Monthly Archives: May 2014

Wake Up Laughing

‘What’s the point? Why would I do this?’ I was asked recently.
These questions take us to the heart of the healing power of laughter. Why is it such a good stress-buster? Does it ease anxiety and depression? Does it improve health, wellbeing and happiness?
Basically, does ‘laughter the best medicine’ deserve its reputation? The short answer of course is ‘Yes’. The long answer is also ‘Yes’. But why is this so?

When I ask people how they feel when they laugh, the most frequent comment is ‘I feel better’.
What does this mean to you? If you stop, breathe, smile and explore ‘feeling better’, what do you experience? Do you get a sense of an upward curve, of life improving?

I specifically invite you to stop, breathe, smile, relax right now, and simply feel what you’re feeling, whatever that is. Take a moment to feel the experience of your life before reading any further, and then add the phrase ‘I feel better’ into your experience. Do you notice a difference?

The longer I use nls: natural laughter skills, laughter yoga and laughter therapy, the more I appreciate the Dalai Lama (‘Be optimistic. It feels better‘) and contemporary psychological insight that ‘I feel better’ is significant and underappreciated.
It is arguably the most important attribute in our life because when we feel better, we have a sense of life improving, in particular:

  • We feel more in control, and we enjoy life more.
  • We beat back stress because we become more resilient, generous and open-hearted.
  • We improve our mood because we are having a better experience of being alive.
  • We feel more cheerful and optimistic because we ease anxiety, loneliness and depression.
  • We improve our relationships because we are a warmer, more approachable human being. We become someone people instinctively warm to and want to communicate with.

Aren’t these good enough reasons to ‘wake up laughing’?
The fact there are important, numerous and well-documented benefits for conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular health, depression, weight loss and many others is an added supportive factor. Physiologically and psychologically, these are highly significant, and they also combine well with disciplines like yoga, meditation, laughter meditation, positive psychology, as well as mindfulness practices.

However, the improvement in spiritual, psychological and overall wellbeing is perhaps the most fundamental benefit. This is another way of saying we become happier, and is why organisations like Action for Happiness support these activities.
Excitingly and interestingly, even a short exposure to nls: natural laughter skills and laughter yoga can activate this. One person came up to me at a healing arts festival and told me she’d taken part in one of my 15 minute sessions the previous year. She told me she had then spent a difficult and relentlessly demanding year as carer for a family member. She found that as a result of her 15-minute experience she felt so buoyed up that this kept her going all year.

All the other health benefits are important but to me sometimes they pale besides the improved life experience that these 15 minutes contributed to this person.

I leave you with this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882), and I encourage you to ‘wake up laughing’.
‘To laugh often and much………To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition…….. This is to have succeeded.’

www.joehoare.co.uk

Share Button

Float, don’t sink – be a cork, not a stone

I was asked recently: ‘how do you stay buoyant when life gets ‘difficult’?’
How indeed? The question within the question in our modern stressful times is how to stay positive, how to avoid anxiety and overload, how to stay buoyant and float like a cork, not sink like a stone.
I find two approaches work well, one is insight, and the other is practice. The key to both is to give up resistance, accept that life is as it is, and change what you can. This way you stay on top of life, you float, not sink.
Many years ago, a lovely (and insightful!) friend observed that, given the slightest chance, things generally work out for the best. She is a good-natured soul, she always has adventures and laughs about them. She is a fine embodiment of this approach, constantly radiates fun, and finds the best in situations.
Not everyone is like this. However, her insight did get me pondering. I consciously and deliberately started exploring hypothetically: what if everything IS working out for the best? What if every experience carries its own resolution and its own answer within it? What if the purpose of the disappointment and even depression is not to hurt us but to strengthen us? What if the purpose of suffering isn’t to make us suffer, but to liberate our consciousness, and make us more compassionate, tolerant and happier?
Commentators from the Dalai Lama, to Victor Frankl, to daily social media users all observe that sometimes life’s difficult times produce beautiful and unexpectedly wonderful consequences. The wise course is to be open to this possibility as soon as possible – not to beat ourselves up when plans go awry but to treat the experience simply as information and use it to build a better future.
How do we do this?
A fine psychological practice is ‘benefit finding’, looking for the benefit in the experience. This practice trains us actively to look for positives. As with all practices, the more we use it, the better it works. We can all practice beating anxiety and stress and focusing instead on promoting our own peaceful happiness.
Squirreled away in the heart of this practice is mindfulness. Mindfulness is a stress-buster, a remedy for depression and is at the heart of empowerment. When we are mindful we experience the ‘now’ and we move from a place of resistance to one of acceptance. We move from a story of ‘I wish this hadn’t happened’ to ‘Here I am, life is what it is, what can I do now?’ We take control of our life again.
A complementary and experiential practice that fits well with ‘benefit finding’ is the key nls: natural laughter skills and laughter yoga practice of breathing and smiling. The practice is to breathe deeply & slowly and smile gently. It is a core exercise in ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’ because it is a simple and natural stress-buster. It works because it automatically induces calmness and peaceful happiness. It allows us to stop and take stock, to re-centre ourselves and find our buoyancy.
It helps us float like a cork, not sink like a stone.

Let’s start by breathing deeply and smiling gently?
www.joehoare.co.uk

laughing buddha

 

 

Share Button