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No joke, these people take laughing seriously

Dozens of people chuckled, chortled, guffawed and had a jolly good timeat Parliament Hill yesterday — for absolutely no reason other than forthe heck of it.

Dozens of people chuckled, chortled, guffawed and had a jolly good time at Parliament Hill yesterday — for absolutely no reason other than for the heck of it.

With no jokes required, people of all ages and backgrounds converged for a good old-fashioned giggle to celebrate World Laughter Day.

“In the 1950s, people laughed 18 minutes a day, and now we laugh less than five minutes,” said Sophie Terrasse, organizer of World Laughter Day in Ottawa.

According to Terrasse, who led the group in laughter yoga yesterday, reasons for that include “difficulty to live in the present moment and that we take things and ourselves too seriously.”

Laughing more has changed Petra Friedrichson’s life.

A year ago, she had trouble walking and needed a new outlook on life.

“Kids laugh about 400 times a day and adults laugh less than 15,” she said. “I have days where I don’t laugh at all. So I decided to take laughing seriously and laugh for no reason.”

Now a laughter leader at the Barrhaven Laughter Club (one of two clubs in Ottawa), Friedrichson has eliminated all her physical ailments and her attitude has changed.

“We fake it at the beginning,” she said. “The body doesn’t know the difference. We can fake it until we make it.”

The benefits of laughter, or what Friedrichson calls “an internal jogging,” include alleviating depression, lowering blood pressure, reducing stress and keeping the immune system up.

Ottawa resident Natalie Lapierre had heard of laughter yoga before, but only tried it yesterday for the first time.

“It was really good fun, like being a kid all over again,” she said. “You can’t put a price on that.”

“You can’t help but feel positive,” said participant Arthur Weeks. “If you’re laughing, you can’t have negative thoughts at the same time.”