Category Archives: Action for Happiness

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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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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Laughter yoga tips for effortless laughter

Effortless laughter.

It’s a vibe thing.
When you yourself feel it, you transmit it, effortlessly.
The knack is to feel it, genuinely & authentically, in your core.

‘It’, of course, is good-natured warmth. ‘It’ is also joyfulness.

It is also acceptance, the acceptance of our inner dark and light, of our sorrows as well as our joys. It is the ability to cry as well as laugh.

‘It’ takes practice. The practice is endless, but it gets better. Life becomes more joyful.
Is this a good reason to practice?

Laughter yoga is wonderful for this. There is a great practice, of laughing at oneself. The practice of being able to laugh through, at & with our ‘story’ is very profound. It is liberating because it puts us increasingly at ease with life and all it brings – the downs as well as the ups.
You practice laughing no matter what you’re feeling.
It is the equivalent of keeping breathing, no matter what you’re feeling. Just keep breathing.
After all, isn’t a laugh just a type of out-breath?

When we have learnt to laugh like this, people sense it. It allows them to laugh more easily, effortlessly even. This inner freedom, the freedom referred to by Marianne Williamson in her memorable Our deepest fear‘ quote, gives others permission to feel more expansively too. When this is done in a space that allows and encourages good-natured  connection, whether in a laughter yoga/wellness session or in fact any other session, effortless natural spontaneous laughter often occurs.
It usually occurs.
In fact, it almost invariably occurs.

If you run any kind of ‘laughter’ sessions, this is a very good skill to learn.

As a personal practice, it is extremely liberating.
It is another one of these ‘simple but not easy’ practices, and like all such practices, it is potentially life-changing in a good way.

The underlying reason for this effortless laughter involves being present and experiencing the joy that simply being alive can offer. When we are able to relax into the ‘now’, it is usually a joyful experience, and in this state, good-natured laughter easily and naturally bubbles up.
This applies as much as a personal practice as a group skill.

Are these good reasons to learn it?

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Useful links include:

group laughter skills (webinar)

group laughter skills (course)

personal practice (book)

general information

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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 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

Get training

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Finding your place in the laughter yoga world

 

You’ve got the enthusiasm. You’ve done the training. What next?

Sometimes what follows is a scenario where you run one or three sessions and then you don’t quite know how to develop these further. Sometimes people come to a session, love it, and in spite of raving about it, they never return.
Sometimes they might not quite ‘get’ what it’s about. Sometimes they might think it’s ‘just’ a bit of fun but not really important, not comparable with ‘serious’ practices like….well, yoga?

This can be discouraging.

In my 14 years in the laughter yoga world, this is a scenario I’ve encountered many times. I also wrestled with it myself in the Bristol laughter workshops (www.bristollaughterclub.com) where on one occasion in the 13 years it’s been running, only 1 person turned up. After the initial scariness (on my part, I should add), we proceeded to have a very valuable hour and a half.
It was excellent coaching practice.

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Nowadays these sessions average over 20 participants, with lots of them coming back. The sessions always attract further interest and professional inquiries, from charity to blue chip. This is partly because there is a greater general awareness of and appreciation for all wellness and yoga practices, but also because I’ve developed my own style and built my own niche to maximise the value people get.
They ‘get’ the value.

I’ve also been in lots of other people’s sessions and have experienced successful styles that are completely different to my own. I’ve observed and felt that style itself simply doesn’t matter. What matters is that it’s YOUR style. As you develop your own style, you will find your niche.

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In my experience, more often than not, this niche combines with other modalities & practices which is why you need to have the courage to be flexible, spontaneous and adaptable.

The laughter yoga world is expanding fast now because the whole wellness world is expanding fast. World-wide there is greater interest in being healthy & happy, and personal development practices are something that more and more people are prepared to devote time, energy and resources to.

It has become clear to me that we all have a niche. It is sometimes/often/usually not what we expect, but we all have one. Finding your niche and building your presence & impact, and hence rewards, is the subject of this webinar.

Time, science and general interest are all on our side. There are excellent resources on Facebook, twitter and Linkedin. I post articles regularly in the ‘about’ section on my own website.

We are moving with the tide of history. At the very least, do keep practicing?

Exclusive webinar, limited places: build your niche, presence, impact and rewards, 13th March, 6pm UK time

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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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Start. Laughing. Now.

 

Just, as they say, do it.

