Author Archives: Joe Hoare

7 days of laughteryogawithjoe, day 3: ‘Spread joy – even by email’

Joy is at the heart of #laughteryogawithjoe.

I spend a lot of my time on email, as many of us do. I have sent many unwise emails in my time, as I expect we all have.

However, I send fewer and fewer of them as I use my laughter yoga more and more.

How?

By ‘use my laughter yoga more and more’ I do not mean get up and do lots of laughter yoga exercises while writing each email. I mean stay in touch with the joyfulness at the heart of laughter yoga, and make writing the email itself a laughter yoga exercise.

The way I ‘use my laughter yoga’ here is a 3-step process. It is simple and, I feel, worth experiencing yourself.

  1. Breathe. Breathe deeply for a few breaths until you feel calm and ready.
  2. Smile, always smile. Smile until you feel your smile connecting with your sense of calm and readiness, and then start your email.
  3. Chuckle quietly when you’ve finished, and re-read carefully. Imagine you are receiving this email, how can you make it an even better experience for the reader to receive? What adjustments do you need to make for the email to be well received? Keep laughing quietly (to yourself), and ask yourself – ‘Can I add more joy?’

This process helps us stay embodied and not over-think when writing emails. The result is to produce a communication that is as pleasant and easy to receive as possible.
It might even cause joy when it is read.

The more you do this, the more people will enjoy receiving your communications. You will be spreading joy and peacefulness as much as possible – and remember, ‘world peace through laughter’ is one of the 3 main aims of laughter yoga.

Email joy as much as you can?

Joy Conference

#laughteryogawithjoe

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7 days of Laughter Yoga – day 2: Don’t worry – laugh

We all worry?

The homilies like ‘Don’t worry, be happy’ are great aspirations but don’t tell us how.

One simple tip is to laugh.

‘The Best Medicine is an award-winning short documentary – link below

As ever, there is a knack to this but, put simply, just laugh! ‘Just laugh’ means to laugh intentionally. Do this, willingly, on each outbreath for at least 3 consecutive outbreaths. Follow this with another 3.
Various things follow from this:
1. you will immediately start to feel better because you are making a positive choice in your life.
2. you will start to oxygenate your system and so feel more energised
3. the endorphin effect means you will start to change the hormone levels in your blood from ‘stress’ to ‘relaxation’

The Dalai Lama said: “If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.”

I use this technique today. I woke in the morning and my brain started to go into worrydrive. After letting ideas & thoughts roll around for a bit too long, I realised I was entering my ‘worry’ zone. I had crossed the threshold between fixing the situation and worrying about ‘what if?’, so I started to laugh intentionally. I immediately started to feel better. I felt calmer and better able to prioritise my next steps. This also meant I felt more optimistic about my intended actions, approached them in better heart, and noticed subsequently that they were well focused and effective.

All this came about simply by ‘just laughing’ / laughing intentionally.

This technique is an easily learnable one and one of the simplest and fastest ways of reducing stress.
With more practice, it will even help you access your own joy.

So, breathe in, and as you breathe out, have good-natured chuckle.

#laughteryogawithjoe

Bristol Laughter Club

Joy Conference

‘The Best Medicine’

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7 days of laughter yoga – day 1: SMILE MORE

 

What did I learn from laughter yoga today?
1) That the importance of connection is becoming better appreciated.
2) that I wasn’t smiling enough while washing my dishes this morning

SMILE MORE!

The surprising benefits of talking to strangers  – this article in the BBC is a reminder of the power of the smile. The whole article is excellent, reminding us we are social beings, and in particualr it reminded me to encourage more smiling.

There is something joyful in a warm, genuine smile, and we usually appreciate receiving one. So why not give yours away as often as possible.
(These photos come from a #laughteryogawithjoe workshop: practicing smiling)

 

 

 

Another reminder in the BBC article is ‘…… most seem happy to talk if you reach out with good intentions.’ A smile can be an excellent way of reaching out with good intentions.

So my reminder/learning for the day: keep smiling.

#laughteryogawithjoe

Bristol Laughter Club

Joy Conference, Bristol, 26th October

 

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What’s Joy got to do with it?

