Roberta Gold: “Laughter ”

Laughter — we all laugh the same, it equalizes us and when we are laughing it is impossible to feel pain, or be depressed. If we laugh hard enough it will have lasting effects and if we laugh loud enough it will trigger laughter in anyone near to us. Then we will be laughing together.

It sometimes feels like it is so hard to avoid feeling down or depressed these days. Between the sad news coming from world headlines, the impact of the ongoing raging pandemic, and the constant negative messages popping up on social and traditional media, it sometimes feels like the entire world is pulling you down. What do you do to feel happiness and joy during these troubled and turbulent times? In this interview series called “Finding Happiness and Joy During

Turbulent Times” we are talking to experts, authors, and mental health professionals who share lessons from their research or experience about “How To Find Happiness and Joy During Troubled & Turbulent Times”.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Roberta Gold

Roberta Gold is a Recreation Therapist and Certified Humor Profession, inspirational speaker, author, and Attitude Adjustment Coach. She created Laughter for the Health of It with a mission to empower everyone to have a more positive outlook by seeing the humor instead of the horror in our world. Roberta writes a weekly e-newsletter; facilitates The Sanity Savers and Parent Power Happy Hour weekly groups; and has her Laughter Rocks! programs for parents, students and teachers. Find out all about her programs at:

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I grew up in a traditional loving family — mom, dad and brother. Family was priority and I have wonderful memories of our camping trips, holiday family gatherings, playing games and always laughing together. My parents were supportive of my interests and cheered me on at my activities. My father modeled the power of a positive attitude while dealing with a fairly rare hereditary disease which caused way too many trips to the hospital and pain he never let anyone know he had. He used optimism and humor to get through those tough times — far exceeding the lifespan we were told he would have.

Even though there were medical issues, I had a pretty normal childhood.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

After graduating from college my first “real” job as a Recreation Therapist was at a free standing psychiatric hospital. I worked together with Occupational Therapists, Social Workers, Therapists, Doctors and Nurses. We had this large craft room and one of the popular projects was sewing stuffed animals. The patients would make the head and then work on the body. I would pick up the head and make it talk, getting extremely silly. We would laugh together and they would look at me like, I am in here and not you? Later that day or week a patient would stop me in the hallway asking to talk, saying they felt more comfortable sharing with me. I realized that it was the laughter we shared that created a comfortable bond.

I had a wonderful supervisor who asked me what I really wanted to be doing. I told him I wanted to do something utilizing humor and laughter. He let me start a group I called, Brighten Up, to talk about ways to use humor and laughter to deal with difficult issues. It became very popular. Not long afterwards I was asked to present to the hospital execs and sponsors and then created, Laughter for the Health of It with my mission to empower everyone to have a more positive outlook by seeing the humor instead of the horror in our world.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

I am not sure it was just one person. It was my family and their incredible use of humor and laughter. It was my supervisor, Sean, who believed in me and encouraged and supported me. It was my friends whom I have shared enjoyable times with. It was my business associates who wanted to hear what I had to present. It was also the world and the need of so many to discover ways to laugh and have more joy in their lives.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

Mistakes happen, so many funny mistakes. If you can’t laugh at yourself you are in trouble. Mine are small mishaps — tripping on stage — knocking something over.

One time early on, I was the second or third speaker during a conference where we spoke right after each other in an auditorium setting. I walked up the side aisle early to be ready when the speaker before me ended. As I walked I heard some giggling and thought — they must know I am the next speaker and are getting ready — how nice. I was introduced and did my hour on stage, receiving much applause. Afterwards I walked up the aisle and was towards the top of the auditorium when a lady stopped me and told me she loved what I had presented, but to pull my skirt out of my pantyhose. I was horrified that I had walked up and back flashing my derriere to almost 2 thousand people. They may forget what I had said but would never forget me.

I learned to double check myself in the mirror before each engagement. I realized then that embarrassing moments make great stories for future speaking gigs. And I can laugh about what occurred, share it and feel good when others join me in laughing about it. You can’t change something that has already happened, so if you can find some humor in it and laugh about it, then it isn’t as bad as it seemed originally.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I am passionately involved in an incredible non-profit organization — The Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor. As an advisor for the Humor Academy — a three year, college-level program focused on the science, benefits and application of humor, I get to support a cohort of students on their path of using healthy humor. I love getting to work with people of all backgrounds and professions who share my enthusiasm for bringing joy to the world.

I have been writing a free weekly e-newsletter, Laughter Rocks! Tips and tools to keep your cool no matter what, for almost 4 years. It is filled with simple things to do to have a better day and I include funny memes, videos, cartoons and quotes to help inspire you. I am about to release a compilation of these articles in a new book by the same name.

During this pandemic I started The Sanity Savers to help flip the switch in your brain when feeling pulled into the negativity pit. It is a five week class exploring alternative ways to tackle everything we are dealing with — and believe me, everyone is dealing with something. Tools I provide such as gratitude, Awe walks, humor hunts, mindfulness and various others have given hope to many during these difficult times.

