How to laugh more and other insights, in this month’s issue of “Tell Your Story Newsletter”

April 2021 Vol 3 Issue 4

Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):

Specializing in Entrepreneurial and Organizational Storytelling

Let me tell your story!



ARTICLE 1: How to laugh more in Covid times

STORYTELLERS’ CORNER: The annoying case of “my bad”




Welcome Mid-April, 2021!

Although Covid-19 continues to dominate the headlines and to force lockdowns across the country, we might be forgiven for feeling Covid fatigue and some gloom about the state of public health.

In this month’s issue, I therefore recommend a distraction, by visiting an article, “How to Laugh More,” by Monaco-based, laughing specialist (gelotologist),  Freda Gonot-Schoupinsky. Who knew that laughter (gelotology) had its own field?!

And in this month’s issue of “Storytellers’ Corner,” I visit the always annoying (to me, at least) case of “my bad,” with etymologist, Bryan Garner.

Although media are questioning what kind of summer we will have, I hope that you are enjoying, whenever possible, the sights, sounds and smells of spring, which persist through recent cold and, in some places, snow.

May the freshness of spring (whether by a walk outdoors or a seat by an open window) provide some consolation for the public health anxieties we face, in these Covid times.




Storytelling Communications


Article One: How to laugh more in Covid times (with Freda Gonot-Schoupinsky)

In a recent edition of the newsletter “Psyche,” gelotologist (laughter specialist) Freda Gonot-Schoupinsky (hereafter, G-S) authored an article called “How to Laugh More.”

After a full year’s (obsessive) diet of often terrible, Covid-related news, many of us feel we need to laugh more than ever! As G-S writes: “Laughter is one of the best things you can do to cheer yourself up. So much so that I actively make a habit to laugh regularly—and I think you should, too.”

She offers three reasons why we should laugh more:

(1) Laughter is good for our physical well-being. American psychologist William Fry (the father of gelotology), described laughter as “internal jogging.”

Laughter has been found to have a similar effect, on heart rate and heart-rate variability, as exercise. Our immune systems are strengthened, our muscles relax and our blood pressure decreases.

G-S writes that a study of nearly 21K older adults found that those who laughed daily had lower rates of heart disease, compared with those who never or rarely laughed.

Patients with Type 2 diabetes who watched a comic film (by contrast to those who listened to an unhumourous lecture) showed decreased levels of prorenin in their blood, a protein involved in diabetic complications.

Watching humourous videos can also increase our tolerance for pain. So if you strain your neck and back cleaning out the garage, an enlightened doctor’s orders may be YouTube or a highly imaginative comic novel–and not just Advil.

(2) Laughter has become known for offering benefits for our mental health and personal development. When we laugh, the brain releases endorphins and decreases its release of stress hormones (including cortisol). Laughter can reduce feelings of stress and symptoms of depression, to help us to cope when life gets challenging. Problems loom less large when we laugh about some aspect of them.

Recent studies show that laughter can improve the quality of our sleep, increase our self-esteem and creativity and help create an environment that enhances our capacity to learn. G-S quotes the poet Byron: “ ‘Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.’”

(3) People don’t laugh enough: studies of adults in the US showed that on average, people laugh 18 times per day, with respondents varying between 0 and 89. I’m now searching for results in Canada. But–and this is crucial–we can all laugh without having the stimulation of humour.

G-S says that babies, for instance, laugh and coo without hearing (or understanding) jokes or stories. Laughter and humour can occur separately for us all. She writes: “We don’t need to wait for something funny to happen before we can experience the benefits of laughter.”

Laughter can be free, easy-to-use and fast to take effect. You don’t have to buy equipment or join a group or go to a specific location. G-S writes that laughter “burns calories, . . . it’s low risk and it’s legal.” We are 30 times more likely to laugh with someone else than when we’re alone and laughter tends to be a bonding process between people.

But G-S also says that it’s “perfectly possible to laugh when you’re alone” and to benefit from laughter.

Based on American psychologist Paul McGhee’s book, Humour as Survival Training for a Stressed-Out World (2010), G-S recommends three strategies or “humour habits”:

(1) Surround yourself with humour. Watch classic movies or comedy clips, collect jokes that you hear from others, tune into re-runs of sit-com shows you remember from the past. Create a file on your computer or digital device, so you can revisit these kind of “funnies.”

(2) Try to practice having a more “playful attitude” at work and at home (or wherever you work, in Covid times). Try to live more in-the-moment and find fun in daily life. G-S says this is “like warming up” before you start a run. Think about preparing your mind and body to laugh.

(3) Try with intention to laugh more frequently and more deeply. When you’re alone, think of something funny and learn how to laugh out loud from it. This gets easier with practice. She says to consider and try different styles of laughter, such as “playful, joyful and natural.”

Interestingly, G-S says that there is no such thing as “fake” laughter, since “all laughs are real, just produced by different vocal systems.” However, when we are just starting, self-induced laughter may feel somewhat forced. Don’t lose heart, as she says, “Self-induced laughter can get a bad rap, but research indicates that it can be even more effective for health and well-being than the spontaneous kind.”

Psychologist Paul McGhee recommends “looking for humour in everyday life . . . laugh at silly typos, or at the shape of a vegetable in your garden or fridge, or at the antics of your pet—whatever works.”

Verbal humour (such as puns) can arise from almost any context. Cartoon and comic groups exist on social media to share zany humour. (I’ve never laughed harder on Facebook than I have by subscribing to vintage cartoons from “The Far Side.”)

