HaHa-Europe.eu - Background and Theory




Haha - Workshop
Frankfurt, April 2011

Haha - Workshop
Manchester, September 2011

Haha - Workshop
Paris, March 2012frankfurt.htmlfrankfurt.htmlmanchester.htmlmanchester.htmlparis.htmlparis.htmlshapeimage_2_link_0shapeimage_2_link_1shapeimage_2_link_2shapeimage_2_link_3shapeimage_2_link_4shapeimage_2_link_5

As the number of older Europeans increase, there is a need to find new ways of improving the quality of life of older learners and enhancing active ageing. There is also a need to encourage mobility and break down European stereotypes which are negative in nature. This project takes a new approach to achieving these aims, because it will use humour techniques as a form of health education to promote these ends. Participants will learn from humour specialists about the theory of humour and its role in their lives. They will practice these techniques to apply this knowledge to their daily lives, thus improving quality of life and active aging for older people, and acquire new language skills.

The health benefits of laughter are well known. These include the reduction of stress levels, promotion of relaxation, strengthening of the immune system, reduction of high blood pressure and heart disease. It also has social benefits, such as improving self confidence, self image, general mental health and well being.                                                        

Objectives of HAHA

  1. To develop an understanding of different forms of humour across Europe and with other people in the life long learning community.

  2. To learn methods of promoting humour to encourage health

  3. To learn dance and music across Europe to promote health through laughter and the arts

  4. To produce material to enhance learning for older adult learners

  5. To promote IT skills

  6. To challenge European stereotypes and promote intercultural understanding

  7. To learn skills and techniques to promote humour

  8. To produce a toolkit

As we don't always understand each other's humour and we don't have enough humour in our daily lives, we hope that this approach will provide an opportunity to learn together and from each other how to bridge our differences and enhance our daily lives.

Processes to achieve Objectives

We will learn the theory and practice of humour to promote health and well being and explore together the manifestations of humour in different media in our different countries, for example through dance, cartoon, theatre and song. We will:

  1. use the IT skills of our partners to share our new learning across our countries and with other people in the life long learning community.

  2. produce products together to include a web site, a post card 'laughter is the best medicine ' in all our languages.

  3. create a resource pack of information about humour from different countries

  4. publish a calendar of cartoons with input from our four countries.

We hope to achieve our objectives through visits, language preparation, workshops (cartooning, laughter therapy, dancing, music, theatre, film, song) cultural experiences and active participation of humour through arts. 

Benefits of the Project
which result from the specifically European nature of the Project

  1. Promoting inter-cultural European understanding and tolerance through exploring differences in humour and having fun whilst breaking down stereotypes.

  2. Produce the beginning of a European Health Education laughter network to promote wellbeing for seniors in Europe.

  3. Promoting language skills from the four European countries involved in the partnership and learning about each others art, music, and theatre whilst learning how each of these forms are means of expressing humour.

Evaluation of the project

  1. During the partnership we will evaluate each session using questionnaires to explore the acquisition of new knowledge and suggestions for improving the learning process.

  2. We will do pre and post tests of learning outcomes for which we aim, that are in relation to humour, cultural knowledge and language competencies.

  3. At the end of the project we will compile our evidence of sustainable knowledge by exploring implementation of practice in learners and organizations.

  4. We will demonstrate through our products: the calendar, the resource file, photos, videos, sketches, cartoons and post cards, evidence that our aims have been achieved.

  5. We will promote a health education for humour symposium in Europe and make presentations at a number of meetings in Europe to promote and share our work. Evidence of interest by other organizations in our work will be calibrated.


We learnt and practiced the techniques of laughter yoga in all our workshops and about techniques such as the use of gibberish, which would increase our ability to laugh and generate further benefits by doing this.

Much of this is based on playfulness and being silly, and often involves interaction with other people playing the games. But we do not need other people around for us to laugh, or even have to be silly.

Robin Graham, our laughter expert, explained that the key is to put the thought of laughter into our minds, because then laughter is more forthcoming. Also, even the anticipation of laughter can bring about some of the health benefits.

One possibility is for each of us to have a box of things which make us laugh, and, even if we never look in the box, the knowledge that we have it can make us smile. Another key idea is to have on display photographs associated with laughter and playfulness, or of people and places, which make us smile.

It is also useful to have available films and audio recordings, which we like and which make us smile.

But the most important thing we need is a willingness to laugh despite our challenges and difficulties. If we remember that laughter does not necessarily mean happy, and that it is a physiological action which has a similar effect as taking an antidepressant tablet or a painkiller or some other tablets, then it can be a choice - tablet or laughter activity.

