Category Archives: depression

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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Viktor Frankl, death camps and laughter yoga – what’s the connection?

 

Between stimulus and response there is a space,” wrote psychiatrist and neurologist Viktor Frankl in his unforgettable memoir of his life in a Nazi death camp, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’. “In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” (Parabola magazine, April 2017)

Viktor Frankl discovered a profound place of inner freedom through his prison camp experiences. He discovered his power of choice, his power to choose how to respond to any given set of circumstances. For this reason he became a beacon and inspiration to others, both at the time and subsequently.

Yoga is about choice, choosing to undertake practices to promote reconnection, happiness, wellbeing and more. The more advanced we become with our yogic practice (whatever mode of yoga we practise), the more we recognise we need to practise it most at those times we least feel like it – because it is when we least feel like affirming life that we most need to.
This is how we develop our personal growth and inner freedom.

Laughter yoga is about choice, personal growth and inner freedom.

Although laughter yoga is based on laughter practices, when it is pursued more as a yoga practice than a laughing practice, it specifically & consciously develops our inner world. It promotes choice, personal growth and inner freedom.

Between stimulus and response there is a space,”……. Laughter yoga chooses to fill that space in a life-affirming way. This is what connects the threads in the title.

The more you develop your own laughter yoga, the more you use a daily laughter practice, the more diligently you apply yourself to this wellbeing and reconnection discipline, the more you find that you can laugh ‘inside’ as much as ‘outside’.
You don’t need to laugh out loud to be practising your laughter yoga.

I visited my dentist recently. During my treatment I laughed loudly – on the inside.
In this tiny way, I chose to fill my space between stimulus and response (how do you generally ‘respond’ to dental treatment?) with endorphin-releasing life-affirming silent laughter yoga.

When we choose to develop our ‘growth and freedom’ we can apply it everyday. At the very least, we can use it as an antidote to the modern epidemics of stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness and more.

The more we practise, the more readily its benefits will be available to us should we ever be unfortunate enough to need them in dire and extreme circumstances.

As ever, it’s practice, practice, practice. Let’s be wise and not wait till we have a life-threatening situation before we start.

Let’s choose to start now?

Viktor Frankl

Parabola magazine

Awakening the Laughing Buddha within

www.joehoare.co.uk

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Laughter yoga: how playful movement heals

 

Movement heals – the body can heal the mind.
Laughter yoga is playful.
Playful movement can break old patterns.
Laughter yoga can break old patterns.

At least once on every course there is a instance where an embodiment, movement, dance and/or physical playfulness exercise ‘breaks’ a mindset and helps someone free themselves from an old pattern.

Every time, this exercise is spontaneous, ‘in the moment’, done specifically for that particular person, with the whole group taking part and therefore supporting this liberation process. Magic happens and there are usually tears – tears of relief, of alchemy, of frustration transformed into freedom.

This light-heartedness is liberating.

[bctt tweet=”True spirituality means not taking ourselves too seriously: Deepak Chopra” username=”@joehoare”]

In a recent example, someone was terrorised by their rigid high standards. They had to do a presentation and were beating themselves up about it not being ‘good enough’, even though they had been given specific permission to experiment and allow their exercise to flow in its own easy natural way. They were furious and frustrated with themselves – so I got them to start ‘walking’ how they felt. We all joined in. We all trudged along with them (supportively). With minimal encouragement they then started shrugging it off (so we did too). We all ended up gambolling like spring lambs, and the self-rage and frustration had gone.

‘The dance you are talking about was absolutely great. It gave me a chance to express the emotion and got it out of my system. It was incredibly helpful. It also gave me the idea of doing this during (my own) walk-and-talk sessions as it is very cathartic.’

So not only was it helpful for them individually (and therefore for all of us too), but she is going to pass it down the line in her own work.

What can we learn from this? Various threads that stand out to me include;

  • be playful – be physically playful, whether you use laughter yoga or not
  • be spontaneous – learn to trust yourself to follow your instincts ‘in the moment’
  • in a ‘first do no harm way’, take risks. In the case above, I had no idea what would happen, I just knew playful movement would help.
  • allow emotion. Don’t be afraid of emotion, just remember to encourage everyone to breathe & relax.

What are your experiences?

