Tag Archives: depression

Joy Conference: “things that sustain your desire to be alive”. Bristol 26th October 2019.

Joy energises life. It sustains your desire to be alive.

According to the Glasgow University study of 2014, joy (‘happiness’) is one of our 4 basic facial expressions and primary emotions. It is no surprise, therefore, that it is such an effective approach to mental health, even when life its at its darkest..

Kate Hull Rodgers talks about her own journey from a mental hospital to award-winning comedienne in her presentation at the Joy Conference in Bristol on 26th October 2019.

In her own words: ‘Award winning comedienne, Kate Hull Rodgers, first became mentally ill 30 years ago. She was given a multitude of diagnosis, a cocktail of medication and was even chained to a bed, spread-eagle, as part of her treatment. Eventually she was institutionalized and sent to the notorious long term mental hospital. Her prognosis to get out was “hopefully”. Until one day the occupational therapist suggest Kate write a list of things that brought her Joy. Kate scoffed at the ridiculous idea…. But then she tried it. It was transformational, a turning point and the beginning of Kate’s long road to Recovery. Come and hear Kate’s astounding story of how she has lived with being Bipolar. You will laugh and cry and you will be inspired.’
Not to be missed.

Read her latest blog here. It is one of the most lovely pieces of writing I have ever read:
Joy List: “things that sustain your desire to be alive.”

Joy is also fundamental in laughter yoga. It is one of the 4 key steps, along with simple breathing & stretching exercise, playfulness and connection. When approached like this, it is easy to activate and benefits everyone. Let’s all be more joyful?

Do you prioritise joy in your own life?

If not, is it time to start now?

Joy Conference

Laughter yoga

‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’

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What’s Joy got to do with it?

 

Joy: a sense of elation and ‘deep abiding’, a much deeper experience than happiness.
Is this important to you?
How can you activate yours?
How can you maintain it?

Joy energises our life and gives us a sense of purpose. It is important for its own sake but also because it activates qualities like acceptance, peace and connection, as well as resilience and presence of mind.
It has the potential to give us ‘lasting happiness in a changing world’.

In Integrative Medicine, joy is a recognised promoter of health and wellbeing.
Psychology shows how it contributes to our mental health.
In cancer care it is recognised as life-affirming.
In business, it is valued for its resilience and mindfulness qualities.

In brief, joy is recognised as an important contributor to a healthy, happy and fufilled life.
(‘The Joy Conference‘, Bristol 26th October, combines all these threads, and more.)

Laughter yoga can activate joy. It can be used to focus on joyfulness, and an excellent way to achieve this is to practice celebrating, especially celebrating being alive. The sense of elation and aliveness that accompanies this celebration automatically activates our sense of joy.

Simple celebration steps include smiling and laughter.
The practice of smiling is now a well recognised method of improving our mood. There have been many studies that demonstrate this beyond all doubt, including those done by Professor Frach and associates in 1988 with the pencil in the teeth study.
So, step 1 is to practice smiling more.

Self-initiated laughter is another good step. Children constantly laugh like this, just because. Adults can learn how to to do this again, particularly when using laughter as yoga. Although laughter yoga can be a group activity (which taps into the contagiousness of laughter), it is also a solo activity – laughing, just because. When we use this yogic approach, we learn to experience all the benefits of laughter whenever we choose.

A third step is to experience how we embody this.
The studies into body-mind communication show how we can alter our mood and mindset through embodiment and posture. We can celebrate more by adopting a celebrating posture.

The combined effect of these simple steps includes activating our joyfulness and bringing all its benefits into our life.

Further information

The Joy Conference 26th October, Bristol.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is more information about Laughter yoga 

 

 

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Does joy have practical benefits? Is laughter yoga relevant?

 

The short answer to both questions is, of course: yes.

The effects of joy and joyfulness include helping us live a healthier, happier, more engaged and more productive life. They are an antidote to the modern epidemics of anxiety, depression, isolation or disconnection.

The science behind this gets stronger every day. “Humans do seem to be genuinely unified by laughter.” says Professor Sophie Scott of University College London.