 

Joy: a sense of elation and ‘deep abiding’, a much deeper experience than happiness.
Is this important to you?
How can you activate yours?
How can you maintain it?

Joy energises our life and gives us a sense of purpose. It is important for its own sake but also because it activates qualities like acceptance, peace and connection, as well as resilience and presence of mind.
It has the potential to give us ‘lasting happiness in a changing world’.

In Integrative Medicine, joy is a recognised promoter of health and wellbeing.
Psychology shows how it contributes to our mental health.
In cancer care it is recognised as life-affirming.
In business, it is valued for its resilience and mindfulness qualities.

In brief, joy is recognised as an important contributor to a healthy, happy and fufilled life.
(‘The Joy Conference‘, Bristol 26th October, combines all these threads, and more.)

Laughter yoga can activate joy. It can be used to focus on joyfulness, and an excellent way to achieve this is to practice celebrating, especially celebrating being alive. The sense of elation and aliveness that accompanies this celebration automatically activates our sense of joy.

Simple celebration steps include smiling and laughter.
The practice of smiling is now a well recognised method of improving our mood. There have been many studies that demonstrate this beyond all doubt, including those done by Professor Frach and associates in 1988 with the pencil in the teeth study.
So, step 1 is to practice smiling more.

Self-initiated laughter is another good step. Children constantly laugh like this, just because. Adults can learn how to to do this again, particularly when using laughter as yoga. Although laughter yoga can be a group activity (which taps into the contagiousness of laughter), it is also a solo activity – laughing, just because. When we use this yogic approach, we learn to experience all the benefits of laughter whenever we choose.

A third step is to experience how we embody this.
The studies into body-mind communication show how we can alter our mood and mindset through embodiment and posture. We can celebrate more by adopting a celebrating posture.

The combined effect of these simple steps includes activating our joyfulness and bringing all its benefits into our life.

Further information

The Joy Conference 26th October, Bristol.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is more information about Laughter yoga 

 

 

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Laughter yoga and moving mindfulness – joy in the present moment

 

Laughter yoga overlaps with mindfulness.
It also overlaps with embodiment.
Movement and embodiment are natural partners.
Together, they create a joy-filled combination for present-moment awareness.

 

 

 

Laughter practices can bring our attention instantly into the ‘Now’.
When we are laughing heartily, time shrinks or expands (take your pick), so that the only thing we are aware of is the present moment.

Therefore when used in this way, laughter practices are an excellent route into mindful awareness.

Movement and embodied awareness have the potential immediatly to end overthinking. When these are approached with inner awareness, and therefore the movement & sense of embodiment  come from within, attention immediately moves away from our thoughts. Our attention doesn’t just move into our body but it also moves into the present moment.
This is a different experience from merely being aware of our thoughts.

Another insight from laughter (and other psychological) practices is the effect of the smile. It has been established many times how the effect of a smile lifts our mood. It is a natural stress-buster and mood-lifter. It is the sister to the William James observation ‘We don’t laugh because we’re happy, we’re happy because we laugh’.

When we explore smiling practices, and in particular the feel of the inner smile, and combine this with embodiment and present-moment awareness, our ‘Now’ immediately feels different. Although the ‘Now’ is inherently joyful, when we add in smiling and laughter practices their combined effect enhances present-moment awareness surprisingly vividly.
With practice, these three aspects support each other like a three-legged stool.

One delightful aspect of this is that it doesn’t require an additional time commitment. We don’t have to sit for 20 minutes, three times a day, seven days a week, and learn a new practice.
All we need to is become aware, and add smiling, laughter and embodiment practices into how we already live our life.

Practice makes perfect.

It also makes joyful.

Information on the next session is here

Would you like the Move / Breathe / Smile video?
Email me joe @ joehoare . co . uk for your free copy

For more information, please visit www.joehoare.co.uk

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Does joy have practical benefits? Is laughter yoga relevant?

 

The short answer to both questions is, of course: yes.

The effects of joy and joyfulness include helping us live a healthier, happier, more engaged and more productive life. They are an antidote to the modern epidemics of anxiety, depression, isolation or disconnection.

The science behind this gets stronger every day. “Humans do seem to be genuinely unified by laughter.” says Professor Sophie Scott of University College London.

