Category Archives: depression

7 tips for more happiness, part 7: laugh at your fears

When you’re afraid – or stressed, or anxious, or angry, or unhappy – laugh.

The ability to laugh under duress, when circumstances are hard, is a route back to sanity and inner calm.
The ability to laugh at ourselves in these circumstances is a path to psychological freedom, emotional intelligence, professional effectiveness, and personal liberation.
It helps us be more mindful, become more resilient & able to cope with life’s ‘slings & arrows’, and better able to find peace of mind under duress.
Fear is an example of duress. How do we face our fear and not let it rule us?

Laughter practices are one way.
In both laughter yoga and nls: natural laughter skills we learn to laugh for the sake of laughing. We learn to laugh for the psychological, emotional, physical, whole-person benefits. With practice this becomes an effective technique for dealing with pressure and regaining our equilibrium.
In group and organisational settings, it a classic way of raising morale. Watching ‘World at War’ footage of both Monty and Nye Bevan giving wartime speeches, for example, one theme they both tapped into was the morale-boosting effects of good natured laughter and humour.

Fear, which often combines with stress, anxiety and worse, is debilitating. It is, as Frank Herbert said, ‘the little death’.

Until we overcome them, they blight our lives.

When we overcome them, miracles happen:
At the weekend I only touched on the pain and trauma I have been through in the last six years. Over that time I had completely forgotten how to laugh, lost my confidence and self-esteem along with trust in others – all the negatives.
I think I had reached rock bottom – anti depressants from the doctor, high blood pressure, IBS all, I believe, caused by my ego dwelling on the past and going over things like a long playing record. Thankfully a visit to the doctor made me realise I had to begin to take control. I needed to laugh and find the fun in my life and also live in the NOW not the past.
(ie mindfully – Joe)
I read and researched Eckhart Tolle and then wondered whether there were any clubs that actually taught you how to laugh – that was when I happened on laughter therapy and it looked amazing………
The content, participants………..were uplifting, stimulating, thought provoking, certainly sowing the seeds and giving me strategies to help put my life back on a positive path………
Obviously I realise it is early days but I am sure with my inner strength and determination I will succeed. In fact my doctor, whom I saw today, has agreed to gently phase me off medication.’ (Retreat delegate)

The content she refers to was based on smiling & laughter practices, developing the genuine ability to smile and laugh at will, no matter what the circumstances. Like all practices, these have to be done diligently and consistently to be most effective, but hers is just one story of many.

On an organisational level, this approach helps empower people and generate enthusiasm. Who wouldn’t want a delegate coming out saying:
‘Thanks for the conference at the Victoria Hotel on Friday. I haven’t had so much fun at a conference ever. I still chuckle at the idea of the “respectful bowing laugh”.’
(Conference delegate, Healthy Living Initiative, Cornwall).

Evidence that these practices work is accumulating all the time, as this article in Psychology Today shows (see below).

As ever, though, the final proof is personal experience.
We all have to find ways to survive and thrive, to get through hardship & loss, and overcome fear.
We all need good tools to help us practice our mindfulness, become more resilient, be more emotionally intelligent.
We all want to raise our level of effectiveness for greater life satisfaction and happiness.

As ever with these things I learnt some things that I never could have imagined I was going to. I am practicing! (Retreat delegate)

Perhaps it’s time to develop your smiling and laughter practices?

 

Resources

 

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7 tips for more happiness, part 6: Don’t be so serious

‘But seriously…..’
Are you serious about your happiness?
In the west, there is a presumption, a conditioned response, that the most weighty and important things in life are the serious ones. ‘But seriously…..’ is the comment we often use when wanting to make a point or be listened to…..or be taken ‘seriously’.
But where’s the evidence?

One recurring comment from people who experience nls: natural laughter skills & laughter yoga is how much they enjoy a break from their seriousness. They start to enjoy life more. They become more  present & mindful, more aware of the present moment. They become more joyful. Spontaneously they smile and laugh more, openly and genuinely.
We all communicate & connect better in this state. We also feel happier.