Courses to learn laughter yoga

Webinars to develop exercises spontaneously

A 2-minute video compilation

The book ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’:
paperback
kindle

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Why laughter yoga is good for your mental health

 

‘I feel better’

This is the most common reply I get to the question ‘how do you feel when you laugh?’, and the reason is because there’s magic in laughter.
When we laugh in an open and good-natured way, we are experiencing a moment of joy, of present-moment awareness, and quite possibly exuberance. In such a moment, we are enjoying our life, so we feel better.

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This experience is the antidote to stress, anxiety, worry and worse. Psychologically, it builds our resilience because feeling good is an empowering experience. ‘Feeling better’ feeds our resourcefulness and helps us deal better with life’s challenges. It improves our mental health, and gives us a more positive and optimistic outlook.

[bctt tweet=”Be optimistic. It feels better. The Dalai Lama” username=”@joehoare”]

Fortunately, optimism is a quality we can all develop. Psychologically, we need to go through a process where we challenge our non-optimistic thoughts and feelings, and based on our own experience, replace them with more realistic and accurate ones. This is proven current psychological practice and at the heart of several approaches to improving mental health.

Laughter yoga helps these processes. There is a simple laughter yoga exercise which involves smiling. In this exercise, you smile a genuine and good-natured smile for 10-15 seconds, ideally at yourself in a mirror. Doing this usually requires a psychological shift because to keep your smile genuine (ie not false and insincere), you have to you take control of your mood and put it into a good-natured state. This is brain-training, and can be transformative.

‘What I have learnt …… is being able, at any moment, to choose to enter the state of having a genuine warm smile and that this has a transformative effect on me.  It is as if I have found the last piece of a jigsaw, which holds everything together, a magic key which enables me to access, without effort, those qualities that I have been ‘working’ towards.’

Laughter yoga is often thought of as a group activity, and it usually is. However, as with almost every other practice, it is one that can be on your own too. Learning to keep the practices going when on your own allows the benefits to deepen and grow.

‘On the first day I woke up with a headache with general cold symptoms and was reluctant to start. Even though I felt ridiculous, I still smiled and by the end was genuinely laughing; it was a great start to the day ……. It’s amazing how such a simple task can have a positive effect on your day.  By the end of the week I did feel slightly happier and found that any task I was going to do post exercise became easier.’

So, even on our own we can use laughter yoga to improve our mental health.

However, laughter yoga is also a group activity. When we do our laughter yoga in a group, it builds connection. One of Dr Kataria’s great insights at the outset of laughter yoga was that when we connect with someone else while doing laughter yoga, we become more playful and spontaneous and therefore even more good-natured.

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Connection is an antidote to loneliness. Because loneliness is a major contributor to mental ill-health, the group activities of laughter yoga also help promote mental good health.

But there is much more to laughter yoga than just the psychological aspect. Laughter yoga is a mind-body / body-mind activity. It also uses physical activity and exercises to energise us, and to help us engage with our innate playfulness. The mind-body / body-mind quality helps activate the biochemical changes on several levels simultaneously, and these changes have been shown to have benefits that can last up to 24 hours. All we need do is keep topping up the benefits.

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I myself have used laughter yoga smiling exercises for years. I use them at the start of my day, every day. The most straight-forward benefit I have noticed is that morning grumpiness has been banished. I do the exercise until I feel my mood access a good-natured state of mind, and I feel that experience through my whole body. I do this exercise particularly when tired, sleep-deprived, ‘rough’ or under pressure because exactly as one my clients commented, I too have ‘found that any task I was going to do post exercise became easier.’

Here is the exercise I do and recommend:

  1. As early as possible in your day, smile warmly and genuinely for at least 10-15 seconds. (This takes a small amount of focus and persistence.)
  2. Even better is to do this exercise in a mirror so you’re smiling at yourself. If you find this too difficult at first, just do the simple smiling. It’s the 10-15 second aspect that’s important.
  3. At the end of your day, repeat this exercise.
  4. Before going to sleep, write down 3 things you’ve appreciated and/or been grateful for today.
  5. During the week, please be on the lookout for signs that life might be going better. These signs can be easy to miss: an unexpected feeling of comfort; feeling more relaxed in a previously stressful situation; some enjoyment; thinking differently. However small, keep alert for these indicators that life is going better, and write them down.

I hope this simple laughter yoga exercise has the same benefit on your mental health as it has on mine and thousands of others.

Please ask if you have any questions.

www.joehoare.co.uk

 

 

 

 

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‘Help! I’m feeling overwhelmed’ – insights from Laughter yoga

 

Laughter yoga is not some quirky insubstantial time-filling activity. Laughter yoga helps real people with real life. The insights in nls: natural laughter skills provide a robust practical framework for navigating us through a crisis.

