World Laughter Day was started by Dr. Madan Kataria (Credit: CC-BY-SA-2.0)

On May 5, 2024, people from all walks of life will come together to celebrate World Laughter Day. This joyous holiday, marked annually on the first Sunday in May, is the brainchild of Indian physician Dr. Madan Kataria. It reminds us that laughter is a powerful tool for bringing people together and improving one's overall physical and mental health.

Dr. Kataria's quest to make the world a healthier and happier place began in Mumbai, India, in 1995 with the introduction of Laughter Yoga. The unique fitness class combined laughter with deep breathing exercises to create a joyful and relaxing experience. The first class attracted just five people. But as word of this fun fitness movement spread, laughter yoga classes began to sprout up all over the world. Today, there are over 20,000 Laughter Yoga clubs spread across 120 countries. Members get together almost daily and "exercise" by laughing out loud, waving their hands, and making funny faces at one another.

A good daily laugh can make you a lot healthier (Credit: Cigna/ CC-BY-SA-2.0)

Dr. Kataria maintains that the combination of impulsive laughter and breathing helps stretch muscles and activates hormones that make us happy. Additionally, Laughter Yoga can reduce stress and anxiety, boost the immune system, and decrease pain and inflammation.

In 1998, to raise awareness of the importance of laughter, Dr. Kataria declared the first Sunday in May "World Laughter Day." The occasion is celebrated with city-organized events in public parks to encourage friends and strangers to laugh together. Some even award prizes for the "best laugh" ‚ÄĒ a natural and effortless chuckle for no reason.

Unable to find a public Laughter Day event nearby? Organize your own with family and friends. Alternatively, mark the occasion by enjoying a comedy show or a hilarious movie. But most importantly, embrace the spirit of World Laughter Day by spreading joy and laughter every day.

Happy World Laughter Day!