Category Archives: mindfulness

Laughter yoga and emotional catharsis

 

All emotions are welcome in my laughter yoga sessions. Even when I don’t specifically articulate this, it remains true.

Sometimes, partly as a result of this emotional freedom, personal breakthroughs occur.

Sometimes a natural joyfulness gets activated and a sense of wellbeing and unique personal identity breaks through. When this happens, the person has felt something they have never felt before, they recognise on a profound level this experience is important to them, and that from now on, their life is different –  including less stress & anxiety and more joy & happiness.

This is a ‘death of the ego’ moment, aka emotional catharsis.

This ‘death’ is the shedding of a skin because they have been touched sufficiently deeply, at that right moment in their life, that they emerge from the session a changed person.
They are transformed, but to experience that transformation, part of them has to ‘die’, and this is an emotional moment for them, with or without tears.

Two typical responses I have had from people are:

  • I kept giggling forthe rest of the day – joyfulness/happiness
  • I felt ‘present’ for the first time in my life – mindfulness/present-moment awareness

It is an honour, a privilege and a responsibility to be present at and help initiate this personal alchemy.

Two recent experiences struck me forcefully because they were so similar they were almost identical.

One happened on a 2-day course, the other in a 1.5 hour session. In both cases, as the particular individuals were recounting their experience and how they had been changed by it, all emotions, from pain and sorrow through to joy and delight, fleetingly crossed their face.

In the space of probably less than 2 seconds, this intense microcosm of emotion was clearly if fleetingly expressed as they completed their personal alchemy.

They had both made this breakthrough step without going into emotional meltdown, and yet strong emotion was being expressed.

Among other things, it is good for all practitioners to be comfortable in the presence of strong emotion.

I find it good simply to give it space and ‘hold’ it (be fully present with it) so that it can be experienced with self-responsibility. This allows the personal alchemy to occur (and is how it was in my own personal transformation moment.)

It is a wonderful thing to experience, and a wonderful gift to help birth, is it not?

Do you have any experiences to share?

Would you like a 2-minute video with 3 basic Move / Breathe / Smile exercises? Email me joe@joehoare.co.uk for your free copy.

Here is more info on

www.joehoare.co.uk

 

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Embodiement & unexpected pain relief in laughter yoga

 

We never know how someone will respond to a session and what benefits they will experience.

‘I don’t have my shoulder pain anymore!’

My approach to laughter yoga ( #laughteryogawithJoe ) usually starts with an extended gentle physical loosening up & embodiment session.

We do this as a fundamental part of the practice to be enjoyed and savoured, not as an introduction to be hurried through.

Sometimes the majority of the session is taken up with loosening, and therefore experiencing the body /mind connection of mind/body ‘medicine’.

My original intention behind this approach was to help participants experience relief from over-thinking, and potentially to help establish new neural pathways to trigger movement as an antidote. Freedom from over-thinking is a core stress-buster & mindfulness practice and so helps induce calm and inner peacefulness.

 

Key practice: move your body. Move your body gently. Focus on gentle movement for & with your shoulders.

 

At one such session for the Macmillan charity we did a longer-than-usual gentle loosening up and also a lot of gentle arm-swinging & shoulder-tension release.
Afterwards, one person came up to me and told me their shoulder pain had gone.
They told me they’d experienced this condition for many years, and yet after 30 minutes of this gentle laughter yoga loosening, the pain had gone. They had visited many specialists over the years, and yet what had released it for them was this very gentle extended loosening-up.

‘I don’t have my shoulder pain anymore’

She was astonished and delighted.

I was delighted and intrigued. I reckoned this must be a happy one-off.

 

‘My yoga and pilates give me a headache. This doesn’t.’

Last week at after a similar but shorter session, someone came up to me and told me that their yoga and pilates sessions are generally energetic with a lot of tensing and straining, and they always get a headache.
Our session had been gentle and releasing while still being very energetic, and they told me it was the first time they had exercised yogically without getting a headache.

