Category Archives: Connection

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.

img_2790

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.

img_2765

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.

[bctt tweet=”‘People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.’ Zig Ziglar” username=”@joehoare”]

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

 

 

 

 

Share Button

Laughter yoga – a force for mindfulness and peace.

 

There is a huna saying: there are no limits. This is certainly true for laughter yoga.

Joehoare---front-Business-card---flat

When you get into the heart of laughter yoga, two qualities you find are mindfulness and peace. By practicing laughter as a yoga, by taking your awareness inside and feeling the inner changes brought about by your laughter practice, you become present and peaceful.

There are many other qualities you might experience too,  for example

– energised,
– healthy,
– empowered.
You might have to navigate your way through some inner turbulence, but after the outward expression of your laughter yoga, there is the potential to feel still, aware, and peaceful.

Because laughter is a universal language, laughter yoga is potentially universal.
It is also cross-cultural, and accessible to every culture and group.

One recent example is from a Women’s Group from a recovery organisation. In their 20 years they had never allowed a man into their group room.
They were stressed, dealing with a lot of pressure, and wanted additional skills to help them cope better, build resilience and find a sense of inner calm.
After they approached me thinking I was a woman (Jo not Joe), their organiser asked them if they were happy having a male presence in their group, and they replied ‘yes’.
Besides feeling honoured I also felt extremely alert to any nuances, and so the session was geared to ensure they ‘owned’ it and felt good about themselves. It started very gently as they eased themselves into playful light-heartedness, and then they really took to it.

It worked, they loved it, and they want more.

Another example is with a Pakistani Women’s Group. The same principles of gentleness, flexibility and respect applied. It was important to find the edges of their willingness so they could stay engaged and take part fully. Once we did this, everybody relaxed into it, encouraged each other, and felt great by the end of a short session.

On the face of it, both these sessions were difficult if not impossible but by finding a way of making the laughter yoga exercises relevant and appropriate to each specific group, they were able fully to take it on board.
One group became quite rampant, the other became more quietly jolly, but both of them felt energised, ‘alive’, calm and peaceful by the end.

How do we do this? The keys to this are
— gentleness,
— flexibility and
— respect.

blc logo

I call this approach nls: natural laughter skills because it is based on
— moving
— breathing
— smiling
It builds gentleness, flexibility and respect into the heart of laughter yoga, and helps it realise its potential for mindfulness and peace.
Whether you are an organisation, team, group or an individual, there are no limits.

if you have enjoyed this blog, please ‘like’ share it? Thank you, I greatly appreciate this.
Further resources include:

www.joehoare.co.uk

nls: natural laughter skills

www.bristollaughterclub.com

 

Share Button

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?

Joehoare---front-Business-card---flat

Useful links include:

group laughter skills (webinar)

group laughter skills (course)

personal practice (book)

general information

If you’ve enjoyed this blog, please share it? Thank you

Share Button

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

Share Button

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

Joehoare---front-Business-card---flat

Share Button

What can I expect on a laughter yoga retreat?

 

‘Laughter yoga with Joe’ is about the journey back to joyfulness. We are all wherever we are on our own life curve, dealing with whatever we’re dealing with, experiencing whatever we’re experiencing.
Wherever we are is the perfect platform for our next step – and all we can ever do is take the next step, one at a time?

What if we can do this with lightness, joyfully? With zest for life?

Joehoare---front-Business-card---flat

Strategically, spiritually, on a soul level we have a yearning to return home. Inside us, that warm, loving, kind part of us yearns to connect, to reach out and communicate warmly with our fellow humans and beyond. So often our history, our ‘story’, gets in our way and hampers us. Sometimes we’re afraid, afraid of our ‘shadow’ or just afraid.
What if we can just march straight through our ‘story’, enjoying the journey and so focused on the joyfulness that it provides us with the energy to become more joyful ourselves?

How can we do this? The secret lies in the present, experiencing the NOW.
Start here & now by dropping your shoulders, taking a deep breath, putting a small warm genuine smile on your face, and breathing out slowly while keeping that genuine smile alive.

‘Laughter yoga with Joe’ is a very NOW experience in which we use all the resources we have, often discovering we have many more than we previously realised.

On a Retreat, we laugh, sing, dance and play. We explore lightness and joyfulness. We breathe & relax, and are quiet & calm.
We have space and permission to be free and spontaneous. In a safe and permissive space, we allow and welcome all emotion.

In this warm, generous and spacious way we practice being present, in the NOW. This is where the magic happens.

Resources:
www.joehoare.co.uk

www.bristollaughterclub.com

Hawkwood College laughter yoga retreat

 

Share Button

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

Joehoare---front-Business-card---flat

Share Button

Enjoy the unenjoyable

 

A testing time is approaching for many of us. How can we best get through it?

Besides the relax/breathe/smile techniques, here are 3 you might not have used much before, if at all.

  1. Commit to enjoying. Before you leave your bed in the morning, affirm to yourself you’re going to have a good day, no matter what. At the very least, you start your day on the front foot, not the back. Your smiling practices help but beyond that, make a non-negotiable resolve to yourself that you’re going to have a good day. Do whatever you need to set that intention but give it the same kind of determination an Olympic gold-medalist would.
  2. Sacred space. At interval during the day, take time out for yourself. Joseph Campbell referred to this sacred space as perhaps the most important personal practice we have. It allows us to re-centre ourselves, which is vital when we feel under pressure. Leave the room, be somewhere else, but see it and use it as a safety valve.
  3. Imagine light. A successful no-nonsense self-made business-woman I knew was aware of the importance of working in a subtle as well as practical way. Before any presentation she’d do a visualization in which she’d fill the room with her favourite colour, which happened to be pink. One time someone came up to her after her presentation and commented ‘did you notice how everything looked a bit pink?’

Even if you just use this as a mental rehearsal exercise, it is surprisingly powerful.
It is also extremely easy to do as it only takes a second or so – longer if you like, but not necessarily.
It also works well in team settings and with meetings, by the way, because the net result is you build your resilience.

I guarantee if you use these tips your enjoyment increases.

Joehoare---front-Business-card---flatYou are also likely to find pleasure replaces dread, you become more relaxed and happier, and you connect better than you thought likely, or even possible.

You won’t be the first to have these experiences from using these tips.
Happy enjoyment.

Useful links:

smiling practices

relax/breathe/smile techniques

team settings and meetings

Share Button

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

Share Button

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

 

Share Button