Are these sufficient reasons for engaging with our light-hearted, playful and good-natured side? Perhaps they should be because communication & connection are perfect antidotes to stress, anxiety and depression.
However, we often want the reassurance we feel from scientific & medical studies especially when we venture into the workplace arena of increased productivity, resilience and endurance.

Positive psychology is producing & highlighting streams of studies linking happiness with improved communication, resilience and productivity.
So how do nls: natural laughter skills & laughter yoga overlap with positive psychology to make us less serious, happier and more productive?
3 ways  are:

  1. They encourage playfulness. There are excellent TED talks on why playfulness matters. Almost every aspect of our lives improve when we incorporate playfulness into it.
  2. They get us active. The right kind of physicality not only relieves stress & tension but also improves posture, and refreshes our creative thinking.
  3. Smiling & laughing are natural mood-enhancers, for ourselves and others. Done appropriately they are a personal and team tonic.

How can we become less serious? Besides reading the previous blogs for tips (!), make a point regularly of using senses other than just your head.
Mindfulness practices happen to work well here – sit or stand and be aware, using as many senses simultaneously as you can. Smell, touch, taste, feel, sense, listen, look, see – and smile.

Combining these practices adds an uplifting and connecting quality, with surprisingly long-lastig effects: ‘Just wanted to share with you that when I got home, talking to a friend on a phone many hours later,  I notice last night my cheeks where rosy and sore from so much smiling.  The same feeling has been all day today……… My thoughts of the event itself was ‘yes. Great fun. Really good’…  24 hours later it is now ‘yes. Great fun… truly amazing’. (Martin Schofield, Sales Executive)

Do your smiling exercises. Both the pencil in the teeth and the 15-second smilining exercise from the book ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’ generate profound changes in people.
I just wanted to let you know how I have been getting on since I came to the last Laughter Club meeting in September. I have been following your instructions to smile first thing every morning and last thing at night. Wonderful!
I have to say that I have felt a real change in me. My face seems lighter and I feel more positive.
Last week whilst reading the news on Bristol hospital Radio my fellow news-reader read a funny story and I laughed until I cried and neither of us could finish the news through constant giggling. I do not remember the last time that I laughed that much and I wanted to thankyou for giving me courage to laugh out loud again.’ (Jonathan Fifield)

When these practices make us less serious, more relaxed and happier, and happiness even makes us more productive, what are we waiting for?

Further resources:
‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’
Positive psychology – ‘Authentic Happiness’
TED talks on playfulness

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7 tips for more happiness, part 4

‘How do I laugh more?’ is still one of the most common questions I am asked in coaching and on courses.
This is the fourth in the series of 7 quick tips on how to use nls: natural laughter skills and laughter yoga for more laughter in your life.

Tip 4: ‘Get out of your head’

This is perhaps the best-known and least-followed tip for all of us on the wellness path.

Why?

The simple answer is that potentially our brain is an over-thinking self-aggrandising monster that wants to indulge itself forever. Unchecked, this is exactly what it does, and it causes us endless stress, anxiety, misery and even depression.

How do we break this cycle?

 

  • Practice being aware. Practice witnessing your own thoughts and feelings. As soon as we’re aware, we have the possibility of choosing our next action.
  • As soon as you’re aware, and want to make a change, do something physical. Stretch. Walk. Move. Hop. Jump. Hoover. Dance. Getting into our body immediately breaks the over-thinking cycle.
  • Do some facial yoga. Pull faces, stretch your face muscles, open your mouth wide, stick your tongue out, give your eyes and forehead a workout. Include the whole of your face and head so you loosen all your facial muscles.
  • SMILE! Having done your facial warm-ups, put a warm smile on your face, even if it’s a small one. This smile triggers an almost-immediate mood-change.
  • Practice your inner smile. Develop your ability to connect with your inner glow.
  • In a good-natured, kind way, learn to laugh at yourself. Learn laughter meditation. Laughing at ourselves in this way gives us space to see the humour and quirkiness in our behaviour, and helps remove any sting we’re feeling.
  • Practice becoming a professional laugher, like the Dalai Lama: ‘I have been confronted with many difficulties throughout the course of my life……… But I laugh often, and my laughter is contagious. When people ask me how I find the strength to laugh now, I reply that I am a professional laugher.’ (The Dalai Lama)