‘My yoga and pilates give me a headache. This doesn’t.’

 

Advanced practice: move vigorously but gently, as gently as you can.

 

‘I woke up for 1st time without a clicky neck.’

Even more recently at the International Federation of Aromatherapists’ conference, someone made a point of commenting after the session how relaxed they felt.
The following day they reported their neck had stopped being clicky.

‘I woke up for the first time without a clicky neck.’

They, like me, were astonished and delighted.

 

Complete practice (short form): relax, breathe, smile, feel.

 

What can we learn from this?

Evidently, the path to inner peace brings unexpected, important and welcome benefits!

Although the ultimate aim of laughter yoga is ‘inner’ & ‘outer’ peace, there are many benefits to be experienced along the way.
Relief from pain is an enormous benefit. It automatically releases stress & tension, helps us be more ‘in the moment’ aka mindful, and therefore happier and more at peace.

The key is practice.

Read the book.

Take an online course

Train

Go on Retreat

Relax and enjoy. I’d love to hear any experiences you have had. And if you know anyone who might like to read this too, please share it?

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What can I expect on a laughter yoga retreat? part 1: LOVE

 

  1. Love.

A wise human once said: ‘Expect nothing’

‘Expect nothing’ means we approach situations open-mindedly and with curiosity. When we are both open-minded and open-hearted, this allows us to be present to what is – and allows magic to happen.

On every Retreat we go through a deepening process, of allowing layers to drop away, of stress and anxiety to ease, of allowing healing to happen, and of allowing love to expand – love for self and love for others.

In this spirit we grow, heal and connect.

Other people’s words are often best: ‘I had no expectations, I was curious but I came away lighter, freer and enriched by sharing the space with a quite remarkable group of very honest and open individuals.
I have struggled for a long time to express my emotions coherently and try to avoid the spotlight whenever possible but this weekend fostered a safe and nurturing environment.
It made me (and us all, I’m sure) feel stronger, more able to cope and much better equipped to be out in the big wide world and to share the light and laughter.’

‘To share the light and laughter’ – this is love, and being loving. We can all start practicing this now.

This is one quality we might experience on the Retreat .
Is this a quality you’d like to experience too?
(Harberton Village Hall, South Devon, 22-24th September: Booking & further details are here )
#laughteryogawithJoe
General info and videos available on www.joehoare.co.uk

 

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The ‘perfect’ laughter yoga exercise: what I learnt as a lumberjack

 

I learnt many skills in my previous career as a lumberjack.

One that has served me well is listening – not to the hinge cracking, nor the tree falling, but to people.
An important part in my lumberjack career was sales and I learnt that if you listen, or rather when we listen, we hear all the person’s under-currents, assumptions, preferences and particularities.
This type of listening, when we feel the nuances of the communication, is a great skill to master – if we ever can.

Its practical application in laughter yoga is been enormous.

It is a subtle skill to feel the nuances in a group – and helpful when we are looking for perfect pitch, so to speak, pitching the ‘perfect’ exercise, ie the perfect exercise for that moment.

It is a common practice to have a set, pre-planned repertoire, and it is essential to set the correct intention and to do proper preparation and planning. However, it is important to be able to vary our plan.

Sometimes this is forced on us by ‘circumstances’, other times there is a subtle invitation, if we know how to listen. Sometimes someone from the group makes a comment or observation, or behaves or interacts or moves in a particular way that lends itself to becoming a ‘perfect’ exercise. When we turn this moment into a warm, generous and inclusive exercise, it can be perfect.

It can certainly be ‘perfect’.

On one occasion, out of the group emerged a hokey cokey. In the context of the workshop it was about as tangential and off-the-wall as you can imagine – but everyone loved it. One person came up to me afterwards and used the words: ‘it was just perfect!’
The reason it was perfect was because it ‘caught’ the moment, it was spontaneous, inclusive and engaging, it was inviting, playful and fun, everyone found their own enjoyment in it, and everyone found it rewarding. This is my definition of a ‘perfect’ exercise.