Winston Churchill commented ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going’.
To help do this, here are 7 core nls: natural laughter skills steps.

  1. just hang in there
  2. keep breathing
  3. set tiny wellness targets (‘for the next 5 minutes I’ll relax, breathe & smile’)
  4. within yourself, allow the possibility of change (‘resistance is futile’ … and it has the potential to turn pain into suffering?)
  5. Make a point for 5 minutes at a time, once or thrice a day, appreciating really ‘tiny’ normally insignificant things – fingernails, the fact that bones mend, the texture of your skin, the colour of your walls etc)
  6. Remember that with all you know and all you already do, clarity is on its way. You just have a bit of turbulence to get through
  7. The universe never puts more on our plate than we can handle

This framework is even more effective when these steps are done with a smile. The act of intentional willing smiling relaxes our psyche and opens us to the possibility of change. With practice, the act of intentional willing smiling generates a palpable internal sensation, a warmth, softening and gentleness we can feel. This quality

  • makes it easier to endure the painful moment
  • reduces inner resistance
  • and facilitates inner change.

All that you need do with this intentional willing smiling practice is keep practicing, as in ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’.
As John F Kennedy remarked ‘The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining’, and the more we integrate this smiling practice into our daily life, the better we are able to deal with life’s inevitable turbulence. We are developing our resilience, and using as many of our own resources as possible – physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual.

Do these steps really help?
Here is a recent comment ‘I feel anyone going through change and feeling overwhelmed will benefit from the wisdom of these words. I read them every day and they ground and encourage me, as well as reassuring me that I am doing enough.’

Just keep practicing your intentional willing smiling.

www,joehoare.co.uk

next workshop ‘Joy. More Joy

next webinar – ‘add mindfulness to your laughter yoga’

next course ‘Laughter Facilitation Skills’

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Walk and smile. Smile and walk (happiness tips, vol2, #2)

 

Walk and smile. Smile and walk.

In his sadly brief life, Kierkegaard said ‘Above all, do not lose your desire to walk’.
(His full quote is below)

I like to walk and smile. In fact I have a mantra: ‘Walk, Breathe, Smile’.

Three significant factors that the increasing amount of research into lifelong brain health (and ageing better) shows is first, how we can keep learning all our lives, and secondly, how we can learn new practices by repetition, how hugely we all benefit from walking.

The power and effectiveness of smiling comes up time and again. Almost any set of happier living tips nowadays includes smiling because it is such an easy and immediate way of improving our mood. What is not always appreciated or mentioned is that we can use smiling as a practice.

We can all learn to smile more. We can teach ourselves.
There are enormous benefits from walking more. If we are motivated enough to walk, we can introduce the smiling practice too. They are great practices to combine.

I’ve written about smiling practices in previous blogs. Basically, you soften your facial muscles (which incidentally makes you much more attractive and produces instant beautification).
As you deepen your own practice, be alert for the feeling of the smile. Move your awareness away from your eyes, mouth and face and focus instead on the inner quality of your smile. Focus in your chest and heart.
Feel.

Time and again I take clients through this awareness process so they become aware of the vibrational quality of their smile. They become aware this emits a welcoming quality.
In trainings and workshops, it is fun and revealing how easily we pick up on invisible signals. We all sense mood more readily than we sometimes realise.

Walking is an excellent opportunity to practice this. Walking, and especially connecting with nature, is a general feelgood activity in its own right and experience has shown me repeatedly that it can be very easy to add a smiling practice into it.

Among other things, it makes the walk even more enjoyable. This combination adds to Kierkegaard’s list of benefits.

‘Walk, Breathe, Smile’.
I hope you’ve fund this interesting and/or helpful. If so, I very much appreciate all shares.
Thank you.

Also, all comments are welcome.

To take your own journey further in conference / team / workshop / one-to-one sessions, and /or for more information, please visit
www.joehoare.co.uk

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Laughter Yoga: time to start laughing with, not at?

 

There was a time not long ago when a client of mine was appalled at the possibility of yoga being taught as a stress management technique.

How times have changed.

Nowadays everyone knows about it, lots of us have tried it, and some of us use it regularly. The benefits from its breathing and stretching are so well established that it has moved from being sneered at to being welcomed.

Is this now the case with laughter yoga / yogic laughter?