The Dalai Lama was an inspiration for the exercises in ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’ because to become a professional, we need to practice.
When we practice getting out of our heads, we get out of our heads and into our bodies, we might also find we get into our hearts, just like he does.

And we might also find we laugh more, and become happier.

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

Laughter and meditation benefits

Laughter meditation

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7 tips for more happiness in life, part 3

‘How do I laugh more?’ is still one of the most common questions I am asked in coaching sessions.
This is the third in the series of 7 quick tips on how to use nls: natural laughter skills and laughter yoga for more laughter in your life.

Tip 3 – ‘when feeling angry/stressed/‘blue’, laugh at yourself’

 

This classic reminder, used by both Alan Watts and Eckhart Tolle, is an essential step towards happiness. We tell ourselves stories all the time, and being human we tend to believe them.

How can we break this pattern, and how do laughter practices help?

As ever, awareness and mindfulness are crucial. The more we practice being aware and living in the ‘now’, the easier it becomes to remember we’re just telling ourselves a story. Consequently, the easier it becomes to break out of the pattern.

One way to stimulate this awareness is the laughter meditation practice of chuckling & laughing-out-loud on each out-breath.
When you develop this practice it becomes easier to use it when you’re angry, stressed or anxious. You find that in the middle of the drama you can still have awareness, and with this awareness, you can take this laughter meditation action step – and laugh out loud at yourself.

To do this:

  • Breathe in
  • Pause
  • Smile
  • Breathe out with a chuckle
  • Repeat
  • Repeat again etc

This practice, combining nls: natural laughter skills, laughter yoga and the Barefoot Doctor’s Taoism, is described more fully in chapter 2 of ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’.
It is an inherently mindful & joyful practice because laughter brings our attention into the present moment. It cuts through the drama of our story, and eases any anger, stress and anxiety.
Psychologically it helps because we start to exercise control over our state of consciousness.
Neurologically this practice works because our brain responds to our laughing rather than our worrying, so the more we practice this, the more we re-wire our brain for peace, calm and happiness.

‘Thank you……not sure I could have gotten through the year……to laugh again at all the right and ‘wrong’ moments’. (private comment)

 

A note of caution – this is not an easy practice!
I find when I’m in the thick of an anger, stress or anxiety drama, it requires considerable effort to do my chuckling meditation.
A note of reward – just one chuckle is enough!
Once I’ve had the presence of mind to take this action step, it immediately starts to break through and provide perspective, clarity and calm. I experience an immediate easing of the internal pressure my drama was creating.

I also find it the perfect antidote to over-seriousness and use it whenever I feel this tendency encroaching – so I use it several times a day! I now find it an essential, enjoyable, life-enhancing safety valve.

I’d love to hear your experiences.

Coaching

Happiness

Action for Happiness

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‘How can laughter help you find your life’s purpose?’

The very short answer to this ‘How?’ question is: – because nls: natural laughter skills and laughter yoga are energising.
The longer answer is:

  • The more energised you are, the more alive you feel, and the more mindful & present you become.
  • The more mindful & present you are, the more connected you become to yourself, to others, and to the bigger picture of life.
  • The more connected you are, the more your natural spontaneity, kindness and creativity flourish, and the more aware & intuitive you become.

In this aware and intuitive state, whether induced by coaching, training, workshops, webinars or talks, people find clarity.

My own personal mindfulness & clarity practice is:

  • breathe (deep, slow, from the belly)
  • stretch (sitting or standing, involve the whole body)
  • smile (especially around the eyes)
  • feel / be aware (engage your full awareness).

r3
Other benefits that this state induces include a reduction in stress and anxiety, an easing of depression, and a boost for health, optimism, resilience and general sense of wellbeing.

