in partnership
Need a good laugh? Well, we found the right person to go to - Tita Begashaw, the "Laughter Coach." Begashaw, a patient service specialist at Harborview Medical Center, hosts a laughter club on the first and third Thursday of every month and encourages her co-workers and patients to use laughter to release any negative stress. "They say children laugh 300 times a day, when you become an adult, 15," said Begashaw. "We forget to laugh!" After Begashaw moved to the United States in 1984 from Ethopia, she lost her younger brother, and was extremely down and out. To combat her sadness, she began volunteering at Harborview. Finally, in 2001, she saw a flyer advertising a laughing class, and became a certified laughter coach the following year. "Laughter is universal," said Begashaw. (Sy Bean / Seattle Refined)

We went to a certified laughing class, and it filled our hearts with joy

Laughter. It's distinct, personal. It conveys happiness and joy. It's food for the soul. But, all too often we forget to laugh. Which begs the question, can we learn again? Can laughing more really change your life?

Ask Tita Begashaw and she'll tell you the answer is yes.

Begashaw is something of a legend at Harborview Medical Center. Her vibrant personality reverberates off the walls of the busy hospital. While her official title is patient services coordinator, laughter is her life's work.

As the leader of Harborview's Tee Hee Hee Laughter Group. It's a collection of people from all walks of life. Hospital employees, patients, folks from the community at-large, all coming together twice a month to laugh.

To be clear, they don't do jokes. This is all about the laughter. For some it helps to relieve stress, some enjoy the sense of community, others come because it just makes them feel good. They come for the laughter, but they all stay because of Begashaw.

She immigrated to the United States from Ethiopia in 1990 and moved to Seattle in 1994. That same year her younger brother was killed in Los Angeles. She describes it as a horrible situation, one that left her searching for something to hold on to.

"I was totally lost. I was just crying, crying, down," she remembers. "I [didn't] want to live my life like this. So I was looking for a place to volunteer. I found Harborview."

And she never left. The volunteer position turned into a full-time job, and in 2001 she saw a flyer for a laughter therapy class. In that class Begashaw found her calling. She became a certified laughter coach a year later. And in leading the class - a class dedicated to laughter - she found something more. A community.

"We have a very high connection. We love each other. We play together. And then just great, great, great friendship," said Begashaw.

They come together to laugh, but it's a catalyst for so much more.

"Life is a celebration. Life is a joy. Life is [about] doing good things for other people. Forgive. Just be positive day-by-day. Live in the moment. When you live in the moment, it makes us feel good. That's the whole message. The message is good hearted living."