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As we move into an era where personal, professional and environmental wellbeing are recognized as both essential & intertwined, the answer looks increasingly ‘yes’.

As with mindfulness, the benefits of yogic laughter include enhanced wellbeing (‘happiness’), reduction in stress, anxiety and depression, and improved resilience.
These benefits are also attainable through positive psychology and the likes of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and as research is starting to show, through yogic laughter practices as well.

Even the Pentagon has had happiness seminars.

These benefits impact our professional life as well as our personal life. Evidence is accumulating fast to show how we think more clearly, more creatively and for longer when we are in a positive mood.
Yogic laughter practices create this positive mood instantaneously.

The environmental aspect is becoming appreciated because in this arena too, health-inducing inner practices contribute to practical effectiveness. Leading figures and pioneers like Satish Kumar of Resurgence and Sir Julian Rose of the Soil Association use these practices.

What does yogic laughter offer?

Key yogic laughter practices include:

  • Willingness: being prepared to explore a practice for its benefits, even if the practice initially feels unusual
  • The smile: both smiling and laughing change brain chemistry and improve mood & effectiveness
  • The power of the mind: using the power of memory and anticipation for these same benefits
  • Movement and posture: we change our mind by changing our posture and how we move.

As with mindfulness, yogic laughter practices can require only a little time, they are simple if not easy, and are learnable.

If happiness and good mood are recognized as valuable across a spectrum as wide as Oprah, Google and the Pentagon, I’d say we’re getting there.

Time to laugh with, not at?

Resources include:
Learning yogic laughter practices

Wake Up Laughing’ in Resurgence & Ecologist magazine

Happiness at work – Shawn Achor

General information

Yogic laughter in action (video)

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What’s your next step? ‘Be the question’

In a quandry? At a crossroads?

Frustrated, dissatisfied, stressed, suffering, angsty, antsy?

Solution: get out of your own way, you know exactly what to do.

Last weekend I spent a fair bit of time helping people realise they know exactly what to do next in their life. Time after time, we’d chat for 3 or 4 minutes and then it became clear, crystal clear, what their next step was. The only ‘problem’ was them being in their own way – and once they saw this, they had their ‘A-ha’ moment and with a bit of help saw exactly what to do next, and how.

It’s a different step for everyone, but we always know. Always.

  • Sometimes it’s asking ourselves the right question.
  • Sometimes it’s accessing body wisdom.
  • Sometimes it’s shedding our ‘story’.
  • Sometimes it’s starting a new practice.

It always involves change & growing through resistance, and yet we always know it’s right because our knowing side, our still small voice of calm, just knows.

The knack is getting out of our own way – through breakdown, addiction, meditation practice etc – and using outside help.

This ‘help’ comes in many forms, for as Wayne Dyer said beautifully:
‘We’re all just walking each other home’.

So this ‘help’ can just as easily be a dog or tree or a child, it’s not necessarily adult or ‘professional’.

Ask, in the sense of ‘be your question’, and your helper and your solution present themselves. Always. Without fail.

This is the most empowering and solution-focused mindset we can have. I’ve seen it get people into their new groove time after time.

We know. We always know.
Be your question and ask for help.
Ask me, if you like.
But just ask.

www.joehoare.co.uk

‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’

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7 tips for more happiness: the smiling mindset

It’s all in the smile

Whenever possible, whatever you’re doing, do it with a smile. This simple-but-not-easy practice is the antidote to over-seriousness. Who needs over-seriousness? It is not only a joy-killer, it hampers our communication, how we connect with others and limits our effectiveness. It tends to creep up on us, and makes us stressed, anxious and even depressed. If nothing else, over-seriousness limits our enjoyment, whether at work, home and in life.
Besides Eeyores, who consciously chooses not to enjoy their life?

Why smile more?

When we develop a smiling mindset, we enjoy life more. We find more enjoyment everywhere – at our desk, at our computer, with colleagues, while travelling, even in meetings. This simple benefit that we enjoy life more is good enough reason for many people to develop their smiling mindset and smile more.

In this vein, beware of Botox! When we limit our facial expressiveness with anti-wrinkle treatments, we might also be limiting our happiness.
Smiling improves our mood, eases our stress, and makes us happier. It is also good for our health as it tends to lower our blood pressure. We think, focus and concentrate better. The list of benefits goes on and on.

