Tag Archives: Barefoot Doctor

7 tips for more happiness in life, part 3

‘How do I laugh more?’ is still one of the most common questions I am asked in coaching sessions.
This is the third in the series of 7 quick tips on how to use nls: natural laughter skills and laughter yoga for more laughter in your life.

Tip 3 – ‘when feeling angry/stressed/‘blue’, laugh at yourself’


This classic reminder, used by both Alan Watts and Eckhart Tolle, is an essential step towards happiness. We tell ourselves stories all the time, and being human we tend to believe them.

How can we break this pattern, and how do laughter practices help?

As ever, awareness and mindfulness are crucial. The more we practice being aware and living in the ‘now’, the easier it becomes to remember we’re just telling ourselves a story. Consequently, the easier it becomes to break out of the pattern.

One way to stimulate this awareness is the laughter meditation practice of chuckling & laughing-out-loud on each out-breath.
When you develop this practice it becomes easier to use it when you’re angry, stressed or anxious. You find that in the middle of the drama you can still have awareness, and with this awareness, you can take this laughter meditation action step – and laugh out loud at yourself.

To do this:

  • Breathe in
  • Pause
  • Smile
  • Breathe out with a chuckle
  • Repeat
  • Repeat again etc

This practice, combining nls: natural laughter skills, laughter yoga and the Barefoot Doctor’s Taoism, is described more fully in chapter 2 of ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’.
It is an inherently mindful & joyful practice because laughter brings our attention into the present moment. It cuts through the drama of our story, and eases any anger, stress and anxiety.
Psychologically it helps because we start to exercise control over our state of consciousness.
Neurologically this practice works because our brain responds to our laughing rather than our worrying, so the more we practice this, the more we re-wire our brain for peace, calm and happiness.

‘Thank you……not sure I could have gotten through the year……to laugh again at all the right and ‘wrong’ moments’. (private comment)


A note of caution – this is not an easy practice!
I find when I’m in the thick of an anger, stress or anxiety drama, it requires considerable effort to do my chuckling meditation.
A note of reward – just one chuckle is enough!
Once I’ve had the presence of mind to take this action step, it immediately starts to break through and provide perspective, clarity and calm. I experience an immediate easing of the internal pressure my drama was creating.

I also find it the perfect antidote to over-seriousness and use it whenever I feel this tendency encroaching – so I use it several times a day! I now find it an essential, enjoyable, life-enhancing safety valve.

I’d love to hear your experiences.



Action for Happiness

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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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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?

laughing buddha



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