We probably need no other reason for laughter yoga than this sense of connecting with fellow humans in a warm, peace-inducing, good-natured way.

However, the benefits continue.

“Laughter……. spurs not only creativity and collaboration but also analytic precision and productivity.”says Harvard Business School professor Alison Wood Brooks. These psychological benefits have been documented in positive psychology studies for some time (in ‘Authentic Happiness’, by Dr Martin Seligman, for instance), so the factual basis for more laughter in our life is solid.

How can we achieve this?

As part of the wellness and mindfulness waves that are, happily, spreading inexorably through modern life, there is a special role for laughter yoga.
Laughter yoga treats laughter as a yoga because, as is increasingly well known, the benefits come from the act of laughter itself, not through jokes or humour or funny. A happy spin-off happens to be that life becomes funnier and more humourous but the intention is to access all the benefits from the act of laughter itself – for the reasons covered in the articles below.

Laughter yoga is an adaptable activity. It works as effectively in teams & conferences as in classes, or on your own. It works seated or standing, for all ages and cultures. It can be used in any and all circumstances.

As there are so many benefits from laughter yoga, isn’t it time to explore its potential in your own life?
Learn more here:

Courses

Conferences / teams

Online

CNN – The science behind laughter yoga

The benefits of laughter in the office

Do you want the free 7-minute Relax/Breathe/Smile/Feel meditation?
Contact me joe @ joehoare.co.uk with ‘Meditation please’ in the subject line

 

 

 

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‘Feeling alive’ with laughter yoga and moving mindfulness

 

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. … I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive…….so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” Joseph Campbell.

How do laughter yoga and moving mindfulness help us feel alive?

One of the many effects of laughter yoga is to alter time, to expand the ‘Now’.

When we laugh heartily, time disintegrates and the present moment expands. We become wholly involved in the moment, in the act of laughter itself. All our attention is engaged in this almost overwhelming activity and we enter an altered state of consciousness – the ‘Now’.

When we live in the ‘Now’ as opposed to in the past or the future, we enter a state that is timeless and inherently joyful.
When our attention and awareness are focused in the current moment rather than in our thoughts, memories and anxieties, we find the ‘Now’ is expansive and liberating state of being, and this can affect us profoundly.

‘I must agree that the session for the “Wild And Well” weekend was one of the best out of the whole course.
It made myself and my colleague so very happy for the whole day, and a for quite while afterwards…….Who would have thought such love, energy and happiness could come from one hour.’

Over the years I have found that mindful movement and embodiment can rapidly precipitate this.

I have found the simple formula of moving, breathing and smiling, when adjusted appropriately, works with every group in every situation. It has worked with ‘grieving’ groups, with special needs children, and with hospice volunteers. When this approach is suitably framed, it allows and encourages effortless, good-natured, appropriate light-heartedness & playfulness. This always manifests as joyful, natural, genuine, spontaneous laughter.

When this form of laughter yoga is combined with mindful movement and aware, conscious embodiment, our ‘Now’ expands in what is sometimes an intensely ‘alive’ experience.

‘That hour session was honestly one of the most uplifting things i have ever experienced.’

This hybrid approach uses the best of mindfulness and the best of laughter yoga. It works because they reinforce each other. It is the combination of the ‘lightness’ of laughter yoga with the ‘awareness’ of mindfulness that produces this experience of being intensely and joyfully alive.

One quality about this practice is its simplicity. Jon Kabat-Zinn described mindfulness as ‘simple but not easy’.
This combination of laughter yoga and mindful movement is simple. It is best done in the easiest and simplest way you can. There is nothing to learn.

You simply start consciously moving, breathing and smiling, and feeling how this affects you.

The benefits start immediately.

The more you do this, the more you build muscle memory and, through neuro-plasticity, wire this into your consciousness.

The more you practice, the longer the benefits last.

I hope you develop and enjoy your own practice.

Upcoming course, 1st December, Bristol (UK)

Online course

General information

 

 

 

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Laughter yoga daily practice: why doesn’t it always work?

 

A core laughter practice is intentional, self-initiated laughter. In laughter yoga this is called ‘laughing for no reason’.

Peering behind the language, it is laughing for the sake of laughing. It is a proactive, intentional yogic activity, to access the many benefits that laughter delivers.
This can be a group practice as well as an individual one. The resuts can be profound and life-changing.

