World Laughter Day

Did you Know?

Founded by Dr Madan Kataria in 1995, the first ever World Laughter Day was celebrated on May 10, 1998 in Mumbai. It was part of the worldwide Laughter Yoga Movement which became his inspiration. Let’s find out some interesting facts about the day.

Dr Kataria started the Laughter Yoga Movement partly after reading about the facial feedback hypothesis, which has its roots in the assumption put forward by Charles Darwin and William James.

Darwin, the English naturalist and biologist and James, an American philosopher and psychologist, were of the view that facial expressions directly affected the emotions. They were of the opinion that certain facial regions were associated with specific emotional experiences. And, any physical activation of the same caused changes in our emotional state. Likewise, any lack of physical activation suppressed the emotions.

Laughter is not just limited to our species. In 1990, the Estonian neuroscientist and psychobiologist, Jaak Panksepp, coined the term, “affective neuroscience”, the specific field studying the neural mechanisms of emotions.

Panksepp’s experiment with rats, in particular, showed how they showed emotions – fear, when cat hair was near even if they were never around cats. When he tried to replicate this with dog hair, they did not show any sign of fear. He also observed how they would laugh to show joy by producing a high pitch sound, when tickled.

Primates are said to laugh as well. Chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans produce sounds, similar to laughter during activities like wrestling and tickling. Dogs and dolphins too are said to laugh – the former pant which are of varying frequencies, while the latter produce bursts of pulses and whistle during play- fighting, unlike aggressive confrontations.

This goes in to show how important laughter is for well-being as it directly impacts hormones related to stress.

The mission of this day is to spread positivity and world peace. The aim is to build a sense of brotherhood through laughter. Dr Kataria once said, “When you laugh, you change and when you change, the world changes around you.”

It has now grown worldwide and the first ever laughter day, outside India was called ‘Happy-Demic’.

It is celebrated on the first Sunday of May every year. Members of Laughter Clubs can be seen laughing together in public spaces. People start by praying for world peace and read messages by the founder of the movement. In India, members also march, known as the ‘Peace March’. Laughter Yoga exercises are also done to activate facial muscles.

This year, it falls on May 2.

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