I believe we cannot change the world until we start raising happy, resilient children. This won’t happen until parents learn ways to reduce their stress and be more present with their kids. I am on a mission to facilitate this in several ways: my program, Laughter Rocks! going into schools and working directly with students, teachers and staff; my free weekly zoom, Parent Power Happy Hour for parents, grandparents and anyone working with children of any age; and my book, The Family That Laughs Together…A Quick Guide to Sanity When You Feel Like Screaming. All of these are loaded with tools to help change perspective in order to de-stress and be able to have fun family times.

I am equally passionate about working with victims of domestic abuse as well as their children. I conduct weekly and monthly classes assisting them as they begin their new life. Seeing them smile, laugh and find enjoyment is incredibly fulfilling. Helping them to work with their children to laugh and play and to stop the cycle of abuse is my goal.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

1. Communication — Being an engaged listener is tops — letting people feel they have a voice in decisions makes them invested in what you are doing. Having empathy — you can’t work well with people unless you have compassion for what they are going through — is something a good communicator has.

As a motivational speaker I need to communicate with my audience in order to connect. The best way to do this is by sharing a personal story that relates to the group. For instance, I love sharing stories about my children or about my medical triumphs from a dominantly hereditary family disease. This builds trust and acceptance.

2. Flexibility — Being able to pivot when needed. For instance, I was hired to humorously lead a group on policies and procedures. However there were issues with management talking down to their employees and not giving praise — only discipline. I switched and did team building exercises which partnered the CEO with the janitor, and others with whom they had little or no interactions normally. The result was amazing and ended up with discussions that moved the company forward as a team. Oh, and yes, when we did talk of the policies and procedures, they listened with open minds.

3. Lightheartedness — You have to allow people to have fun. We work more hours than we spend with our loved ones. Working in an environment which fosters laughter and fun results in greater productivity and loyalty. It creates bonds which make for a happier working environment, which in turn causes less employee turnover from greater working conditions. It doesn’t mean that the work day is all fun and games, however, it does allow for some stress reducing stations, team building activities, water cooler funnies, and other cheerful reminders that laughter is good.

For the benefit of our readers, can you briefly let us know why you are an authority about the topic of finding joy?

I have been blessed to be upbeat. I can wake up, smile and be grateful for all I have — this is pure joy. Being a Recreation Therapist, my focus is on what is right — what works well, strengths, and good attributes. Being an Attitude Adjustment Coach allows me to assist my clients in finding ways to have a more positive mindset. I guide them by teaching how to turn negatives around; by providing exercises intended to elicit laughter and playfulness — at any age and with any challenge they are going through. I have been presenting my Laughter for the Health of It keynotes and workshops for over 30 years to businesses, schools, organizations and groups of all kinds. and through my weekly newsletter I get the opportunity to provide tips for having a great day with joy and AWE and smiles and laughter.

I love what I do and never want to stop.

Ok, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about finding joy. Even before the pandemic hit, the United States was ranked at #19 in the World Happiness Report. Can you share a few reasons why you think the ranking is so low, despite all of the privileges and opportunities that we have in the US?

I think it may be our lack of work-life balance. In the United States we have 40 hour work weeks and then try to cram all our errands, kid’s activities, house work and the such into our only two days off. We schedule doctor appointments and other necessities without leaving room for fun. Leisure time is not planned so is easily forgotten. Vacation days are left unused, lunch breaks rarely taken and days off are spent on our phones and other devices. We live fast paced lives with little down time.

Other countries put more focus on quality of life while I believe here in the United States it is on quantity — things. We are money driven, beauty driven and consumer driven. Happier countries have life-work balance. They take time out to relax, slow down and be together — community driven. They are also content with what they have, the majority of Americans never seem satisfied where they are, they want more and more and more.

Let me just say that this is not every American and we are learning the necessity to take it easy — however, we have a long way to go to catch up to some of the Scandinavian countries who are ranked the happiest.

What are the main myths or misconceptions you’d like to dispel about finding joy and happiness? Can you please share some stories or examples?

Many believe that you shouldn’t look for happiness, rather that it will come when you least expect it. This may be true for some, but why wait? There are things we can do to become happier. I concur with William James, “We don’t laugh because we are happy — we are happy because we have laughed.” Utilizing humor and laughter daily in our lives has been proven to lighten our spirit so we can pursue activities which bring us joy. Even fake laughter works if you let yourself laugh out loud — your body won’t know it is fake and will respond by releasing your feel good hormones — dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins. When we feel good we are more apt to socialize, be outdoors, exercise and eat better — all of which contribute to joy and happiness.

Laughter is contagious and makes you feel good. I was with a small group of around 5 people and we went to a mall, stood in a circle and just started laughing — before too long there must have been 20 other people who joined and were all laughing with us. My friends and I slowly moved out of the circle and the ones who had joined us continued laughing. Then we watched them talking to each other, getting coffee and even walking off together. It was so beautiful.

Planning for fun is a great way to elicit joy which triggers happiness naturally. Happiness is a result of doing things you enjoy and being with people who allow you to be yourself. It should be on you To-Be list.