Sometimes, though, they change almost nothing, even after years of practice. Why might this be?

(Spoiler alert: it is called ‘Benefit Finding’)

Many of us in the ‘laughter’ community will have had experiences of people’s lives being improved through laughter practices. Sometimes there is an almost immediate result as relief and joy break free. Sometimes it is like the bursting of a dam of seriousness and stress, and when people access this inner quality, they change permanently and instantly.

Sometimes, though, in site of years of practice, this does not happen. Again, many of us probably know people who are able to laugh and laugh without any benefit beyond the immediate physical health boost.

In one particular instance, a long-time practitioner asked me why they could laugh happily for a long time in a laughter session, and yet 30 minutes later be habitually gloomy.

Why indeed?

One short answer is that this is a good reminder that no practice is a magic bullet. Nothing always works every time for everyone.

A further answer is perhaps that psychologically we need to be ready for change. When we are, even if consciously we don’t know we are, even a small intervention can produce big changes.When we are not, nothing will produce changes.

‘Benefit Finding’ is as it says, looking to find the benefits from situations, including or maybe especially, ‘uncomfortable’ ones. Although the array of world-wide laughter practices gives us excellent tools to improve our life, until we are ready to move into a more expansive life, the benefits from these practices will be limited.
‘Moving into a more expansive life’ might involve dealing with uncomfortable feelings. Often we shy away from uncomfortable feelings, and in this case, not even laughter practices will make a difference. We might need additional resources.

So although psychology, science, medicine and spirituality all underpin the potential benefits from laughter practices, until we are prepared for ‘Benefit Finding’, their impact will be as much or as little as we allow – and this might be very little.

As practitioners, the reminder is that our role is to deliver competent, appropriate interventions. Their impact ultimately lies with the recipient. We need to be ready to make other suggestions, or maybe just offer support.

The one thing we cannot guarantee is that laughter practices will ‘work’.

Al we can do is our best, always.

www.joehoare.co.uk 

‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’

 

 

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Why does laughter yoga matter?

 

Laughter yoga – laughter as yoga – what’s the big deal?

Possibly it is the biggest deal.

So much human life is characterised by over-seriousness and over-thinking. We have probably all experienced both, regularly. Possibly we still do?

Does it serve us? What goes better in our life when we are over-serious and/or over-think? If it doesn’t serve us, and we recognise it doesn’t serve us, how can we stop? How can we learn not to be over-serious and not to over-think?

 

The answer is practice – practicing not being over-serious and not over-thinking. It is only a question of practicing enough so we learn new reflexes.

Only.

Psychology, medicine, science all show how our quality of life improves when we reverse this trend.

Our own personal experience affirms this. We know this. Every time I ask people how they feel after smiling and laughing, the answer is always: ‘better’.

(…… and I’ve been using my smiling techniques – so on way to (the railway station on Sun evening to get train, the road was closed just outside the station – no idea how to get round to station. But did I fret? No, I smiled (well to be absolutely honest I did fret first, until I remembered to smile!…..)

I experience this myself. I am aware how the practice of self-initiated smiling and/or laughing (ie without jokes, humour or any external stimulus) calms me down and also has the immediate effect of reversing over-seriousness and over-thinking. It helps me deal better (ie more effectively) with stresses, anxieties, irritations. It helps me communicate better (more effectively, peacefully, with greater compassion and understanding) both in person and through social media.

It helps me connect better with myself and with others.

Self-initiated smiling and laughing are core practices in laughter yoga.

We smile – just because.

We laugh – just because.

(Photo with Dr Madan Kataria, founder of laughter yoga, and Madhuri Kataria)

When we do these as a yoga, ie to energise our life on every level, they reframe our life. When we do these as a conscious choice – ‘In this moment I consciously choose to improve my life experience’ – it is empowering and life-affirming in ways that can surprise us. This act of choosing takes us to the core human experience: ‘the freedom to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances’ (Victor Frankl)

When we use laughter yoga self-initiated smiling and laughing, we get multiple benefits. Our decision/choice to do these is instantly life-affirming in this Victor Frankl way. This in itself makes us feel better. Additionally, there are the many measured biological and biochemical and neurological benefits. These can make us feel better. Additionally, we immeditately start to connect better. We can create a virtuous circle of choosing to feel better, which makes us feel better, which helps us connect better, which then makes us feel better because we are feeling better and starting to get better feedback from others, and so on.