As part of the Paris HAHAs workshop we attended an English Language improvisation show. When the audience was asked for starting ideas to work with - such as well known phrases - Robin called out "He who laughs last laughs longest&q. The actors then improvised a sketch based on laughing for no reason (no words, just laughter), and the audience were asked to all also make laughter sounds to provide ‘surround sound effects’.

This was an opportunity to promote laughter! It was funny and playful. Compared to other sketches, it was not clever or sophisticated, and did not score well, but it was universally funny and gave positive feelings.

Other laughter techniques include

  1. Using the TEE HEE mantra of Dr Goodheart to counter specific issues

  2. Having our own mantra for when we get up on a day when things are challenging

  3. Having funny positive affirmations

  4. Giving compliments to people who appreciate them, and also to people who are bemused by compliments, and, most importantly to ourselves when looking in the mirror

  5. Giving smiles, as for compliments, to people who appreciate them, and also to people who are bemused by compliments, and, most importantly to ourselves when looking in the mirror

  6. Giving our full focus to the things we are doing. When we have total focus we enjoy things more. And things become more fun

  7. Trusting our instincts and allowing ourselves to be playful and not inhibit ourselves unnecessarily. This includes not stopping ourselves when we want to laugh but when there are people around

  8. Enjoying books, videos, audio tapes and seeking them out when we need to cheer ourselves up

  9. Seeking out the company of people who like to laugh, or who like to play the laughter games we know

  10. We also practiced Laughter Yoga in Frankfurt and Paris and there are many places where you can learn this.


    Articles have appeared in the mainstream press about Lee Berk’s work showing that the immune system is boosted by laughter (TimesOnline) and he also has shown that the anticipation of laughter releases endorphins (Physorg). Michael Miller’s work shows that laughter helps the circulatory system (BBC). And Norman Cousins’ book (2005) showed how he used laughter as a tool to deal with his illness. William Fry has been promoting laughter for good health (1988), including good mental health and as an alternative way of dealing with stress (1992), instead of violence, for example. Below are some papers, internet articles and books which are useful in understanding the importance of laughter.

    BBC, Laughter ‘boosts blood vessels’, retrieved 5th October 2009 from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4325819.stm

    Cousins, N. (2005) Anatomy Of An Illness As Perceived By The Patient. (Paperback edition). New York, W.W. Norton and Company Inc.

    Fry W and Savin W. Mirthful laughter and blood pressure Humor: Int J Humor Res 1988; 1: 49–62

    Fry W. The physiological effects of humor, mirth, and laughter J Am Med Assoc 1992; 267: 1857–8

    Goodheart, A. (1994) Laughter Therapy. Santa Barbara , Less Stress Press

    Holden, R. (1993) Laughter The Best Medicine. London, Thorsons

    Layard, R. (2006) Happiness: Lessons From A New Science. London, Penguin Books

    Message from Masters, Osho on laughter meditation, starting and ending day with laughter meditation. Retrieved 5th October 2009 from http://www.messagefrommasters.com/Jokes/zen_laughter.htm

    Osho (2002) Yaa-Hoo! The Mystic Rose. India, Rebel Publishing House

    Physorg, Just the expectation of a mirthful laughter experience boosts endorphins 27 percent, HGH 87 percent, retrieved 5th October 2009 from http://www.physorg.com/pdf63293074.pdf

    Provine, Robert R. (2000) Laughter: A Scientific Investigation. Viking Penguin

    Romero, E. and Pescosolido, A (2008) Humor and Group Effectiveness. Human Relations, Vol 61, No 3, 395-418

    TimesOnline, The Laughter Cure, retrieved 5th October 2009 from http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/features/article617213.ece

    Wooten, P. (2002) Compassionate Laughter. (2nd Edition). Santa Cruz, Jest Press

    The links to Robin Graham’s websites for further information are:

    www.feelgoodcommunities.org and to Laughter Network www.laughternetwork.co.uk




    Music from Manchester

    Laughter project 2011 Group 1 performance

    Laughter project 2011 Group 2 performance

    Laughter project 2011 Group 3 performance



    We evaluated our work at the end of every workshop. Details of the results can be obtained from norma.raynes@intergen.org.uk.

    At the end of our work together all the participants we asked to tell us one thing they had learnt and one thing they would use in their day to day lives and work settings to make a difference to the amount of laughter they brought into their lives.

    Findings of this piece of work can be obtained from norma.raynes@intergen.org.uk.