Tag Archives: anxiety

Laughter yoga and emotional catharsis


All emotions are welcome in my laughter yoga sessions. Even when I don’t specifically articulate this, it remains true.

Sometimes, partly as a result of this emotional freedom, personal breakthroughs occur.

Sometimes a natural joyfulness gets activated and a sense of wellbeing and unique personal identity breaks through. When this happens, the person has felt something they have never felt before, they recognise on a profound level this experience is important to them, and that from now on, their life is different –  including less stress & anxiety and more joy & happiness.

This is a ‘death of the ego’ moment, aka emotional catharsis.

This ‘death’ is the shedding of a skin because they have been touched sufficiently deeply, at that right moment in their life, that they emerge from the session a changed person.
They are transformed, but to experience that transformation, part of them has to ‘die’, and this is an emotional moment for them, with or without tears.

Two typical responses I have had from people are:

  • I kept giggling forthe rest of the day – joyfulness/happiness
  • I felt ‘present’ for the first time in my life – mindfulness/present-moment awareness

It is an honour, a privilege and a responsibility to be present at and help initiate this personal alchemy.

Two recent experiences struck me forcefully because they were so similar they were almost identical.

One happened on a 2-day course, the other in a 1.5 hour session. In both cases, as the particular individuals were recounting their experience and how they had been changed by it, all emotions, from pain and sorrow through to joy and delight, fleetingly crossed their face.

In the space of probably less than 2 seconds, this intense microcosm of emotion was clearly if fleetingly expressed as they completed their personal alchemy.

They had both made this breakthrough step without going into emotional meltdown, and yet strong emotion was being expressed.

Among other things, it is good for all practitioners to be comfortable in the presence of strong emotion.

I find it good simply to give it space and ‘hold’ it (be fully present with it) so that it can be experienced with self-responsibility. This allows the personal alchemy to occur (and is how it was in my own personal transformation moment.)

It is a wonderful thing to experience, and a wonderful gift to help birth, is it not?

Do you have any experiences to share?

Would you like a 2-minute video with 3 basic Move / Breathe / Smile exercises? Email me joe@joehoare.co.uk for your free copy.

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Laughter yoga, naturally.


Some of us in the laughter yoga community like to see how much we can do with how little.

How much genuine mirth and enjoyment can we induce?

How few exercises do we need?

How much can we use the group’s / individual’s expertise?

How effortless can we make the experience?

There is a path in laughter yoga which I and others sometimes walk where we like to be delicate, un-forced, genuine and natural.

This is a yoga approach because it focuses on the yogic aim of laughter yoga (union / reconnection / with self & others), and uses laughter yoga principles and exercises as a means of achieving these ends rather than as an end in themselves.
This means the role of the laughter exercises is to help access this state of reconnection / being present / union.

Those of us who like subtle love this approach.
I often observe with this ‘inside out’ approach that people have the experience of laughing lots even if they haven’t laughed their sides off. It feels to them that they have laughted their sides off because their laughter has come from a deep inner place – so they have had the double benefit of lots of laughter as well as yogic connection.

I was reminded of this today because I had a client who came to me because they said, among other things they wanted to laugh more and have more fun again in their life.

I inquired about what was happening in their life and it transpired that they were stressed and anxious, and in particular fed up with being fed up and not enjoying their life. It transpired what they were wanting was empowerment and natural genuine laughter as an expression of enjoyment in their life.
They wanted the joy they associated with laughter.

I duly took them through a process, part of which was to smile.

Three things then happened:

  1. They immediately laughed out loud – spontaneously, genunely, naturally
  2. They said they felt a sense of inner peace & contentment
  3. They said they felt ‘present’.

Any astute laughter yoga practitioner would have observed in the session that we used movement (‘motion creates emotion’), deep breathing (obviously) and smiling, in a flowing un-forced way – all of which induced genuine, natural, spontaneous self-induced laughter, and a sense of joyfulness.

