Monthly Archives: June 2014

Are you willing to laugh?

‘When I’m unhappy, stressed, or depressed, sometimes the last thing I feel like doing is laughing – can I really laugh myself into a better mood?’This is a common laughter yoga, nls: natural laughter skills, and laughter meditation question.

The psychologist William James observed ‘We don’t laugh because we’re happy, we’re happy because we laugh’.
But does laughing always make us happier?

The key is willingness.

Willingness empowers every stress-busting, mood-lifting activity we undertake. Particularly when combined with mindfulness, willingness can break us free of anxiety and even depression. The impact and benefit can be long-lasting. We can become happier.

To activate our willingness, one way is to use the inner smile, a classic Taoist/Zen as well as mindfulness-based stress-busting technique.

How do we activate it?

  • Breathe: start taking slow deep breaths, breathing out more slowly than you breathe in
  • Relax: focus on loosening and dropping your shoulders, and do some backward shoulder rolls, maybe even backstroke movements
  • Smile: soften any habitual facial mask by allowing a hint of a smile across your mouth and eyes
  • Internalise: drop this feeling as deeply into your torso as you can, focusing especially on your heart, belly and perineum
  • Laugh: use the power of your mind to bring some pleasant, happy thought or memory into your awareness and have a quiet chuckle.
  • Feel – be mindful: in an aware, attentive, mindful way take a moment to feel and register the quality of what you’ve just experienced
  • Repeat as often and as much as necessary

This and other exercises are in the book ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’, co-authored with the Barefoot Doctor.

As ever, the more you use this practice, the better it works, because you’re learning new habits. You’re harnessing your brain’s neuroplasticity, its ability to create new neural pathways. You are increasing grey matter concentration within specific areas of your brain which are involved in learning & memory, emotion regulation, sense of self, and re-assessing perspective.

What practical benefits do these bring? Among others:

  • You energise your stress-busting, mood-lifting, happiness-boosting processes
  • You strengthen your ability to be more mindful, to ease anxiety and depression, and to lift your mood at will
  • You develop the knack of becoming more optimistic, resilient and happier

All you need is willingness, and yes, you can laugh yourself happier. People do all the time. This why Dr Kataria, founder of laughter yoga, says: ‘it’s time to take laughter seriously’.

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Time: your ally or your enemy?

I was asked in a recent seminar: ‘how can my laughter yoga, nls: natural laughter skills, positive psychology and mindfulness practices help time be my ally not my enemy?’

‘The busier I get, the more I meditate’, says the Dalai Lama.

The most important aspect for all busy, stressed, anxious people to remember is to use time well, to deal with priorities, and to avoid mistakes and duplication.
The biggest mistake is to feel too busy to re-prioritise and re-assess current needs.
How do we achieve this?

The main specific tip is to:
– stop
– stand up
– stretch
– breathe
– smile
– chuckle
– take at least 30 seconds in this routine.

When you do this, you re-assert a measure of control into your life and therefore into your time management. If you are alert to your inner processes, you might experience a settling, like a Christmas snow scene which has all the snow swirling and shaken up, and when allowed to stand, it all settles again. You might experience the ‘noise’ of life quietening down, and the important ‘signals’ becoming more audible.
However you experience it, the act of deliberately inserting a break is an empowering action, gives you a greater sense of control, relieves stress, anxiety and pressure, and allows priorities to clarify. You come out of this break with a better sense of what to do next, and how to do it.
Specifically, this process allows you to identify your top priorities and the appropriate actions to achieve them.

Awareness and ‘now’ practices like laughter yoga, nls: natural laughter skills, meditation and mindfulness, especially when used regularly, help you identify when you need these breaks. The earlier you spot the need and take action, the better your time management. Consequently, you start to experience lower your stress levels, less anxiety, greater happiness & general wellbeing, and increased productivity.

Whatever else, you feel better because you feel more in control. When you feel better, you can be more focused. When you feel better and more focused, your time can become fun – and those who have fun get more done.


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Need more time? Well, laugh more!

‘Purleeeeease – laugh? When I’m stressed and busy? Meditation? Laughter meditation? I just don’t have the time. Let’s get real here – how can I manage more things when I’m short of time already?’

Ring a bell, anyone? I remember this time management conundrum well, so I enjoy helping others out of it.

Funny things happen when you laugh, especially when you laugh as a health promotion practice. In our era of intensifying stress and time pressure, the quest for happiness, serenity and productivity is also intensifying. As anxiety and depression increase, so do practices like yoga, meditation, laughter yoga and nls: natural laughter skills.
As time monsters proliferate, so do subtle time management practices.

‘The busier I get, the more I meditate’ says the Dalai Lama.

How is it possible that the solution to time shortage is to take up more time-consuming activities? Sound a bit funny, this? Yet this is what works.

First, following an earlier theme that laughter practices stimulate a sense of ‘I feel better’, this  gives us a sense of greater control in our life. This alone is an excellent reason to start laughter practices immediately. We feel more in control of our time,a pre-requisite for time management.

Secondly, laughter and smiling practices bring us into the ‘now’. The decision to use these practices breaks us out of our hamster wheel of mind-swirling overwhelming demands. Being mindful and in the ‘now’ immediately breaks the cycle of pressure, whether time pressure or pressure on the spirit.

Thirdly, time spent being mindful reconnects us with our intuition, our sense of inner knowing. This is where our time management solutions are. Allowing mindfulness and our intuition to guide us allows the important time management priorities to reveal themselves. Like cream, they float to the surface.

So far, so good – but how do we access all these benefits? Where do mindfulness, laughter yoga and nls: natural laughter skills fit in?

  1. Wake and Smile – W.A.S.
    Possibly your simplest and most powerful daily practice is to start your day with a smile. You start your day with conscious positive intention. You can either lie in bed and do it, or even smile in the mirror. The practice is for it to be a genuine, good-natured smile for 10-15 seconds. Use the ‘pencil in the teeth’ technique if necessary, as in ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’. Just do it, whatever it takes.
    Starting your day well gives you a sense of being in control and ready for what the day brings.
  2. Laugh at Lunchtime – L.A.L.
    At lunchtime, repeat this smiling exercise, or look around and find something to have a good-natured laugh about.
    Use the power of your own mind to access thoughts or memories that bring you a sense of lightness, wellbeing or joy.
    Listen to your intuition and re-prioritise your afternoon accordingly.
  3. Laugh at Work – L.A.W.
    During your working day, find moments to stop, relax, stretch, breathe, smile and chuckle. We all need regular breaks to keep our work focused, relevant, creative and productive. Add the L.A.W dimension to access your intuition and help you prioritise and manage your time well.
  4. Laugh at the End – L.A.T.E.
    At the end of your working day or at the end of your day, do one final smiling & laughing exercise. Besides the mild euphoria this induces, it also helps you settle and calm down. Whether you’re about to head home or head to bed, you do so with an enhanced sense of calm and peacefulness.

The more you develop your laughter practices, the more you improve your health, happiness and wellbeing – and your time management.

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