We probably need no other reason for laughter yoga than this sense of connecting with fellow humans in a warm, peace-inducing, good-natured way.

However, the benefits continue.

“Laughter……. spurs not only creativity and collaboration but also analytic precision and productivity.”says Harvard Business School professor Alison Wood Brooks. These psychological benefits have been documented in positive psychology studies for some time (in ‘Authentic Happiness’, by Dr Martin Seligman, for instance), so the factual basis for more laughter in our life is solid.

How can we achieve this?

As part of the wellness and mindfulness waves that are, happily, spreading inexorably through modern life, there is a special role for laughter yoga.
Laughter yoga treats laughter as a yoga because, as is increasingly well known, the benefits come from the act of laughter itself, not through jokes or humour or funny. A happy spin-off happens to be that life becomes funnier and more humourous but the intention is to access all the benefits from the act of laughter itself – for the reasons covered in the articles below.

Laughter yoga is an adaptable activity. It works as effectively in teams & conferences as in classes, or on your own. It works seated or standing, for all ages and cultures. It can be used in any and all circumstances.

As there are so many benefits from laughter yoga, isn’t it time to explore its potential in your own life?
Learn more here:

Courses

Conferences / teams

Online

CNN – The science behind laughter yoga

The benefits of laughter in the office

Do you want the free 7-minute Relax/Breathe/Smile/Feel meditation?
Contact me joe @ joehoare.co.uk with ‘Meditation please’ in the subject line

 

 

 

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Laughter yoga daily practice: why doesn’t it always work?

 

A core laughter practice is intentional, self-initiated laughter. In laughter yoga this is called ‘laughing for no reason’.

Peering behind the language, it is laughing for the sake of laughing. It is a proactive, intentional yogic activity, to access the many benefits that laughter delivers.
This can be a group practice as well as an individual one. The resuts can be profound and life-changing.

Sometimes, though, they change almost nothing, even after years of practice. Why might this be?

(Spoiler alert: it is called ‘Benefit Finding’)

Many of us in the ‘laughter’ community will have had experiences of people’s lives being improved through laughter practices. Sometimes there is an almost immediate result as relief and joy break free. Sometimes it is like the bursting of a dam of seriousness and stress, and when people access this inner quality, they change permanently and instantly.

Sometimes, though, in site of years of practice, this does not happen. Again, many of us probably know people who are able to laugh and laugh without any benefit beyond the immediate physical health boost.

In one particular instance, a long-time practitioner asked me why they could laugh happily for a long time in a laughter session, and yet 30 minutes later be habitually gloomy.

Why indeed?

One short answer is that this is a good reminder that no practice is a magic bullet. Nothing always works every time for everyone.

A further answer is perhaps that psychologically we need to be ready for change. When we are, even if consciously we don’t know we are, even a small intervention can produce big changes.When we are not, nothing will produce changes.

‘Benefit Finding’ is as it says, looking to find the benefits from situations, including or maybe especially, ‘uncomfortable’ ones. Although the array of world-wide laughter practices gives us excellent tools to improve our life, until we are ready to move into a more expansive life, the benefits from these practices will be limited.
‘Moving into a more expansive life’ might involve dealing with uncomfortable feelings. Often we shy away from uncomfortable feelings, and in this case, not even laughter practices will make a difference. We might need additional resources.

So although psychology, science, medicine and spirituality all underpin the potential benefits from laughter practices, until we are prepared for ‘Benefit Finding’, their impact will be as much or as little as we allow – and this might be very little.

As practitioners, the reminder is that our role is to deliver competent, appropriate interventions. Their impact ultimately lies with the recipient. We need to be ready to make other suggestions, or maybe just offer support.

The one thing we cannot guarantee is that laughter practices will ‘work’.

Al we can do is our best, always.

www.joehoare.co.uk 

‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’

 

 

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Why does laughter yoga matter?

 

Laughter yoga – laughter as yoga – what’s the big deal?

Possibly it is the biggest deal.

So much human life is characterised by over-seriousness and over-thinking. We have probably all experienced both, regularly. Possibly we still do?

Does it serve us? What goes better in our life when we are over-serious and/or over-think? If it doesn’t serve us, and we recognise it doesn’t serve us, how can we stop? How can we learn not to be over-serious and not to over-think?