Being open to finding humour in day-to-day occurrences can soften embarrassing and stress-ridden moments. So learning to take ourselves less seriously and “to find humour in the midst of stress” can be helpful.

You can train your own skills as a comedian by writing your own jokes and by reading and viewing the growing number of online resources on laughter. For instance, my colleague, marketer and all-around funny man, Michael Katz, has undertaken training as a stand-up comedian and marvelled at how different that art form is from writing humourously (for which he’s better known).

You can undertake more formal practices of learning to laugh, without humour. G-S refers to “Laughter Yoga,” invented by the Indian medical doctor, Madan Kataria, in the mid-1990s, to reduce depression and loneliness. Nowadays, laughter yoga features “playful movements and exercises,” more than sophisticated yoga poses. For instance, you can learn to speak “gibberish” to initiate laughter.

Similarly, “Laughing Qigong” in China pairs “a series of breathing and body movements . . . with simulated laughter.” Studies show that practicing this has improved participants’ mood and humour levels.

Gonot-Schoupinsky herself created “laughies,” one-minute audio recordings of people laughing, that we can play back, either alone or with others.

They’re “like selfies,” she writes, “but instead of taking a photo of yourself, you record yourself laughing.” She says that recording and listening to a “laughie” three times daily for a week increased well-being by 16% in healthy adults.

Almost all of us can remember hearing someone whose laughter was so distinctive and vibrant that merely hearing it made us want to laugh. I can remember a family friend whose energetic “smoker’s laugh” alone made a me giggle, as a small child.

Other benefits from laughter included being more relaxed, more open to laughing with others and sleeping better. In the UK, a psychologist whom Gonot-Schoupinsky cites, is developing a database of “laughies” for others to use (aka “laughing stock”), much like the individual who in the US started the scream” telephone line, for those frustrated by our late Covid-times.

Further resources:

Videos abound online on the nature of laughter and how it benefits us. Gonot-Schoupinsky refers to many videos, books, talks and interviews with UK and US based psychologists and researchers; read here.

Her two favourite books on the topic are Laughter: A Scientific Investigation (2020) by Robert Provine; and Taking Laughter Seriously (1983) by John Morreall (a philosophical overview).

Forthcoming: a book by psychologist Jennifer Aaker, and the marketer Naomi Bagdonas: Humor, Seriously: Why Humor is a Secret Weapon in Business and Life and How Anyone Can Harness it, Even You (2021).

And now it’s your turn? Do you separate laughter and humour? If you practice laughing regularly, what difference do you notice in your sense of well-being? Please share on my “contact” page. I’d be delighted to hear from you!



STORYTELLER’S CORNER: The annoying case of “my bad” (with Bryan Garner)

In his blog on English usage at the end of March, etymologist Bryan Garner discussed the common expression, “my bad.”

He describes it as a “low colloquialism” that “gained popularity in the mid-1980s, apparently growing out of American sports slang and meaning, ‘Sorry, my mistake.'”

Garner goes on to say that it was “established” enough that it was “listed in a collection of campus slang published by the University of North Carolina” (no date given) and became common in pop culture, especially in the 1990s.

However, Garner adds, with (one suspects a gleeful look in his eye), the “phrase now seems to be on the wane.”

My beef with “my bad” is that, during the past 10-15 years, I heard the expression used in a “throwaway” manner, when the speaker couldn’t be bothered to correct an error that in those cases deserved more attention! For instance, when talking about one’s health care or when talking to university students about their writing, sometimes precision matters!

And now it’s your turn: Do you still use “my bad?” What case can you make (or not) of its usefulness?



I am particularly grateful this month to members of my faith community (St. Andrew’s Presbyterian) who have offered me support with caring for (and moving) an aging family member. Just as it’s often said, “It takes a village to raise a child,” caring for our elderly works much better when shared in community.

So special thanks to Rev. Roberto and Heather DeSandoli, Laura Van Loon, Martha and Dean Fergusson, as well as Jan Rodda, Judy McFadden, MaryAnn Lyle, Shirley Fourney, Donna and Jim Fenton and those whose names I may briefly have forgotten, for loaning time and other resources for my family’s move.

Senior’s health care in the province, as many of you know or have experienced, is problematic, so the last years of most seniors’ lives can present choppy waters. Having friends who become like family are a tremendous blessing.


Thank you also to my communications friends, including Christina Cherneskey (Christina Cherneskey Communications)  and Megan Kent (Little Ox Videography), for sharing their insights on staySMART contracts we’ve been working on, since the winter. Talking with peers is so helpful to focus and to gauge our progress, when we face complex demands on our time and energy.


The days of self-isolation I experienced, after taking a precautionary Covid test in March, have reminded me of the importance of making an effort (when it’s safe) to walk again, to enjoy the warmth of our prairie sunshine and the freshness of the air.

If you are Saskatchewan-based, have you seen or heard the Canada Geese who started to appear, four weekends ago? Spotting them and their activities first alerted me to the start of spring.

How can this season of growth inspire you to keep fighting?


     ABOUT US:

Between 2011 and December 2018, Elizabeth Shih Communications chronicled the stories of B2B marketing and communications on the Prairies and across the country.

Effective January 1, 2019, I rebranded as “Storytelling Communications.” I now write marketing and communications documents and lead workshops that help entrepreneurs and newcomers to Canada to strengthen their businesses or secure better jobs.

Interested in learning more? Please contact me through my CASL-compliant website (

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