A further benefit came afterwards. Before or during the session, they lost some jewellry that was extremely important to them. They were temporarily distracted by this until we re-focused.
After the session they resumed their slightly frantic hunt – and then they decided to use what we covered in the session, relaxed, smiled, became ‘present’ – and immediatley found it, in front of their nose where it had been all along.

Finding jewellry – yet another result for laughter yoga, naturally?





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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


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Laughter yoga: how playful movement heals


Movement heals – the body can heal the mind.
Laughter yoga is playful.
Playful movement can break old patterns.
Laughter yoga can break old patterns.

At least once on every course there is a instance where an embodiment, movement, dance and/or physical playfulness exercise ‘breaks’ a mindset and helps someone free themselves from an old pattern.

Every time, this exercise is spontaneous, ‘in the moment’, done specifically for that particular person, with the whole group taking part and therefore supporting this liberation process. Magic happens and there are usually tears – tears of relief, of alchemy, of frustration transformed into freedom.

This light-heartedness is liberating.

True spirituality means not taking ourselves too seriously: Deepak Chopra Click To Tweet

In a recent example, someone was terrorised by their rigid high standards. They had to do a presentation and were beating themselves up about it not being ‘good enough’, even though they had been given specific permission to experiment and allow their exercise to flow in its own easy natural way. They were furious and frustrated with themselves – so I got them to start ‘walking’ how they felt. We all joined in. We all trudged along with them (supportively). With minimal encouragement they then started shrugging it off (so we did too). We all ended up gambolling like spring lambs, and the self-rage and frustration had gone.

‘The dance you are talking about was absolutely great. It gave me a chance to express the emotion and got it out of my system. It was incredibly helpful. It also gave me the idea of doing this during (my own) walk-and-talk sessions as it is very cathartic.’

So not only was it helpful for them individually (and therefore for all of us too), but she is going to pass it down the line in her own work.

What can we learn from this? Various threads that stand out to me include;

  • be playful – be physically playful, whether you use laughter yoga or not
  • be spontaneous – learn to trust yourself to follow your instincts ‘in the moment’
  • in a ‘first do no harm way’, take risks. In the case above, I had no idea what would happen, I just knew playful movement would help.
  • allow emotion. Don’t be afraid of emotion, just remember to encourage everyone to breathe & relax.

What are your experiences?

Courses to learn laughter yoga

Webinars to develop exercises spontaneously

A 2-minute video compilation

The book ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’:

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Living passionately in ‘interesting times’ – how does laughter yoga help?

Do you remember the old Chinese curse: ‘may you live in interesting times’?
These times are with us now, so how can laughter yoga help?

I find three qualities are proving especially helpful – live passionately, take ourselves less seriously, and be more spontaneous & flexible 

  1. Live passionately.
    Laughter yoga uses laughter as a practice. It uses is as a yoga, to reconnect and harmonise.
    It energises.
    We breathe better. We oxygenate our blood. We improve our circulation. The net result is we feel energised. When we feel energised, we start to feel passionate.
    Whether done as alone or with others, it works.

‘Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you’. Oprah. Click To Tweet

Passion sustains us when we encounter difficulties. It is empowering. It builds our resilience and helps us keep going when problems arise, as they always do. A regular and daily laughter practice actively boosts our ability to live passionately.

Keep doing this and you will become energised, you will experience how your passion follows your energy, and consequently you feel in better control of our life – even in ‘interesting’ times.

A basic practice is: breathe in, pause, smile, and in a good-natured way, chuckle as you breathe out – pause, feel.

