to joy, no matter what everyone else thinks!

@Keith – Hi Keith. Laughter is like taking a layer of security off, and putting one on at the same time. Not sure if that makes sense, but what I’m thinking is that laughter can sometimes “expose” us and our emotions – taking a layer of security off in opening up and doing that. At the same time, it can also provide a level of security in that it gives us a connection more with our true selves, and that can be very calming especially in moments where calm is fleeting.

@Lynn – A laughter club sounds like a pretty awesome club to belong to, doesn’t it!

@Laura Hegfield – Hi Laura. Levitating with laughter…how completely fitting! And yes, check out Katie’s site – it’s filled with so much goodness and joy! Laura, thank YOU!!

@Shermann – Shermann! What a surprise seeing you here – shouldn’t you be working today?? Well, thanks so much for stopping by to let me know about your friend Jannie. Did you know, she’s a friend of mine too! Pretty cool, huh!! Maybe we can all get together sometime, go out for a night on the town – and laugh the whole time! Sounds fun, doesn’t it!! Hey, say “hi” to Jannie from me!


Tami Boehmer November 4, 2009 at 1:37 pm

Laughter is the best medicine! I try to watch something funny or laugh with my family every day. I’m a cancer survivor, so I consider it therapy.


Hermann Shinglemeister November 4, 2009 at 2:23 pm

Can I come to the dinner too with you guys??? And for laughing???

And please be on the look-out for an e-mail from Jannie from her gmail aaccount, she’s had a hard-drive problem and needs you to re-send you interview question.

Hermann Shinglemeister, your old buddy (and former college roomate of Shermann Hinglemeister)
.-= Hermann Shinglemeister´s Last Fabulous Post ..10 Things I Could Do (But Probably Won’t) Tomorrow =-.


Jenn Z November 4, 2009 at 4:12 pm

Lance and Katie, great post! 🙂
this was truly a wonderful topic for me as I’ve been really focusing on upping my laughter scale lately! 😉 It’s amazing how the more I’m conscious of making it a point to laugh, I am bubbling over a little bit more,…edging forward into that delightful open space!
Katie, I love that you shared it is a process. I recognized lately how easy it is to tense up, become hidden, when circumstances call, but how loosening up is essential to get back to! It’s organic – our truest nature! I’m working on it and enjoyed the humming laughter you shared in your experience! I think I’m at this stage. Also, I felt that the handshake thing reminds me of how I feel when I’m in the company of lighthearted jolly people. Here, I forget my insecurities, woes and all of a sudden nothing matters anymore! Thanks so much for encouraging laughter to be an essential part of our every-day living! Namaste! ~Jenn
.-= Jenn Z´s Last Fabulous Post ..Love in a Time of Global (Uncertainty)~Awakening: =-.


Stacey Shipman November 4, 2009 at 5:41 pm

A yoga practitioner and teacher myself, I have heard about but not yet tried laughter yoga. I’m not sure it’s in my local area. But how exciting that it had such an affect on you and now you have made it your life’s work. Best of luck in Chicago and wish I could participate…I will make sure I laugh out loud that day to celebrate with you from afar! Thank you for sharing your story, too, great inspiration to bring more laughter into our lives. We could all use a little more!


Wilma Ham November 4, 2009 at 6:01 pm

Hi Lance and Katie.
Funny how laughter can put things into perspective and it seems to be really healing too.
I remember when working closely with other people how laughing could release tension and literally made us lighter and made us feel connected and ready to go again. Complaining and grumping together never did that and kept us feeling down.
Is this the Katie you did your laughing video with when you were wearing that hat?
Must be.
Wishing us all lots of light and laughter, love Wilma
.-= Wilma Ham´s Last Fabulous Post ..Intimacy and sponsorship happen through listening; how well do we listen? =-.


Angelia Sims November 5, 2009 at 11:58 am

Okay, how about a three-way game of haha? Lance, Katie , and me. Whoever bursts into uncontrollable laughter frist loses!
I have a feeling we’d be MAJOR losers! How fun! Great post. I feel great balls of joy bouncing up and down inside just from reading it. 🙂
.-= Angelia Sims´s Last Fabulous Post ..Confession Wednesday! =-.


Oscar November 6, 2009 at 7:18 am

I loved this post, and I love these ha-ha moments 🙂
.-= Oscar´s Last Fabulous Post ..How to Prioritize Tasks in Your Life =-.


Lance November 6, 2009 at 7:59 am

@Tami – Hi Tami. Laughter sure is great medicine! And for you, having faced something terrible and survived, I’m sure that laughter is probably even more meaningful…

@Hermann – Hey Hermann. You are always welcome here! (and you ARE required to laugh!!). I did hear from Jannie, and I think we’re squared away… Oh, and how is Shermann doing these days??

@Jenn Z – Hi Jenn. What we focus on expands…and laughter is always a good one to expand even more! Especially when we feel ourselves getting a bit too tense or stressed – that a good reminder right there that some good old-fashioned laughter is just what is needed! So, Jenn, let’s laugh together!! Doesn’t that feel great!!!

@Stacey Shipman – Yoga? See…I’m starting laugh right now. As you know, I’ve done a pretty good job of avoiding that (as much as I do believe it can be so beneficial). And here we are again, with yoga talk. I really can’t get away from it. A sign?? Ha! Probably… And one that YOU started many, many months ago!!! It’s all good, though…who knows…one of these days…

@Wilma – Hi Wilma. Yes, the perspective laughter can give us! It sure can!! It makes me realize a lot of things just aren’t as “important” as I make them out to be. And that lighter feeling is so good, isn’t it! And this is the Katie I worked with to get involved in the laughter flash we did. It was Kim (the other “K” girl) who I laughed with. Katie got us organized (from afar). Thanks so much Wilma!

@Angelia – Hi Angelia. Yes, we would all be major losers…and that would really make us all major WINNERS!! Woohoo!!

@Oscar – Laughter moments are pretty awesome aren’t they!


janice November 6, 2009 at 10:01 am

Hi Katie and Lance,
It’s so easy to take laughter for granted, but it really does repay conscious focus and attention. I’m not one of life’s great laugh-out-loud-ers but I do smile with my eyes a lot. My husband and I also deliberately choose to watch films and TV series with the kids that make us laugh out loud, snortlaugh and giggle. I’m blessed in having a husband and two kids who know how to deliberately make me laugh to encourage me to lighten up.
.-= janice´s Last Fabulous Post ..A Patchwork Post: Writing Tips, Christmas Tips and Susan Boyle… =-.


Laurie November 8, 2009 at 7:17 am

My mom died in 98 after a difficult battle with cancer. It was about 4 in the morning when she exhaled for the last time, my family all around to be with her as she went from our arms to His. Later that day, my family all went to a restaurant for dinner. We left a chair open with a plate and a margarita there where Mom would have sat and we laughed and laughed as we remembered all the wonderful times we had and the love and joy she brought us. It was a healing thing. I’ll never forget it.


Lance November 8, 2009 at 10:26 pm

@Janice – Snortlaugh…I love it!! And having others around who can really get to laughing, sure can make it easier to laugh ourselves! And I’d say a smile is a pretty sweet laugh anyway…and with your eyes… how cool!!

@Laurie – Laughter can be very healing. An author I met, David Naster, write specifically on this topic – and just how healing laughter is. I love your story and how you’ve chosen to focus on the good and fun in your Mom’s life…


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