Laughter is the best medicine. We’ve heard that phrase our entire lives, but most people just give lip service to the idea. Comedian/actor Karlton Johnson goes a lot further than that; he’s written an entire book about the healing power of laughter.
“Laff Therapy” is Johnson’s new self-help book which examines medical studies and personal accounts of how laughter can indeed help spur the body to heal.
“The goal of ‘Laff Therapy’ is to empower a person with the ability to use at will the psychological and physiological benefits of laffter,” explains Johnson, a 60-year-old Dallas native who now lives in Los Angeles. “After you’ve realized the power of laffter, you can then begin to apply it into your everyday life.”
We’ve all been in tense situations – sometime ones so tense they look headed to a physical fight or a heated verbal altercation – where someone cracks a joke and tensions quickly dissipate. Or the depressed person who hears a good joke, chuckles wildly and suddenly feels happier.
That’s the power Johnson wants people to harness, saying that unleashing the power of laughter can help people deal with anger, depression, aggression, shyness, embarrassment, shame, guilt, grief, regret and more.
Beyond just mental health, Johnson discusses the physical benefits of laughter to help with physical health. He explains that laughing deeply allows more oxygen into our lungs. The more oxygen our body has, the more it can fight off disease. Similarly, getting oxygen deep in the lungs allows us to release toxins and gases held at the lower regions of the lungs.
“‘Laff Therapy’ is about empowering us to learn how to unlock the untapped power and energy that we already possess inside of us to strengthen our coping skills,” says Johnson. “We have been conditioned to believe that if you’re built like Hercules on the outside that you’re healthy and in shape. That’s not necessarily true. Mental health is just as important as physical appearance. How you feel on the inside about yourself outweighs how you look on the outside when it comes to your emotional and physical health.”
Johnson doesn’t spell laugh the traditional way. Instead, he spells it “laff.” That’s because he uses “laff” as an acronym for “Laugh and Feel Fantastic.”
With a gregarious personality and quick wit, Johnson has an almost encyclopedic memory. He can rapidly pull facts out of his head and in short order make a joke from the tiniest bit of trivial information.
“Making people laff is a great feeling,” says Johnson who’s been married to his high school sweetheart since age 17.
The youngest of three children, he knew he wanted to be a comedian and a performer from an early age. Soon after high school, he was performing at open mike nights at comedy clubs and started his career as a comedian.
In the late 1980s, he did a performance at a cancer center which the patients loved. He was invited to do another show but declined saying he was busy with his career. However, the cancer center administrators explained how much laughter helped the patients, who seemed especially drawn to his infectious laugh and demeanor. Doing that second show marked the beginnings of “Laff Therapy” for him.
Then in 1994, fate intervened when a car accident left him with a back injury.
“I had to learn to rewalk and readjust myself,” says the father of two sons. “That’s when Laff Therapy really evolved because I had to utilize Laff Therapy. Everything in that book, I had to use for myself.”
During that time, he could not exercise, run or jog. So, he learned to work his abdominal muscles through laughter, something he now calls “Laffercise.”
“I had to exercise my inner body and learn to work my abs with laffing,” he says. “I was literally having to laff until it hurt.”
Johnson has appeared in dozens of movie and TV roles, plus over 50 commercials. But one of his proudest achievements came last year upon earning his master’s degree in psychology from California State University, Northridge, something he never would have undertaken if not for his fascination with the healing power of laughter.
“Using laffter is vital for our well-being,” he says. “Reducing tension and stress is critical because the first sign of a stroke is a stroke.”
For more info: www.lafftherapy.com
Cooking Wit K.J.