All this can be triggered by simple laughter yoga smiling and laughing exercises which are fun to do, easy to learn, and can be done on your own. They are at the heart of  the #laughteryogawithJoe experience.

Just keep practicing.

How can you to learn to? Get the free 2-minute video (email me joe @ joehoare.co.uk)
(Do share this blog if you find it helpful.)

Additionally, you can:

Learn online

Learn in person.

Learn at a conference

For more general information, visit www.joehoare.co.uk

 

 

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Social media driving you mad? How laughter yoga helps.

 

Do you sometimes find social media is a chaos-theory series of infinite rabbit holes? With distractions that spin off from distractions? Full of people being ‘wrong’?

Do you find sometimes you get sucked in?

Write hasty and ill-advised comments?

Lose your focus?

Do you want to change all this?

I have learnt to use my laughter yoga (almost!) all the time on social media and email.

Here’s how.

While laughter yoga is often viewed as a ‘Marigold Hotel’ slightly zany group activity – not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course – it can also be adapted into individual, pragmatic day-to-day working practices.

The key is figuring out how to turn group ‘laughter exercise’ activities into personal practices for computer work.

  • First, laughter does not have to be out loud. We can laugh silently, on the inside.
    With practice, it becomes something we feel. It has the capacity to lighten our mood. When we develop our awareness sufficiently that we realise we are getting distracted, losing our focus, getting fired up, we can use silent, internalised, invisible laughter to help us refocus and calm down.
    Why not do it now?
    Do a silent, invisible laugh now and see how you feel? Does it change your mood at all? Do you feel more present? Notice whatever you’re feeling.
    The more often we take the time to notice being present, the easier it becomes – even and especially on social media.
  • Smile.
    With practice, smiling triggers this same change in mindset.
    Smiling while writing helps prevent over-seriousness and over-thinking. Smiling exercises are core laughter yoga exercises and over time, help us re-wire our brains so we naturally and genuinely smile more.

    The relevance here is to remember to do this when at your computer. The smile can be gentle and almost imperceptible, a slight upward-turn at the corners of your mouth, a slight crinkling around your eyes, a slight lifting of your eyebrows. Fortunately, your brain recognises all these signals and responds accordingly, with among other things, a lifting of your mood.
    As before, why not do it now and observe any differences you experience?
  • Embodiment.
    Remember to be embodied. Moving deliberately and consciously aids embodiment, and transforms social media and computer time.
    How can we feel our embodiment while at our computer?
    Stretch. Any stretch will do. Just do it.
    Feel. Feel your feet, feel your ‘seat’. The practice is to be aware of these areas while on your computer. Wriggle your toes, move slightly on your chair, enough to be aware of sensations here – and notice any change in mindset.
  • Breathe.
    Remember to breathe. We are all likely to have heard this adage many times before.
    It is easy and sadly common for our breathing to become shallow, especially when at the computer. Remembering to take deep breaths, and from the belly, helps us refocus, break free from distraction and alleviate any over-thinking tendencies.
    It can also help calm us which is sometimes important?
    ‘Dance like no one is watching; email like it may one day be read aloud in a deposition’
    We all need to remember this sometimes?

The goal is to embed these practices into out psyche so that we start to use them unconsciously.

Here are some suggestions from my own practice:

  • Practice smiling continuously when composing an email.
  • Make a point of smiling and being aware of the soles of your feet while scrolling through your newsfeed.
  • Remember to smile and breathe deeply when receiving notifications.
  • Practice silent invisible laughter when replying to comments.
  • Mix and match these.

Contact me if you’d like a one-to-one to embed these techniques yourself if you want to use social media more effectively and productively.

[ As a core present-moment practice, I have a 2-minute Move / Breathe / Smile video.
Email me ( joe @ joehoare . co . uk) if you’d like a copy? ]

PS Remember to sign up if you’d like these blogs direct to your inbox?

[Learn more at www.joehoare.co.uk  ]

 

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