‘After a weekend surrounded by gorgeous people in a gorgeous atmosphere I feel energised, bright and totally alive.
Because of this clarity people become inspired. They also find the courage to do what their intuition has been guiding them towards.

What these practises also do, as described in ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within is help maintain this energy and clarity.

‘You are left with the sense at the end of it that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who live very ordinary, mundane lives, and those who have managed to tap into their own immense potential for living it so much better, and so much more.’ (Eddie Lennon, author)

2012 23rd Sept 088 - Copy

We all have the ability to access this immense potential, to gain clarity, and find our own life’s purpose.
Mine is to spread cheerfulness, to help us cheer up and enjoy life more – and to help you find your own life’s purpose.

Please let me know if I can help.

Useful resources include:
joehoare.co.uk
Action for Happiness
Happiness
Laughter

 

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7 tips for more happiness in life, part 2

‘How do I laugh more?’ is still one of the most common questions I am asked in coaching sessions.
This is the second in a series of 7 quick tips on how to use nls: natural laughter skills and laughter yoga for more laughter in your life.

Tip 2 – ‘Be authentic: give yourself permission to have a tantrum’

Seriousness is an exhausting burden. It is an affliction of the spirit. No one gets happy by being serious. It often induces stress, anxiety and even depression, and blights our happiness.
We adults often feel we have to be serious, but are we dying inside sometimes when we do this?
Are we being authentic?

Carl Jung talked about ‘making the darkness conscious’ and its role in liberating our consciousness. Isn’t childishness sometimes our ‘darkness’?

Where does laughter come in?

Giving ourselves permission to be childish and have a tantrum doesn’t mean this is how we’re going to live. It does mean that instead of suppressing it, we are prepared to and dare to express it.
In this context, permission itself is a healing act. Clients invariably become lighter in spirit, and every time this is accompanied by laughter.

Laughter yoga and nls: natural laughter skills practices help us dare to be childish. Their meditation-style practices and are generally best done alone and somewhere you can be noisy – as with many laughter practices.

Give yourself permission to have your tantrum. Start by feeling it and expressing it in your imagination or mind’s eye. See yourself doing it. Feel the feelings that arise – and at every juncture, be present and laugh – not in denial, but as a healing act.
Accept you feel this tantrum but don’t blame yourself. Take responsibility for it, stay present with it, honour it – and practice releasing it through your laughing practice.

Doing this accomplishes several things:

  • You honour your all feelings and therefore become more authentic
  • You strengthen your ability to laugh at yourself
  • You become more emotionally flexible
  • Your honesty & authenticity make you more inspirational, beautiful and attractive
  • You become more mindful, relaxed and happier.

Besides using these laughter yoga and nls: natural laughter skills practices as a way of easing your way out of Jung-like ‘darkness’, you can also use these practices to help you access it in a healthy, balanced, robust way, as described in ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’.

laughing buddha

You smile and laugh more to allow your childishness to release itself, which therefore results in you smiling and laughing more.
This is a double-win. Your quality of life improves. You become happier.

‘The smiling practice technique you teach has transformed my life and I rarely walk around with a growly face these days. I am eternally thankful……for this.’ (Jon)

How do you release your childishness? I allow myself to consider sulking! Having allowed myself the luxury of considering this, I breathe deeply & consciously, let my attention drop until it reaches my joyfulness, feel its gentleness, and smile softly.

What about you?

Coaching

Happiness

Laughter Yoga

 

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Depression: ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going.’

This quote ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going’ is one of Churchill’s. He suffered from depression, calling it the ‘Black Dog’. If it gets the upper hand it can be overwhelming, as we all know from recent events.
Many years ago, in my 20’s, I was overwhelmed but miraculously and happily survived.

How can we help prevent this overwhelm? My own area of expertise is nls: natural laughter skills and laughter yoga, and I use the healing power of laughter with people experiencing stress, anxiety and depression.

