Love, laugh and live… longer?

By Connor Hopkins

Laughter specialist seeks to improve lives, one laugh at a time

Everyone’s always heard that laughter is the best medicine, and in an age where the entire population is so health-conscious, perhaps that axiom is something that should be followed a bit more.
Laura Gentry, pastor at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Lansing, has been living by those words for the better part of 20 years at this point. In fact, she’s helping more people feel better by encouraging them to laugh more, to the point that her car’s license plate says “hahaha.”
Laura—professionally known as “Laughing Laura”—has believed in the helping power of laughter for years, citing the disappearance of chronic pain while in college as an epiphany of sorts. “I really was convinced … that being around all these fun people and laughing more helped,” said Gentry. 
And, she might be on to something. According to Mayo Clinic, laughter contains many short and long-term benefits, including stimulating organs, relieving the stress response in the body, soothing tension, improving the immune system, relieving pain, increasing personal satisfaction and improving mood. 
“Laughter was the key to turning my own health around,” said Gentry. Then, she came across the studies of Dr. Madan Kataria. Kataria, a doctor from India, became committed to the idea of bringing laughter to his patients by creating a club, “The whole point of which was just to laugh,” added Gentry.
Very quickly Gentry became fascinated by the study and became a professional in her own right. Now, Laughing Laura is a world-renowned laugher, having done seminars and teachings all across the globe, and has even released books and CD’s. Gentry has hosted a “laughing club” at Our Saviour’s for over a decade, however the pandemic made it difficult for the group to get together. The Iowa School of Laughter Yoga—as it has come to be known—has provided laughs to corporate groups, prisoners, nursing home residents and so many more from all walks of life. “It’s unbelievable to see how universal laughter is,” said Gentry.
Now, in the midst of a pandemic, laughter is more important than ever. Gentry noted, “I think people need, sometimes, to just take time to laugh. Stay connected to your friends and family, especially over the phone, and just say, ‘hey, we’re gonna start laughing now.’” 
For those who want to join Laughing Laura and lead a “laughter lifestyle,” Gentry provides numerous laughter exercises on her website,, and is planning an event for Wednesday, Jan. 19 at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Lansing at 4 p.m.

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