IN 2010, Noreen Braman—who had already reinvented herself after a contentious divorce—was reeling from a corporate downsizing, dealing with a economic recession of historic proportions, and facing her own midlife issues. Soon her skills as a strategic communications professional, humorist and performer would send her in a new direction.
By the end of that year, she became a certified Laughter Yoga Leader, had her mind blown at a conference called “Can Humor Save the World” and studied the Psychology of Laughter at Rutgers University. In 2012 she added certification in Laughter Wellness, studied the Science of Happiness through UC Berkeley in 2016, joined the Association for Applied & Therapeutic Humor (AATH) and has been presenting laughter for the health of it through her Smile Side of Life Laughter & Happiness Club presentations ever since. She continues to add to her knowledge base through continuing education and certifications, workshops, conferences and seminars.
Noreen credits Dr. Paul McGhee’s book “Humor as Survival Training for a Stressed Out World" as well as Linda Richman's "I'd Rather Laugh: How to Be Happy Even if Life has Other Plans for You," for helping her understand the importance of humor and laughter to all humans. With the physical and emotional health benefits that come with humor, laughter and mindfulness, Noreen deals with her fibromyalgia and thyroid disease with humor, reminding us all that yesterday’s problem can be today’s funny story.
I am honored When I get this kind of feedback, and it gives me the feeling that I have found my mission and purpose and it encourages me to reach higher!
" Thank you, Noreen. You are a delight! I think that your program is exactly what we needed at this challenging time - practical, lighthearted and compassionate. We will send you an evaluation summary, but the comments in the chat box show that you hit a home run!
Thank you for taking the time to help our attorneys. Wishing you a peaceful and healthy holiday season."
"Aw Noreen, thank you for a wonderful light, silly, and beautiful hour in these dark times! ... Wishing you and your family light and love (and laughter, of course)"
More than 100 miles
I generally get paid for speaking but make exceptions
Many of us have somewhere in an old photo album, attic storage box, or just in our memory, an image from our babyhood, and a time when we began demonstrating important early survival skills. Skills such as Sitting Up and Laughing. We all understand the importance of developing the ability for independent movement, but laughter, not so much.
By the time I started doing those things, my father was dead, the cancer that would kill my grandmother was already eating through her body, and my mother was spending her nights listening to Pat Boone’s My Special Angel — crying and wondering what would become of us. Our lives seemed doomed to chaos. It had been my mother’s companion for many years, a small hungry animal demanding to be fed. Over the years, that Chaos would grow into a huge dragon, whose teeth could both smile and bite, and in whose mouth was both fire and laughter.
But, as a baby, I knew none of this, and just kept on laughing and smiling with everyone.
And eventually, my mother remarried and soon there were three of us girls. My sisters and I grew up learning that laughter, however, is a two edged sword, and can be used as a weapon.
Most of my life I heard this: “If you had a brain, you’d be dangerous.” It was said with a smirk, if not an outright laugh. It was a “clever” referral to my nickname: The Brainless Wonder. This was humor and laughter being used as a weapon — to belittle, demean and control me.
I grew up feeling that all laughter was being directed at me. Junior high was an especially terrible time as I tried to balance leaving childhood with being a parent to both my sisters and my mother. I found comfort in music, my transistor radio, and wanted to sing. But being forced to record my voice for everyone to laugh at was torture.
The most uproarious joke was making me sing a song that included the lyric: “And when I die…” then being interrupted by “With a voice like that, you’re dead already.”
I truly understand it when I hear others talk about how incidents that revolve around weaponized laughter burn into your brain. Because they burned into mine.
It was a caring music teacher that helped me learn that there was healing power in laughter while I was learning the clarinet, bass clarinet and baritone saxophone. I played in, and sang with, the High School jazz band. I spent my entire senior year studying satire and humor in literature and starting writing humor myself.
Meanwhile, My mother’s chaos took the form of alcoholism and it enveloped the whole family in terror, shame, confusion and resentment. I left home at age 18, with only my pocketbook. Eventually I would make enough of a peace to continue helping my sisters, as the three of us stumbled into adulthood.
The shadow of the chaos was always there, influencing family dynamics, marriages, and the raising of the next generation. It would ultimately consume both my mother and my stepfather, and threatened to eat my sisters and me as well.