  • First of all, awareness helps. Some people find it helpful simply to use this ‘going through hell’ quote like a mantra. In almost every session nowadays I use this quote. It helps give people perspective and courage. It gives awareness and a sense of possibility, and is a reminder to persevere.
  • Secondly, practical tools are essential. Nowadays there are many freely-available excellent resources including laughter yoga and nls: natural laughter skills. The basis for their effectiveness is the mood-enhancing power of smiling & laughter practices. These are wonderful when practiced in a group: The smiling practice technique you teach has transformed my life and I rarely walk around with a growly face these days.’ (Jonny) 
  • Thirdly, it’s good to practice on your own. In spite of all the group opportunities, there are times when we have to face our demons alone. To be able to do this we need a toolkit, and what it needs to contain is whatever works for us. There are many options and it is good to explore them so we find our own particular combination of effective practical tools.
    I wrote ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’ with this in mind. It contains 16 practical exercises based on the self-healing power of smiling & laughter practices. They are simple and easy-to-use, and above all, they are practical. For some people, they provide the missing piece in their own toolkit: ‘I was in a deep, dark hole, and ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha Within’ was a real lifeline for me. I’d tried various other things, like CBT, meditation, exercise, a gratitude diary – but none really helped. When I used the exercises in the book, I was able to lift my dark mood within a couple of minutes.’ (David)
  • Finally, remember we can all train our brains to be happier. Neuro-science and our increasing understanding of meditation and neuroplasticity show us the value & effectiveness of learning such techniques. Courses which combine disciplines like laughter yoga, positive psychology, meditation and mindfulness are especially recommended.

The important thing is to explore, persevere, reach out and ask for help – and remember another of Churchill’s quotes: ‘Never, never, never give up.’

Useful resources include:
www.joehoare.co.uk
BBC
Laughter Yoga
Laughter Therapy

 

 

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The challenge is to live

This lovely quote comes from a recent interview Howard Jacobson with Clive James.

Inside us all is the fire of life. It is our uniqueness, our own gift to the world. It is the person inside us who wants to break free, to rise to life’s challenge, live life fully on our own terms and live our life’s purpose.

Are you clear about your own life purpose? I am 100% clear about mine. 2013 July 15th 011

I’m here to cheer people up, to spread good cheer, to help us all access that place in ourselves where we say ‘I feel better’.
‘I feel better’ is the most common response when I ask people how they feel when they laugh, so I encourage everyone to laugh, live and find their inner ‘taa-daaah!’

Just imagine the whole world, all 7 billion of us, experiencing ‘I feel better’?

I’ve made so many mistakes and my teachers include surviving suicide, 18 months of insomnia hell, financial catastrophe, and dealing with Fear, stress, anxiety, depressed spirit and more.
The result is I know about pain and suffering and how to come through it. I’ve written about it (‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’) to give people hope, courage, and practical tips.

I know that the safest course is to take the risk and live because as we’re all going to experience pain and suffering anyway, let’s make them worthwhile? Let’s punctuate the in-between spaces with celebration so we enjoy them as fully as possible?
Let’s fill them with warmth and kindness?
Let’s reach out and help others when they’re down?
Let’s emit our own ‘taa-daaah!’ as much and as often as possible and make the ride worthwhile?

‘The challenge is to live.’

There are many ways to find your own fire, your life purpose. These include practicing getting out of your own way.

  • Develop the practice of just being – ‘sometimes I sit and think, and sometimes I just sit’ (attr. Mark Twain).
  • Practice mindfulness to develop your awareness and inner peacefulness.
  • Develop your inner smile. Learn to access your inner joyfulness with nls: natural laughter skills & laughter yoga practices. Use their smiling and laughing techniques to access your zest for life.
  • Remember to use your body, and not just your head, to experience life.
  • Take the risk to feel.
  • Take the risk to be open and non-judgemental, and to reach out to share heart-felt experiences with fellow human beings.