In my own personal and professional journey I experienced many similar delights. I found the ‘working with what is’ approach in Kindling Point exceptionally useful as it fosters the ability to allow ideas and material to emerge from within the group.
Our skill in the laughter yoga / laughter therapy / laughter wellness / laughology / laughter facilitation arena is then to turn this into a ‘perfect’ exercise.

When we embrace this, sessions become richer, more rewarding, more effective, more engaging, more life-enhancing.

We can all learn this skill.

How to create ‘perfect’ exercises

Laughter Facilitation Skills

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Living passionately in ‘interesting times’ – how does laughter yoga help?

Do you remember the old Chinese curse: ‘may you live in interesting times’?
These times are with us now, so how can laughter yoga help?

I find three qualities are proving especially helpful – live passionately, take ourselves less seriously, and be more spontaneous & flexible 

  1. Live passionately.
    Laughter yoga uses laughter as a practice. It uses is as a yoga, to reconnect and harmonise.
    It energises.
    We breathe better. We oxygenate our blood. We improve our circulation. The net result is we feel energised. When we feel energised, we start to feel passionate.
    Whether done as alone or with others, it works.

‘Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you’. Oprah. Click To Tweet

Passion sustains us when we encounter difficulties. It is empowering. It builds our resilience and helps us keep going when problems arise, as they always do. A regular and daily laughter practice actively boosts our ability to live passionately.

Keep doing this and you will become energised, you will experience how your passion follows your energy, and consequently you feel in better control of our life – even in ‘interesting’ times.

A basic practice is: breathe in, pause, smile, and in a good-natured way, chuckle as you breathe out – pause, feel.
Repeat.

A basic practice is: breathe in, pause, smile, and in a good-natured way chuckle as you breathe out - pause, feel. Repeat. #laughteryogawithJoe Click To Tweet

  1. Take ourselves less seriously
    While it essential to take what we do seriously, especially nowadays, it is equally important not to take ourselves too seriously. When we take ourselves too seriously, our ‘message’ becomes ‘heavy’ rather than ‘light, and so we undermine it. This is particularly jarring in laughter yoga where the aim is to promote joyfulness, connection and open-heartedness (among other qualities).
    To start taking ourselves less seriously, practice laughing at yourself.
    A basic practice here is to look in a mirror, remind ourselves of all our foibles, point at ourselves, and have a good-natured chuckle. Learning to laugh at ourselves is liberating for others as well as ourselves.

  1. Let go & be more flexible.
    When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” John Maynard Keynes.

Changing our mind can be a tricky skill to master, yet it is essential if we want to be resilient, deal with stress well, and adapt properly as life changes around us. One easy way is regularly to ask ourselves ‘What if?’
It is a useful exercise to imagine circumstances being different, reversed, in a different order – just to see what insights occur to us, and therefore how we might do things differently.

‘Learning is not compulsory. Neither is survival’ W. Edwards Deming Click To Tweet

When we feel energised and passionate, it is easier to start imagining the previously unimaginable without feeling too threatened. When we approach this reviewing process as a game and engage with it playfully, it becomes easier to be open-minded and consider new ideas and possibilities.

A quick and easy way to become more playful is to move around playfully. We become energised when we spend a few moments being physically active, and combining this with playfulness moves us quickly into an open-minded and creative space. If you’re not sure how to, think of Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks?

The value of this flexibility, in combination with passion and playfulness, is it helps us adapt more easily as life changes, which is why laughter yoga is an effective tool for contemporary living – just keep practicing.

Useful links

www.joehoare.co.uk

Smiling is good for the heart

Laughter and mood change

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

Be optimistic. It feels better. The Dalai Lama Click To Tweet

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.