It’s good for your body, for your emotions, for your heart, for your health, for your mind, and even for world peace, as the Dalai Lama agreed with the founder of laughter yoga, Dr Kataria, recently.

Take a moment to reflect – how do you feel when you laugh? I pose this question to every group and the most common reply is ‘I feel better’.
What happens when we feel better? Life improves.
What’s the benefit when life improves? Potentially, every aspect of our life – health, relationships, effectiveness, and more.

Can we learn to laugh more? Emphatically YES. Watch how it was done at the recent Portland Centre for Integrative Medicine event.

In its simplest form, smile on the in-breath, chuckle on the out-breath. Its benefits include mood control ie we regulate out own mood better.
By doing this we are more emotionally intelligent and resilient, that is we are more in control of our own life and less controlled by external factors like stress, anxiety and anger.
We become more effective, even in the field of activism, as I wrote in Resurgence magazine

Because we are more in control of our mood, we communicate better and have better relationships at home and with colleagues. Life becomes more joyful.

We can all learn this. Here’s one way, on this next course.

Let’s all have a more joyful year, for ourselves, our family & friends, our colleagues, and the world at large?

www.joehoare.co.uk

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You are awesome – yes, you.

 

I was thinking awesome this morning.

I suddenly realised that two of the most awesome people I’ve known in my life were both almost completely uneducated, yet they both had a spark that people still remember. That spark was their ability to figure things out, be nobody’s fool and therefore highly perceptive.

In today’s parlance, they were creative, intuitive and authentic. They understood themselves, and therefore life, well enough to see to the heart of situations. Neither of them had high flying careers yet they excelled,  and impressed everyone who met them because they were so ‘real’.

If they could, why not us too?

Can we be more ‘real’? We’re already unique, creative individuals, so can we learn to expand our uniqueness?
Why might we want to?

One simple way to expand our uniqueness is to become more aware of the flow of life. Life is swirling and changing in & around us all the time, yet how aware of this are we? If we’re ‘in our heads’ the answer is always: not very.
As soon as we engage with our embodied consciousness, awareness floods in, stress and tension ease, mood improves, life becomes more enjoyable, we communicate better, and relationships and effectiveness improve.

How do we do this? A simple mantra is ‘feet, breathe, smile’.

When we put attention on our feet, especially the soles of our feet, we get out of our heads.
When we become aware of and focus on our breathing, we relax and calm down.
When we smile, we imbue our awareness with good-naturedness.

One of the cumulative effects is to deepen our connection with our knowing self, our intuition – including perceptiveness and ability to ‘figure things out’.

I observe people entering this state of embodied awareness, and every time they become more radiant and beautiful.
They become relaxed, empowered and confident.
Without fail, they know what to do next, what their next step is and how to take it.
They become aware they have the resources to do what needs doing.
They do it.
They activate their zest for life.

Joehoare---front-Business-card---flatThey become awesome in front of my eyes.

Get out of your head and go for full awareness.
Use the mantra and practice: ‘Feet, breathe, smile’.
Give it a go. Get more awesome.

Tell me how you get on.

Useful links
Zest for life
‘Feet, breathe, smile’
Take your next step

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Beyond McMindfulness (hint: think ‘laughter practices’)

‘This makes me more present than anything else’, said the Maori homeopath, ‘more than my own meditation practice’

She was referring to the awareness practices she’d just experienced in a yogic laughter session at the Bristol laughter club.

blc logoIndividually at first, we explored awareness of feet, breath, hands, ears and so on.
We then explored them progressively and cumulatively.

Next, we explored how deeply we could maintain this awareness  while walking and moving.

Next, we took off our regular masks and added the quality of a soft face, ie a smile. We experienced the extra dimension the smile added.

Progressively we explored how there’s no limit to how deeply we can be aware, and how the smile deepens awareness.

Simple but not easy, to use Jon Kabat-Zinn’s expression.

The effect? Becoming more present, absolutely anchored in the present moment, connecting warmly with fellow human beings.
The quality of experience? Quiet, joyful contentment.

This simple exercise gets better the more we use it. ‘Gets better’ means becomes more effective. The more present we are, the better we can respond to the requirements of the current moment – with less stress, less anxiety, less frustration, more calmness, more peacefulness, more effectiveness.

McMindfulness does not deliver this. Mindfulness does. Yogic laughter practices do, par excellence.

Awakening the Laughing Buddha within

 

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