Your benefits will include greater wellbeing, and a healthier, happier, more productive, more love-filled life.

May my own experiences help you.

www.joehoare.co.uk

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Gentle laughing mindfulness

I was asked on a recent Laughter Facilitation Skills course ‘How can I combine laughter yoga with mindfulness?’

2014 July 23rd 036

Laughter meditation and mindfulness are natural companions. Mindfulness is the practice of awareness. It is the act of noticing your body, breath, emotions, thoughts and environment, without necessarily responding to any of them.
People usually find this practice calming. Because of this calm, they often experience quiet joyfulness. This quiet joyfulness often brings a smile to their face.

Laughter meditation, whether through laughter yoga or nls: natural laughter skills, stimulates mindfulness. It brings attention into the here & now. People find they become more present and more aware of their own processes and environment. This happens in a naturally joyful way.
The act of laughter meditation therefore can stimulate joyful awareness.

The easiest way to combine these practices is through by smiling practices.
These smiling practices, as described in ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’, can add the specific quality of joyfulness into mindfulness. As a meditative practice, this is like the difference between a ‘zazen’ or observing meditation and a dynamic one.

Both approaches work well.

When you next do either a laughter yoga or nls: natural laughter skills meditation, make a point of being aware of your body, breath, emotions, thoughts and environment. The practice is to combine your laughter with your awareness so you are aware of both.
When you next do your mindfulness meditation, do it with a soft, small, genuine smile on your face. Notice any difference this smiling quality brings to your awareness. Be open to expressing it as occasional chuckles or laughs of delight.

This is gentle laughing mindfulness.

Notice how it can lift your mood, ease stress, anxiety and depression, give you a psychological boost, and promote a sense of wellbeing and happiness. If you practice this often, you will rewire your brain for greater happiness and an improved quality of life.

You can learn more about these practices in ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’ and on www.joehoare.co.uk.

 

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Can laughter yoga make me more confident?

Bristol Laughter Club‘How do you feel when you laugh?’ is a question I often ask in laughter yoga
sessions at the Bristol Laughter Club. The most common answer is ‘I feel better’.
When I then ask how people experience that, their responses include feeling more relaxed, grounded, intuitive and focused. When they continue this deeper reflection, people realise they’re more mindful, relaxed and happier, more aware of the totality of present moment rather than just what’s passing through their head.

‘Don’t believe everything you think’ say both the philosopher Alan Watts and the contemporary mindfulness & awareness guru Eckhart Tolle.

The upshot of this mindfulness is we feel happier and better about our own life experience, and a common way people express this is they feel more confident. This is an especially wonderful benefit for those who suffer from the modern epidemics of stress, anxiety and depression.

A recent participant on a nls: natural laughter skills course is a life model, i.e. she poses naked for artists to draw her. She now sits with greater confidence, and feels more confident about dealing with tricky clients.
The particular exercises that help her in these circumstances are the ‘Inner Smile’ and the ‘Inner Laugh’, covered in depth courses and described at length in ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’. Developing the ability to do either or both of these on demand gives her the ability to change her mood in an instant. Because this is empowering, she has gained enormous confidence in her work and day-to-day life.

The ‘Inner Smile’ is a quintessentially mindful exercise and at heart invites you to take your attention inside and smile, internally. There are many refinements but this is the exercise in its simplest form. It is easy, non-obtrusive, and you can do it anywhere. you can even practice it now.
These exercises also sit naturally alongside other disciplines like Positive Psychology, CBT and yoga.
If you practice your ‘Inner Smile’ and ‘Inner Laugh’ regularly, you become more mindful, less stressed, anxious and depressed. The benefits you experience include relaxation, being grounded, focus, the ability to prioritise your time and efforts, increased happiness, and greater confidence.

This comment from the life model expresses this well: ‘Now I’m with James (name changed) the tetraplegic, putting into practice the laughter from the course…….He admits he is being deliberately difficult. I am so much more powerful now.’

What can these practices do for you?

www.joehoare.co.uk

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