‘People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily.’ Zig Ziglar Click To Tweet

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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3 profound benefits of laughter yoga

 

I love describing things in the simplest way possible, and the benefits of laughter yoga can be described in 3 ways:

  1. You feel better
  2. You are better
  3. You do better.

You feel better. ‘I feel better’ is the most common reply I get when I ask people how they feel when they laugh.
‘Feeling better’ is at the heart of our human experience. It is perhaps the most important quality we can experience because when we feel ‘better’, life is ‘better’.

Feeling better, in a life-affirming and constructive way, can be achieved even in difficult circumstances. There are many stories of people who managed to laugh and feel better even in life-threatening ones.

‘Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit’ (Bernard Williams). Laughter yoga practices activate resilience by giving us the means to improve our mood and activate our zest for life at any moment we choose.

Life feels better with laughter yoga #laughteryogawithJoe Click To Tweet

 

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‘Vedant has really taken what you said on board and now everyone at our hospice is doing their 15 second smiles morning and evening.
The patients respond really well to such a simple device – it is lovely to see the effect it has.’

You are better. The list of health benefits gets longer every day. These benefits are physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual.

In their simplest form, the benefits occur because laughter yoga is a pain-relieving and energising practice. Its wholesome, life-affirming qualities energise us if only because we have more oxygen in our system, and well oxygenated blood is a life-enhancer. The overall cardiovascular benefits underpin our ability to be healthy on many other levels.

‘Laughter is internal jogging’ (Norman Cousins)

Our tolerance threshold for physical pain increases as a result of laughter yoga and laughter generally. This benefit spills over to emotional and psychological pain. We benefit because we communicate and connect better with others, and when we replace isolation & loneliness with connection we experience a healthier, happier and longer life.
‘The smiling practice technique you teach has transformed my life and I rarely walk around with a growly face these days.’

We can all learn to laugh more, and we become measurably better.

You do better. Laughter yoga is a mindfulness activity, and consequently we experience the benefits of mindfulness even though we’ve accessed it in a different way. Among the many benefits of mindfulness, and hence laughter yoga, are the ability to prioritise better, think more clearly & calmly, experience less exhaustion and greater job satisfaction.

An additional benefit laughter yoga brings to our activities is energy.
‘Thank you for your contribution to our team meeting. Our goal to encompass stress relief, team building and fun was certainly achieved.’

Because of its core cardiovascular benefits, coupled with the mood enhancement, we have more energy to bring to our activities. This energising aspect inspires and enables us to do better.
‘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.’

Whether practiced alone or with a group, these are some of the benefits of laughter yoga.

If you have enjoyed this blog, please share it. Thank you.

Further resources include:
Laughter Yoga with Joe

Laughter and pain

Action for Happiness

Choosing happiness

Benefits of laughter

Bristol laughter club 

Laughter Yoga

laughter-yoga

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Happiness tips, vol 2, part 1. Want to feel the joy? Learn to feel.

 

It’s all about feeling.

Laughter yoga helps us feel. Laughter yoga helps us feel happier, even when it hurts.

Sometimes, though, there is an expectation that laughter yoga will make us feel happier instantly. After all, the eminent psychologist William James observed ‘We don’t laugh because we’re happy, we’re happy because we laugh.’

Time and again, I have found his observation to be true – with a caution. Sometimes we have uncomfortable feelings we have not acknowledged. Sometimes they need freedom and to be released. This cannot happen without being prepared to feel the uncomfortableness.
Sometimes this hurts.

How does laughter yoga help?

‘Remember to breathe’ is advice we’ve probably all heard numerous times.
In laughter yoga, it becomes ‘remember to laugh’.

Because laughter practices are life-enhancing and energise our zest for life , they generate a cushion to help us through our uncomfortable feelings. They can help us ride any pain associated with our uncomfortable feelings.
After all, a laugh is simply a form of breath.

Like many practices, these are simple but not easy. The knack is to keep going. That’s where the benefits are.