In the years since their deaths, both laughter and chaos continued to make regular visits. My children and I laughed long and loud, especially when in the car traveling back and forth to their activities. But they were subjected to the pain, anger and confusion caused by the contentious divorce between me and their father, and the difficult years of survival that came after that.
I tried very hard to embrace the idea expressed by Nietzsche: you need chaos in yourself to give birth to a dancing star, and I considered my children those stars.
I didn’t realize how much laughter had bonded and helped us until my nephew told his mother that he liked me because I was always smiling. I realized that our dance teacher’s mantra to always “keep moving and keep smiling” was an instruction for life, not just performance.
But, it wasn’t until 2010 that I found out the laughter I learned as a baby, the laughter that chaos tried to take from me, and the laughter that comforted me, my sisters and my children had real physical & psychological benefits, and a growing body of science to back that up.
I’ve now studied laughter as a survival skill, well being practice and social bonding tool. I’ve become a student of Happiness, what it is, where it comes from, why we need it, and how we find it. Finally, I was able to put The Brainless Wonder to rest by helping others laugh for the health of it. I’m not a comedian, but we can find the funny together. And that is a survival skill.
Take that, Chaos.
These are my two most popular presentations, they work great as webinars!
5 Habits that Boost Resilience and Enhance Well-Being
➢ Mindfulness – Are you mindful, or, is your mind full?
➢ Gratitude – Your brain on being thankful
➢ Purpose – Your personal “mission in life”
➢ Happiness – What is it, and why is everyone talking about it
➢ Laughter – a human survival skill since before humans had language
News reports, online articles, group discussions and best-selling books are full of advice about achieving well being, and the list of recommendations can be long and intimidating. In this 5-session series, Noreen Braman will focus on 5 important habits to have in your well being “toolkit” to help build resilience for those times when stress can be overwhelming.
The first habit Mindfulness, starting with a definition of what it means to be mindful, and how to incorporate that into daily living. Interactive exercises include “in the moment” mindfulness as well as mindfulness meditation.
Habit 2 addresses Gratitude. Recent studies using functional MRIs have shown exciting changes to the brain that coordinate with enhanced happiness as a result of purposeful gratitude activities. Learn about gratitude journals, gratitude letters and 5 simple gratitude gestures.
A sense of Purpose is the focus of habit 3. Having a “reason for getting up in the morning,” (Japanese word) is arguably one of the most important and powerful factors in happiness, health and longevity, even if your career work is not exactly aligned. This session takes an intense look at personal mission and vision with self-discovery activities and writing exercises that help reveal ways that one’s sense of purpose can be aligned with other aspects of life.
Anthropologists now believe that Laughter, the subject of habit 4, is a survival mechanism existing in humans even before language, or even a sense of humor developed. Laughter is so powerful it can both lift up the oppressed when used for healing, or take down oppressors when used as a weapon. This session explores that two-edged sword description of laughter as well as introduces the concept of laughter as a well being exercise that does not rely on jokes or humor.
In habit 5, Happiness is explored, both as a state of being and as a much maligned “pursuit.” What is happiness and why is global society so focused on it that some countries are using it instead of a GDP? How the other habits covered in this course contribute to Happiness, and why enhancing your happiness is vital to coping when life becomes difficult.
Take a Laughter Break for the health of it!
This fun, stress-relieving interactive program will show participants:
1. The relationship of humor and laughter to mental and physical wellness
2. The role of laughter in human development
3. When and what kind humor is appropriate
4. The concept of Laughing for no reason (just for the health of it) with takeaway exercises
Basic Outline (may vary slightly depending on audience) :
• Orientation in space and time “meditation”
• Personal story of why babies laugh and how I came to know this
• Learning about laughter and humor and how they are important for managing stress and compassion fatigue
• Activities you can do with your clients
• Your brain on smiling, laughter, and simulated laughter
• The story behind laughter as an exercise
• Introduction to laughing for “no reason,” without comedy or jokes
• The use of Pranayama, Yogic breathing, and the parts of the body used in breathing and laughing: Interactive Exercises
o Where does laughter live in the body exercise
o Selection of sample laughter exercises
o Mindful Laughter Meditation
• guided relaxation (if time permits)