Laughter lessens stress, leads to healthier life

Deborah Deasy
| Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, 9:31 p.m.

Force yourself to laugh.

It aids digestion and relieves stress, according certified laugh leader Julie Ann Sullivan.

“Whether you force it, or you're laughing at something, the bodily functions are still the same,” Sullivan said. “The breath is the same, the moving of the diaphragm, the quickening of your blood flow ... the exercise of your lungs and your throat.

“All of those things still happen, and because of that, your muscles relax,” Sullivan said. “You have a better attitude. You get along with people better.”

Sullivan, 62, of Mt. Lebanon will present a free, one-hour, interactive workshop — “Laugh Often, Live Well” — at 1:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 8 in Hilltop Hall at The Village at St. Barnabas, Richland.

“I taught a group of girls in a group home once,” Sullivan said, “One girl said, 'I don't feel like laughing. Do you want me to fake it?' I said, 'Absolutely!'”

Sullivan teaches people of all ages how to laugh, including people with disabilities.

“I've done these workshops with people with walkers, on oxygen and in wheelchairs,” she said.

“We do some breathing exercises. I go through some instruction,” she said. “The focus of the workshop is to teach people how to create their own laughter ... I teach them ways to do it on their own ... It's not hard at all.

“I always end with a special exercise they can do every morning and it will change their life. It's a simple exercise. It takes five minutes.

“My goal is for people to take something and use it when they leave.”

Sullivan grew up the San Fernando Valley of California. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology from California State University at Northridge, plus, a master's of business administration from National University in San Diego.

In 2009, Sullivan created her business — Learning Never Ends — and became a professional workshop leader after working 30 years in the accounting industry.

She now speaks about communication skills and how to be a better listener, for example, and how to create peace in a chaotic life.

“All those things are possible to a greater extent when people have laughter in their lives,” said Sullivan, a member of the National Speakers Association.

In March, Sullivan received a thank-you letter from McDonald's USA general manager and Vice President Deb Mossa of the Philadelphia region after Sullivan led a laughter workshop for McDonald's employees.

“It was amazing to see how something as simple as laughter can make a positive impact on a corporate office's mentality when dealing with difficult and stressful situations,” Mossa wrote to Sullivan.

Sullivan became a certified laugh leader through the World Laughter Tour based in Gahanna, Ohio.

A single mother, Sullivan recently moved from 5,000-square-foot home into a 900-square-foot duplex after downsizing her possessions and ending a 30-year-relationship with her former husband.

She wrote about the move in “How Laughter Saved My Soul,” an article available at Sullivan's online site:

“When I do workshops, I tell people I've been through the three D's — death, despair and divorce. I know what people are feeling,” Sullivan said. “I know their pains. I know their sorrows.”

Walk-ins are welcome for Sullivan's workshop in Hilltop Hall at the Village at St. Barnabas, 5850 Meridian Road. For information, call 724-443-7231.

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or

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