 

The answer is practice – practicing not being over-serious and not over-thinking. It is only a question of practicing enough so we learn new reflexes.

Only.

Psychology, medicine, science all show how our quality of life improves when we reverse this trend.

Our own personal experience affirms this. We know this. Every time I ask people how they feel after smiling and laughing, the answer is always: ‘better’.

(…… and I’ve been using my smiling techniques – so on way to (the railway station on Sun evening to get train, the road was closed just outside the station – no idea how to get round to station. But did I fret? No, I smiled (well to be absolutely honest I did fret first, until I remembered to smile!…..)

I experience this myself. I am aware how the practice of self-initiated smiling and/or laughing (ie without jokes, humour or any external stimulus) calms me down and also has the immediate effect of reversing over-seriousness and over-thinking. It helps me deal better (ie more effectively) with stresses, anxieties, irritations. It helps me communicate better (more effectively, peacefully, with greater compassion and understanding) both in person and through social media.

It helps me connect better with myself and with others.

Self-initiated smiling and laughing are core practices in laughter yoga.

We smile – just because.

We laugh – just because.

(Photo with Dr Madan Kataria, founder of laughter yoga, and Madhuri Kataria)

When we do these as a yoga, ie to energise our life on every level, they reframe our life. When we do these as a conscious choice – ‘In this moment I consciously choose to improve my life experience’ – it is empowering and life-affirming in ways that can surprise us. This act of choosing takes us to the core human experience: ‘the freedom to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances’ (Victor Frankl)

When we use laughter yoga self-initiated smiling and laughing, we get multiple benefits. Our decision/choice to do these is instantly life-affirming in this Victor Frankl way. This in itself makes us feel better. Additionally, there are the many measured biological and biochemical and neurological benefits. These can make us feel better. Additionally, we immeditately start to connect better. We can create a virtuous circle of choosing to feel better, which makes us feel better, which helps us connect better, which then makes us feel better because we are feeling better and starting to get better feedback from others, and so on.

All this can be triggered by simple laughter yoga smiling and laughing exercises which are fun to do, easy to learn, and can be done on your own. They are at the heart of  the #laughteryogawithJoe experience.

Just keep practicing.

How can you to learn to? Get the free 2-minute video (email me joe @ joehoare.co.uk)
(Do share this blog if you find it helpful.)

Additionally, you can:

Learn online

Learn in person.

Learn at a conference

For more general information, visit www.joehoare.co.uk

 

 

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What is #laughteryogawithJoe? What can it do for you?

 

Dr Kataria, founder of Laughter Yoga, calls #laughteryogawithJoe ‘a pioneering approach’ to laughter yoga.

This #laughteryogawithJoe approach is the practice of joyfulness.

In Douglas Abrams recent book ‘The Book of Joy’ with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, reference is made to research by the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of Glasgow. This suggests there are only four fundamental emotions of which one is positive – joy. (The other three are fear, anger and sadness).

This gives scientific validation, and not just an intuitive feeling, to the value of the practice of joyfulness.

#laughteryogawithJoe uses laughter yoga principles and techniques to achieve this. This approach uses laughter yoga creatively and expansively. It has the specific and articulated intention of welcoming, encouraging and supporting everybody’s unique abilities as they use laughter yoga on their path to joyfulness.

Because it follows principles, it is flexible approach rather than rigid one. It provides a framework, not a formula. It welcomes creativity and spontaneity. It allows, encourages and precipitates natural, spontaneous and joyful expressions of life – which include plenty of laughter.

‘A breath of fresh air in the laughter yoga world’ is how one Laughter Yoga Master Trainer described it recently.

Naturally, all emotions are welcome as sometimes there are tears too, tears of release. Laughing and crying are closely relatives on our emotional spectrum. Both have the effect of deepening our breath. As breathing exercises are central to yoga, even crying becomes yogic – but laughter yoga has much more laughing than crying.

The principles include:

  • embodiment,
  • breath, and
  • smiling.

In a joyful, expansive and playful environment, these principles lead inevitably and easily to natural, genuine spontaneous laughter.