There is a difference between experiencing this in a group or as a personal practice.
When running groups and workshops, we have to be alert and allow people space to experience their own feelings. This involves well-developed group and facilitation skills.

As a personal practice, we have to be alert to any additional resources we need. Whatever additional resources we need, the laughter yoga personal practices help.

So laughter yoga can help provide us with the resources we need to deal with the feelings it reveals.

Simple, but not easy.

Start practicing now?
Breathe in, hold your breath for 3 seconds, smile, and exhale with a good-natured chuckle.
Repeat at least 3 times.

Keep at it.

Useful links include:

Practices (book/audio)

zest for life

laughter yoga with Joe

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What does laughter yoga add to mindfulness?

 

The short answer is lots.

Time and again, the feedback from participants after experiencing a session is they’ve never felt so present, so quickly.
It is extremely common for physical symptoms like headaches to disappear, for stress levels to drop, for energy levels to rise, for awareness to expand and consequently for people to experience an unexpected calm and serenity, all within fifteen or twenty minutes.

Whether the session is titled ‘Mindfulness’, ‘Gentle Laughing Mindfulness’ or simply ‘laughter yoga with Joe’, the core activities are the same. There are specific facial exercises combined with embodiment, breathing, moving, feeling, connecting. The delivery is light-hearted, flexible and spontaneous with ‘space to learn’ so participants can be aware of their own processes. This is an important aspect.
The cumulative effect is to activate people’s zest for life.

Why does this work?
The immediate answer is because it gets participants out of their heads.
Very quickly indeed it breaks them free of their endless thinking cycle. It moves their awareness into their fuller consciousness – their body, their breathing and their overall connection with self and others. When this is done as a repeating, deepening pattern, it becomes an endlessly beneficial practice.

A subtler answer is it works because of the difference between being aware and being aware with a smile. This is like the difference between a passive, observational meditation and a proactive, dynamic one. Both ‘work’, and both have their place.

The smile gives the experience a particular dynamic.

How long do the benefits last?
As with mindfulness itself, the more it is practiced, the better it ‘works’. Again, it is simple but not easy. The strong incentive is that even experienced practitioners feel so good so quickly.

What’s the best way to start?
Smile. Feel the smile. Be aware of the internal quality of the smile. Smile with your whole being, and be alert for any differences in how you feel and how others behave and react.

It might be the most enjoyable practice you ever do.

Do it now?

zest for life

laughter yoga with Joe

Smiling & embodiment practices

latest news

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Laughter wellness: what is it and why does it work?

 

At last.

‘Now we are 8’, 8 years into the Great Recession, one ever-pressing question is: what works? The harder the times, the more pressing this question.

Three of the threads proving their effectiveness are:

  • Mindfulness: present-moment awareness, encouraging emotionally intelligent and self-responsible behaviour
  • Positive Psychology: the impact of positivity on emotions, happiness and effectiveness
  • Wellness: overturns stress, anxiety & depression, and promotes connection and resilience.

In the ‘Wellness’ picture, the role of ‘laughter wellness’ has its place because it is upbeat & energising, simple & effective, and fast.

It combines wellness activities with enjoyment. The result is calmness, connection and resilience which manifests in happier productivity.

BNP (Banque National de Paris), among others, used ‘zest for life’ recently.
We moved around the space, walked at different tempos, internalised & isolated ourselves, communicated & connected with each other, and kept expanding our awareness – all in a framework of good-natured exploration.

Apprehensive, heady, pressured individuals turned up and surprised, relaxed, energised & connected individuals left.

The surprise was because of how little we did and how well it worked. We moved, we breathed, we kept expanding our connection. We all felt well, no matter how we were feeling at the start of the session.

The moral? Laughter yoga in the form of ‘Laughter wellness’ has the magic combination of simplicity, enjoyment and effectiveness.

It works.

Time to take laughter wellness seriously?

Laughter yoga, laughter wellness and ‘zest for life’

Huff Post laughter yoga

10 minute session video

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