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Saturday 20 December  
Tita Begashaw
Sydney Fordham's picture
Seattle, United States of America
Seattle, United States of America

Laughter therapy helps the healing process

Published on : 24 November 2011 - 1:17pm | By Sydney Fordham (Photo: RNW)
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Tita Begashaw loves to laugh. In fact, she gives laughter therapy classes - encouraging people to laugh till their sides ache. But things weren’t always so jolly for her.

Listen to the interview

Download as MP3 (right-click and 'save as')

Originally from Ethiopia, Tita grew up witnessing the horrors of the war with Eritrea. In 1988, she managed to get out and relocated to the US, eventually settling in Seattle. Musfen, her younger brother and a cousin also immigrated soon afterwards and life became infinitely better.

A few years on and her cousin began to exhibit worrying behavior. It became apparent he had become mentally ill and he moved in with Tita's brother, so he could keep an eye on him - a move that turned out to be a tragic mistake. One morning, Tita's cousin picked up a knife and stabbed Musfen to death.


Tita fell into a deep depression - her new life in America had turned sour and even worse, her relatives now blamed her for encouraging the cousin to move to the US.

She decided that she needed to get out and help other people to get over her grief. So she started volunteering at Seattle's Harbourview Hospital, helping new immigrants navigate the system, and eventually it turned into a full-time job - photos below. She would also take fellow Ethiopians into her house until they got on their feet. 

Healing process

In 2001, Tita found out about a seminar on Laughter Yoga and started attending classes. Eventually she qualified as a Laughter Yoga instructor. She says laughter has helped the healing process greatly.

Tita has now has taught Laughter Yoga in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, large companies like Boeing, the University of Washington, and even the Seattle Police Department, including the police chief himself.

She says, "You encourage yourself to laugh every day with whoever you can. It’s about feeling good, to enjoy life! It’s more than just laughing, you bring your good energy to whatever you do in life."

Taken from A Second Chance by The State We're In.

  • Tita Begashaw at work as a hosptal receptionist<br>&copy; Photo: RNW -
  • Tita Begashaw at work as a hosptal receptionist<br>&copy; Photo: RNW -


Taresa 28 October 2013 - 11:21pm / USA

I heard a story about six years ago of a man starting a laugh class in New York City and have always thought how beneficial that could be for myself and others. So tomorrow I'm hosting my first laugh class in Green Bay, WI. I love laughter as it has gotten myself and my family through many hard years. I don't believe we would be in touch with each other if it weren't for the times we spent together laughing. I've suffered with Depression, PTSD, insomnia, fibromyalgia and much more. I'm an energetic healer and have found many types of healing out there while learning about what is coming naturally to me. I've seen miracles in peoples lives through all types of healing though laughter has to be my most favorite.

kate 29 February 2012 - 3:56am / australia

I loved this segment when i first heard it and was particularly amused at Jonathan's apparent mild discomfort when he practised spontaneous laughter. I thought you might like to know that the Australian national broadcaster is covering a similar theme but with a focus on the elderly:
The Smile Within will be broadcast on ABC 1 Compass Program, Sunday 4 March at 6.30pm. The SMILE study is the world’s first high quality large scale research project that examined the effects of humour therapy on older people with dementia. The primary aim of the SMILE study was to examine the effects of humour therapy on mood, social engagement and agitation. This film documents the study and follows comedian Jean?Paul Bell as he delivers the humour intervention to residents in aged care facilities. Staff from the aged care sector, family, members of the residents and researchers who ran the study, Professor Henry Brodaty, Dr Lee?Fay Low and Dr Belinda Goodenough will also appear. This humour intervention is now called the Play Up Program being introduced into RACFs nationally. More information about Play Up can be found on the Arts Health Institute’s website information about the film can be found on

kalkidan worku 17 December 2011 - 10:53pm / denver co

titay we are proud of u

Jennifer Jilks 30 November 2011 - 1:25pm / Canada

That was a delightful interview. I am going to use this with my long-term care clients and hospice clients with whom I volunteer!

Anonymous 26 November 2011 - 5:48am / USA

We just watched the movie Laughology last night. A good film that answers many of the questions on laughter. It's a very important part of the human (and animal, it turns out) experience that we tend to trivialize or take for granted. It's actually a very important, universal, social phenomenon, and appears to be the polar opposite to stress.

user avatar
The State Were In 29 November 2011 - 9:52am

Thanks for the tip, will try and check out Laughology. Would be fascinating to find out which animals use laughter as part of their social behavior...

Jason 24 November 2011 - 2:32pm / USA

I love to laugh also, but I've never heard of a therapy class on laughter. So when I first heard this, I was skeptical (to put it mildly). Sometimes, something someone says gets me laughing, even if what the person is talking about isn't very funny; sometimes it's the way that person says it that gets me laughing, sometimes without reason or motive.

user avatar
Jonathan Groubert 24 November 2011 - 3:51pm / Netherlands

Sounds like you should teach a laughter class, Jason.

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