A basic practice is: breathe in, pause, smile, and in a good-natured way chuckle as you breathe out - pause, feel. Repeat. #laughteryogawithJoe Click To Tweet

  1. Take ourselves less seriously
    While it essential to take what we do seriously, especially nowadays, it is equally important not to take ourselves too seriously. When we take ourselves too seriously, our ‘message’ becomes ‘heavy’ rather than ‘light, and so we undermine it. This is particularly jarring in laughter yoga where the aim is to promote joyfulness, connection and open-heartedness (among other qualities).
    To start taking ourselves less seriously, practice laughing at yourself.
    A basic practice here is to look in a mirror, remind ourselves of all our foibles, point at ourselves, and have a good-natured chuckle. Learning to laugh at ourselves is liberating for others as well as ourselves.

  1. Let go & be more flexible.
    When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” John Maynard Keynes.

Changing our mind can be a tricky skill to master, yet it is essential if we want to be resilient, deal with stress well, and adapt properly as life changes around us. One easy way is regularly to ask ourselves ‘What if?’
It is a useful exercise to imagine circumstances being different, reversed, in a different order – just to see what insights occur to us, and therefore how we might do things differently.

‘Learning is not compulsory. Neither is survival’ W. Edwards Deming Click To Tweet

When we feel energised and passionate, it is easier to start imagining the previously unimaginable without feeling too threatened. When we approach this reviewing process as a game and engage with it playfully, it becomes easier to be open-minded and consider new ideas and possibilities.

A quick and easy way to become more playful is to move around playfully. We become energised when we spend a few moments being physically active, and combining this with playfulness moves us quickly into an open-minded and creative space. If you’re not sure how to, think of Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks?

The value of this flexibility, in combination with passion and playfulness, is it helps us adapt more easily as life changes, which is why laughter yoga is an effective tool for contemporary living – just keep practicing.

Useful links


Smiling is good for the heart

Laughter and mood change








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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.


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.

Be optimistic. It feels better. The Dalai Lama Click To Tweet

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.


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.

‘People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily.’ Zig Ziglar Click To Tweet

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.






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‘Help! I’m feeling overwhelmed’ – insights from Laughter yoga


Laughter yoga is not some quirky insubstantial time-filling activity. Laughter yoga helps real people with real life. The insights in nls: natural laughter skills provide a robust practical framework for navigating us through a crisis.

Winston Churchill commented ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going’.
To help do this, here are 7 core nls: natural laughter skills steps.

  1. just hang in there
  2. keep breathing
  3. set tiny wellness targets (‘for the next 5 minutes I’ll relax, breathe & smile’)
  4. within yourself, allow the possibility of change (‘resistance is futile’ … and it has the potential to turn pain into suffering?)
  5. Make a point for 5 minutes at a time, once or thrice a day, appreciating really ‘tiny’ normally insignificant things – fingernails, the fact that bones mend, the texture of your skin, the colour of your walls etc)
  6. Remember that with all you know and all you already do, clarity is on its way. You just have a bit of turbulence to get through
  7. The universe never puts more on our plate than we can handle

This framework is even more effective when these steps are done with a smile. The act of intentional willing smiling relaxes our psyche and opens us to the possibility of change. With practice, the act of intentional willing smiling generates a palpable internal sensation, a warmth, softening and gentleness we can feel. This quality

  • makes it easier to endure the painful moment
  • reduces inner resistance
  • and facilitates inner change.

All that you need do with this intentional willing smiling practice is keep practicing, as in ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’.
As John F Kennedy remarked ‘The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining’, and the more we integrate this smiling practice into our daily life, the better we are able to deal with life’s inevitable turbulence. We are developing our resilience, and using as many of our own resources as possible – physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual.

Do these steps really help?
Here is a recent comment ‘I feel anyone going through change and feeling overwhelmed will benefit from the wisdom of these words. I read them every day and they ground and encourage me, as well as reassuring me that I am doing enough.’

Just keep practicing your intentional willing smiling.


next workshop ‘Joy. More Joy

next webinar – ‘add mindfulness to your laughter yoga’

next course ‘Laughter Facilitation Skills’


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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.

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

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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

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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?


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.



Hawkwood College laughter yoga retreat


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