 

Why? Because they bring us into the ‘Now’ in a good-natured, open-hearted, and embodied way (think: mindfulness). One result is connection, both with ourself and others. With gentle guiding and occasional ‘exercises’, this has the potential to blossom into into a freer, fuller, richer experience of being alive.

In other words, more joy.

I’d love to hear your own views and feelings and experiences. I always reply to comments here.

 

Read Dr Kataria’s full preface to ‘Laughter yoga and Happiness: 7 insights from 15 years of laughter yoga’  in the book here

More details on the #laughteryogawithJoe approach here

Book #laughteryogawithJoe for your next conference / event – details here

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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.

Here is more info on

www.joehoare.co.uk

 

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Embodiment & unexpected pain relief in laughter yoga

 

We never know how someone will respond to a session and what benefits they will experience.

‘I don’t have my shoulder pain anymore!’

My approach to laughter yoga ( #laughteryogawithJoe ) usually starts with an extended gentle physical loosening up & embodiment session.

We do this as a fundamental part of the practice to be enjoyed and savoured, not as an introduction to be hurried through.

Sometimes the majority of the session is taken up with loosening, and therefore experiencing the body /mind connection of mind/body ‘medicine’.

My original intention behind this approach was to help participants experience relief from over-thinking, and potentially to help establish new neural pathways to trigger movement as an antidote. Freedom from over-thinking is a core stress-buster & mindfulness practice and so helps induce calm and inner peacefulness.

 

Key practice: move your body. Move your body gently. Focus on gentle movement for & with your shoulders.

 

At one such session for the Macmillan charity we did a longer-than-usual gentle loosening up and also a lot of gentle arm-swinging & shoulder-tension release.
Afterwards, one person came up to me and told me their shoulder pain had gone.
They told me they’d experienced this condition for many years, and yet after 30 minutes of this gentle laughter yoga loosening, the pain had gone. They had visited many specialists over the years, and yet what had released it for them was this very gentle extended loosening-up.

‘I don’t have my shoulder pain anymore’

She was astonished and delighted.

I was delighted and intrigued. I reckoned this must be a happy one-off.

 

‘My yoga and pilates give me a headache. This doesn’t.’

Last week at after a similar but shorter session, someone came up to me and told me that their yoga and pilates sessions are generally energetic with a lot of tensing and straining, and they always get a headache.
Our session had been gentle and releasing while still being very energetic, and they told me it was the first time they had exercised yogically without getting a headache.

‘My yoga and pilates give me a headache. This doesn’t.’

 

Advanced practice: move vigorously but gently, as gently as you can.

 

‘I woke up for 1st time without a clicky neck.’

Even more recently at the International Federation of Aromatherapists’ conference, someone made a point of commenting after the session how relaxed they felt.
The following day they reported their neck had stopped being clicky.

‘I woke up for the first time without a clicky neck.’

They, like me, were astonished and delighted.

 

Complete practice (short form): relax, breathe, smile, feel.

 

What can we learn from this?

Evidently, the path to inner peace brings unexpected, important and welcome benefits!

Although the ultimate aim of laughter yoga is ‘inner’ & ‘outer’ peace, there are many benefits to be experienced along the way.
Relief from pain is an enormous benefit. It automatically releases stress & tension, helps us be more ‘in the moment’ aka mindful, and therefore happier and more at peace.

The key is practice.

Read the book.

Take an online course

Train

Go on Retreat

Relax and enjoy. I’d love to hear any experiences you have had. And if you know anyone who might like to read this too, please share it?

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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

www.joehoare.co.uk

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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.

[bctt tweet=”‘Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you’. Oprah.” username=”@joehoare”]

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.
Repeat.

[bctt tweet=”A basic practice is: breathe in, pause, smile, and in a good-natured way chuckle as you breathe out – pause, feel. Repeat. #laughteryogawithJoe” username=”@joehoare”]

  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.

[bctt tweet=”‘Learning is not compulsory. Neither is survival’ W. Edwards Deming” username=”@joehoare “]

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

www.joehoare.co.uk

Smiling is good for the heart

Laughter and mood change

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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