‘On the first day I woke up with a headache with general cold symptoms and was reluctant to start. Even though I felt ridiculous, I still smiled and by the end was genuinely laughing; it was a great start to the day and I actually made it to my lecture. It’s amazing how such a simple task can have a positive effect on your day. By the end of the week I did feel slightly happier and found that any task I was going to do post exercise became easier. I was able to write up lecture notes quicker and found it helped clear my mind and thus, improved my cognitive ability.’

The smiling mindset – smile with your eyes

While it is true that smiling is contagious, so are good vibes. The smiling mindset is an attitude and it can be learnt. More importantly, it can be felt, and so it flows naturally into a mood and energetic communication. The key to this attitude is to soften the muscles around our eyes (orbicularis occuli), the muscles that we use in a genuine (‘Duchenne’) smile. When we relax these muscles our whole face softens, we promote facial expressiveness and so communicate more authentically, and we naturally & genuinely build positive emotions in ourselves and others.

It is a simple yet profound practice, like mindfulness. It is a natural antidote to stress, anxiety and more, also like mindfulness. It is also inherently enjoyable.

Activate yours

You can activate yours while sitting, running, walking, driving, waiting – wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. Use the power of your mind. Think ‘smile’ to yourself. Loosen up your body, and send it ‘relax’ messages. Start to move and swing your arms. Get up and stretch. Be as physical as you can. The saying from Dr Kataria and laughter yoga is ‘motion creates emotion’ so use all the resources available to you, and this includes your body.

While doing all this, smile. In particular, feel the quality of your smile from the inside out, your inner smile. Keep your face soft. Twinkle. Allow any feelings of good-natured enjoyment to arise, and welcome them. Allow all feelings to arise, be aware/mindful of them and welcome them – just keep the inner smile attitude going.

Make this a daily practice. Do it several times a day. Do it as often as possible. Keep practicing, diligently. This can change your life.

Smile:)

www.joehoare.co.uk

 

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7 tips for more happiness, tip 8: don’t try to laugh

Never, ever, try to do something. Either do it, or don’t.

If you want to be happier, be happier.
If you want to use laughter, use it.

How do you laugh more? You breathe in, hold your breath for a second, and breathe out willingly with a good-natured chuckle.
It’s not about a loud laugh, nor a big one, just a willing one.
Do it now?
There, you’ve just laughed.

Note how you feel. Be alert for any changes in your feelings, mood and overall consciousness. Repeat this process three more times so that for four consecutive exhales you’ve chuckled, willingly. This is a basic nls: natural laughter skills practice.

‘I’ve managed to do the exercises every morning (apart from today) since the class! I’ve found that each day after I do them my mood definitely improves and I tend to have a better day because of it. I think it gives me a more positive view of the day and makes me wake up a bit before I go to lectures etc……..My mood and energy levels have definitely improved each time I’ve done the exercises, and my resilience has also improved.’

This simple practice changes lives. When we separate our laughter from jokes & humour & funny and just laugh as a practice, like breathing or stretching (eg yoga) as a practice, we start to liberate our consciousness from a culturally conditioned prison, as well as improving basic qualities like mood, energy and resilience.

This liberation is always an uplifting experience, and always induces happiness.

Among other things, the process being activated by this practice is freeing our awareness from the bullying domineering and often nagging voice in our head.
‘Don’t believe everything you think’ is advice which comes from many cultures. This nls: natural laughter skills practice gives you an effective tool.
It changes lives.
It inspires, encourages and motivates.
It energises and builds resilience.
It helps overcome stress and ease depression.
It helps you think more clearly, and for longer.

As a one-minute morning practice, it sets your day up well like a Louise Hay style affirmation. When you combine it with an inner smile practice, you have a quick, simple and extraordinarily effective way of getting on top of your life in a continuosly improving way.

‘On the first day I woke up with a headache with general cold symptoms and was reluctant to start. Even though I felt ridiculous, I still smiled and by the end was genuinely laughing; it was a great start to the day and I actually made it to my lecture. It’s amazing how such a simple task can have a positive effect on your day. By the end of the week I did feel slightly happier and found that any task I was going to do post exercise became easier. I was able to write up lecture notes quicker and found it helped clear my mind and thus, improved my cognitive ability’.

Remember, all you need do is breathe in, hold your breath for a second, and breathe out with your good-natured chuckle.
Repeat as often as possible but at least 4 consecutive out-breaths.

Enjoy your practice.

Please click below for more information on
nls: natural laughter skills
smiling & laughter practices
the book
retraining the brain courses
team & conference sessions
coaching

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