When you’re afraid – or stressed, or anxious, or angry, or unhappy – laugh.
The ability to laugh under duress, when circumstances are hard, is a route back to sanity and inner calm.
The ability to laugh at ourselves in these circumstances is a path to psychological freedom, emotional intelligence, professional effectiveness, and personal liberation.
It helps us be more mindful, become more resilient & able to cope with life’s ‘slings & arrows’, and better able to find peace of mind under duress.
Fear is an example of duress. How do we face our fear and not let it rule us?
Laughter practices are one way.
In both laughter yoga and nls: natural laughter skills we learn to laugh for the sake of laughing. We learn to laugh for the psychological, emotional, physical, whole-person benefits. With practice this becomes an effective technique for dealing with pressure and regaining our equilibrium.
In group and organisational settings, it a classic way of raising morale. Watching ‘World at War’ footage of both Monty and Nye Bevan giving wartime speeches, for example, one theme they both tapped into was the morale-boosting effects of good natured laughter and humour.
Fear, which often combines with stress, anxiety and worse, is debilitating. It is, as Frank Herbert said, ‘the little death’.
Until we overcome them, they blight our lives.
When we overcome them, miracles happen:
‘At the weekend I only touched on the pain and trauma I have been through in the last six years. Over that time I had completely forgotten how to laugh, lost my confidence and self-esteem along with trust in others – all the negatives.
I think I had reached rock bottom – anti depressants from the doctor, high blood pressure, IBS all, I believe, caused by my ego dwelling on the past and going over things like a long playing record. Thankfully a visit to the doctor made me realise I had to begin to take control. I needed to laugh and find the fun in my life and also live in the NOW not the past. (ie mindfully – Joe)
I read and researched Eckhart Tolle and then wondered whether there were any clubs that actually taught you how to laugh – that was when I happened on laughter therapy and it looked amazing………
The content, participants………..were uplifting, stimulating, thought provoking, certainly sowing the seeds and giving me strategies to help put my life back on a positive path………
Obviously I realise it is early days but I am sure with my inner strength and determination I will succeed. In fact my doctor, whom I saw today, has agreed to gently phase me off medication.’ (Retreat delegate)
The content she refers to was based on smiling & laughter practices, developing the genuine ability to smile and laugh at will, no matter what the circumstances. Like all practices, these have to be done diligently and consistently to be most effective, but hers is just one story of many.
On an organisational level, this approach helps empower people and generate enthusiasm. Who wouldn’t want a delegate coming out saying:
‘Thanks for the conference at the Victoria Hotel on Friday. I haven’t had so much fun at a conference ever. I still chuckle at the idea of the “respectful bowing laugh”.’ (Conference delegate, Healthy Living Initiative, Cornwall).
Evidence that these practices work is accumulating all the time, as this article in Psychology Today shows (see below).
As ever, though, the final proof is personal experience.
We all have to find ways to survive and thrive, to get through hardship & loss, and overcome fear.
We all need good tools to help us practice our mindfulness, become more resilient, be more emotionally intelligent.
We all want to raise our level of effectiveness for greater life satisfaction and happiness.
As ever with these things I learnt some things that I never could have imagined I was going to. I am practicing! (Retreat delegate)
Perhaps it’s time to develop your smiling and laughter practices?
- nls: natural laughter skills
- World at War
- Psychology Today
- Huffington Post Healthy Living: laughter & mindfulness
- smiling and laughter practices