The neighbors around Room 303 were warned Monday night to expect an hour of wild cackling. At 6 p.m., however, it did not appear that Shana Dieterle's Therapeutic Laughter Club was going to disturb anyone.
"The building's pretty much empty. Our neighbors already know we're crazy," Dieterle says.
Monday served as the debut for Dieterle's club in the third story office of Shana's Heart of Healing, located at 127 N. Higgins Ave. She says the group is designed to get adults more comfortable with laughing as an aerobic exercise and overall stress reliever. "Laughing has a way to release all those feel-good neurotransmitters, like serotonin and endorphins," she says.
Dieterle first leads the group of 10 in some childlike acting games. She squishes a green rubber froggy between her fingers in a way that brings the most anguished expressions to the animal's face, then tosses it to the person at the other end of the circle, signaling their turn to come up with a distinct chuckle for the rest of the room to emulate. This goes on for a while until everyone in the room is on their back, kicking the air, laughing like monkeys. The sound echoes in the halls outside.
Bente Grinde, 26, says she got an email advertising the group and showed up because she likes any opportunity to laugh. After about 30 minutes of continuous guffawing, she felt the burn.
"It gets your heart rate up," Grinde says. "It gets your blood flowing. I definitely feel warmer than before I went in here, like I've been running, you know?"
"And you don't even have to wear exercise shoes," adds her friend, Tuline Kinaci, 23.
According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter can indeed stimulate the organs, improve oxygen intake and blood flow, and relieve stress. The long-term gains are linked to a better outlook on life, and may also lengthen it by improving the immune system and relieving pain.
Dieterle sums up her experiment with a quote she says is on one of her fridge magnets at home: "Blessed are we who can laugh at ourselves, for we shall never cease to be amused."