In a related, but slightly different question, what are the main mistakes you have seen people make when they try to find happiness? Can you please share some stories or examples?

Saying you are “trying” to be happy is enough to put you in a sour mood. The word, trying, sets you up for failure, like you are unsure of yourself. Instead of trying, I suggest you go for it.

Telling someone to find happiness or to”Just be happy” can push them toward quick fixes, and unhealthy ways to feel happy. For instance, I was talking with a client and she told me she feels anxious especially during this pandemic. She says people keep telling her to just be happy and that it doesn’t help’ in fact, it makes it worse and causes her to overindulge in cookies and chips to try to feel better. I suggested she try taking baby steps and doing one thing she knows she enjoys every day — maybe it is taking a walk, or reading a book or knitting or singing or calling a friend or baking. I told her to make a list of everything she knows she had liked doing and to add a few activities she had a desire to engage in. After two weeks she reported being more upbeat, smiling and looking forward to her next pursuit with enthusiasm. She actually expressed being at peace with herself and feeling joyful.

Another misnomer is that happiness comes from things — nice house, car, vacations, etc. I think most of us know that isn’t true. We are happier from the experiences we have and the people we love.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share with our readers your “5 things you need to live with more Joie De Vivre, more joy and happiness in life, particularly during turbulent times?” (Please share a story or an example for each.)

1. Gratitude — Waking up and being thankful for all we have sets us up to have

a better day — one where we can see possibilities, beauty and abundance. When I wake up I take in all I have, all that works well in my body, the people in my life I love, the opportunities I have and the fact that I contain the ability to set my attitude for the day that awaits me.

2. Laughter — we all laugh the same, it equalizes us and when we are laughing it is impossible to feel pain, or be depressed. If we laugh hard enough it will have lasting effects and if we laugh loud enough it will trigger laughter in anyone near to us. Then we will be laughing together.

3. Play — Adults need to play so much more — cards, games, anything active or passive, as long as when playing you are totally immersed. I have game nights with friends and family where we laugh and have fun for the sole purpose of having a good time. You could have painting nights or dance afternoons or singing competitions or even joke evenings. Anything to let loose and have fun.

4. Connection — It has been proven that being with one or more people will help you live longer. This pandemic took that away early on and as a result depression has risen to the highest levels ever. We are programmed to be social and function so much better when we are able to be together. We can be in together in person or on zoom both work well to bring us together with someone else.

5. Get Outdoors — I for one need to be outside — walking, playing tennis, hiking, sitting at the beach. Picture yourself inside whether working or just cooped up, I bet you are not smiling. Now go out somewhere where you can be amongst trees or sand or somewhere you can hear the birds singing and feel a slight breeze upon your skin. Look up to the sky and see the clouds forming images. Put your feet into the refreshing water of an ocean, stream or lake — or just go barefoot in the grass. I guarantee you will be refreshed, rejuvenated and feel better overall.

All of these 5 aid in resetting your body which helps you sleep better, decreases anxiety and has physical health benefits. They will help you live with joy.

What can concerned friends, colleagues, and life partners do to effectively help support someone they care about who is feeling down or depressed?

Be there for them — by listening, talking, playing a game, etc. Show empathy, validate their feelings, and do not try to fix them — instead engage them in conversation and activity. Bring meals over and eat them together. If they want, just sit with them, not saying anything, just being present. If needed, encourage them to seek help and offer to take and stay with them.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would love to have a Laughter Rocks! movement — in all schools.

It is my greatest passion to have children laughing and playing and having more fun. They are overly stressed at younger and younger ages. No child should have an ulcer in kindergarten, but they do. I want to change this so we can have happier, more resilient children. Learning how to laugh instead of cry will build resiliency and strength to tackle what life tosses at them and life will definitely throw some curve balls.

My program targets kids in 4th and 5th grades since this is right before they enter middle school where hormones rage, bullies pounce and insecurities run rampant. Laughter Rocks! teaches ways to see the good attributes in themselves and others, to focus on what is right more than what needs to be changed all the time. It validates their feelings and teaches healthy coping mechanisms to use in order to bounce back and rebound quicker when dealing with setbacks, anger, grief, disappointment, overwhelm, and other traumas that are part of childhood. It shows ways to develop humor and laughing strategies to manage stress which will serve them well as they face life’s challenges.

Exposing kids to positive ways of looking at each other and at life in general, allows them to see there are alternatives to the negative and self deprecating views many adolescents have; that supporting each other and celebrating little victories are worthwhile endeavors, and that although they can’t change another person, they can discover techniques to use when confronted by the bullies in their life.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

Hoda Kotb — I admire her spirit, her compassion, her parenting, her ability to be light hearted and have fun even when tackling difficult issues. She is a fellow working mom, author and child advocate. I would love to talk with her and share ideas on ways to raise resilient, healthy children especially during difficult times.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

They can sign up for my free weekly newsletter and other programs at and follow me on my YouTube channel — or my Author Central Page —

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!

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