Tag Archives: depression

Laughter Yoga: time to start laughing with, not at?

 

There was a time not long ago when a client of mine was appalled at the possibility of yoga being taught as a stress management technique.

How times have changed.

Nowadays everyone knows about it, lots of us have tried it, and some of us use it regularly. The benefits from its breathing and stretching are so well established that it has moved from being sneered at to being welcomed.

Is this now the case with laughter yoga / yogic laughter?

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As we move into an era where personal, professional and environmental wellbeing are recognized as both essential & intertwined, the answer looks increasingly ‘yes’.

As with mindfulness, the benefits of yogic laughter include enhanced wellbeing (‘happiness’), reduction in stress, anxiety and depression, and improved resilience.
These benefits are also attainable through positive psychology and the likes of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and as research is starting to show, through yogic laughter practices as well.

Even the Pentagon has had happiness seminars.

These benefits impact our professional life as well as our personal life. Evidence is accumulating fast to show how we think more clearly, more creatively and for longer when we are in a positive mood.
Yogic laughter practices create this positive mood instantaneously.

The environmental aspect is becoming appreciated because in this arena too, health-inducing inner practices contribute to practical effectiveness. Leading figures and pioneers like Satish Kumar of Resurgence and Sir Julian Rose of the Soil Association use these practices.

What does yogic laughter offer?

Key yogic laughter practices include:

  • Willingness: being prepared to explore a practice for its benefits, even if the practice initially feels unusual
  • The smile: both smiling and laughing change brain chemistry and improve mood & effectiveness
  • The power of the mind: using the power of memory and anticipation for these same benefits
  • Movement and posture: we change our mind by changing our posture and how we move.

As with mindfulness, yogic laughter practices can require only a little time, they are simple if not easy, and are learnable.

If happiness and good mood are recognized as valuable across a spectrum as wide as Oprah, Google and the Pentagon, I’d say we’re getting there.

Time to laugh with, not at?

Resources include:
Learning yogic laughter practices

Wake Up Laughing’ in Resurgence & Ecologist magazine

Happiness at work – Shawn Achor

General information

Yogic laughter in action (video)

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You are awesome – yes, you.

 

I was thinking awesome this morning.

I suddenly realised that two of the most awesome people I’ve known in my life were both almost completely uneducated, yet they both had a spark that people still remember. That spark was their ability to figure things out, be nobody’s fool and therefore highly perceptive.

In today’s parlance, they were creative, intuitive and authentic. They understood themselves, and therefore life, well enough to see to the heart of situations. Neither of them had high flying careers yet they excelled,  and impressed everyone who met them because they were so ‘real’.

If they could, why not us too?

Can we be more ‘real’? We’re already unique, creative individuals, so can we learn to expand our uniqueness?
Why might we want to?

One simple way to expand our uniqueness is to become more aware of the flow of life. Life is swirling and changing in & around us all the time, yet how aware of this are we? If we’re ‘in our heads’ the answer is always: not very.
As soon as we engage with our embodied consciousness, awareness floods in, stress and tension ease, mood improves, life becomes more enjoyable, we communicate better, and relationships and effectiveness improve.

How do we do this? A simple mantra is ‘feet, breathe, smile’.

When we put attention on our feet, especially the soles of our feet, we get out of our heads.
When we become aware of and focus on our breathing, we relax and calm down.
When we smile, we imbue our awareness with good-naturedness.

One of the cumulative effects is to deepen our connection with our knowing self, our intuition – including perceptiveness and ability to ‘figure things out’.

I observe people entering this state of embodied awareness, and every time they become more radiant and beautiful.
They become relaxed, empowered and confident.
Without fail, they know what to do next, what their next step is and how to take it.
They become aware they have the resources to do what needs doing.
They do it.
They activate their zest for life.

Joehoare---front-Business-card---flatThey become awesome in front of my eyes.

Get out of your head and go for full awareness.
Use the mantra and practice: ‘Feet, breathe, smile’.
Give it a go. Get more awesome.

Tell me how you get on.

Useful links
Zest for life
‘Feet, breathe, smile’
Take your next step

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Beyond McMindfulness (hint: think ‘laughter practices’)

‘This makes me more present than anything else’, said the Maori homeopath, ‘more than my own meditation practice’

She was referring to the awareness practices she’d just experienced in a yogic laughter session at the Bristol laughter club.

blc logoIndividually at first, we explored awareness of feet, breath, hands, ears and so on.
We then explored them progressively and cumulatively.

Next, we explored how deeply we could maintain this awareness  while walking and moving.

Next, we took off our regular masks and added the quality of a soft face, ie a smile. We experienced the extra dimension the smile added.

Progressively we explored how there’s no limit to how deeply we can be aware, and how the smile deepens awareness.

Simple but not easy, to use Jon Kabat-Zinn’s expression.

The effect? Becoming more present, absolutely anchored in the present moment, connecting warmly with fellow human beings.
The quality of experience? Quiet, joyful contentment.

This simple exercise gets better the more we use it. ‘Gets better’ means becomes more effective. The more present we are, the better we can respond to the requirements of the current moment – with less stress, less anxiety, less frustration, more calmness, more peacefulness, more effectiveness.

McMindfulness does not deliver this. Mindfulness does. Yogic laughter practices do, par excellence.

Awakening the Laughing Buddha within

 

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What’s your next step? ‘Be the question’

In a quandry? At a crossroads?

Frustrated, dissatisfied, stressed, suffering, angsty, antsy?

Solution: get out of your own way, you know exactly what to do.

Last weekend I spent a fair bit of time helping people realise they know exactly what to do next in their life. Time after time, we’d chat for 3 or 4 minutes and then it became clear, crystal clear, what their next step was. The only ‘problem’ was them being in their own way – and once they saw this, they had their ‘A-ha’ moment and with a bit of help saw exactly what to do next, and how.

It’s a different step for everyone, but we always know. Always.

  • Sometimes it’s asking ourselves the right question.
  • Sometimes it’s accessing body wisdom.
  • Sometimes it’s shedding our ‘story’.
  • Sometimes it’s starting a new practice.

It always involves change & growing through resistance, and yet we always know it’s right because our knowing side, our still small voice of calm, just knows.

The knack is getting out of our own way – through breakdown, addiction, meditation practice etc – and using outside help.

This ‘help’ comes in many forms, for as Wayne Dyer said beautifully:
‘We’re all just walking each other home’.

So this ‘help’ can just as easily be a dog or tree or a child, it’s not necessarily adult or ‘professional’.

Ask, in the sense of ‘be your question’, and your helper and your solution present themselves. Always. Without fail.

This is the most empowering and solution-focused mindset we can have. I’ve seen it get people into their new groove time after time.

We know. We always know.
Be your question and ask for help.
Ask me, if you like.
But just ask.

www.joehoare.co.uk

‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’

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When your ‘It’ hits the fan (Hide? Smile? Run away?)

At times, we all have ‘It’ in our lives, that uncomfortable, troublesome, inconvenient piece of life that disrupts our calm or harmony.

It usually involves emotion and therefore means feeling something we’d rather not – hence the uncomfortable, troublesome, inconvenient quality.
It can appear as stress, anxiety, anger, and make us ill.
It often makes us afraid.
We’re often afraid because we know we’ve got to do something we’d rather not – face our fear, speak our truth, accept something about ourselves we wish wasn’t true.

Face it. Feel it. Don’t flinch. Embrace it.

‘The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek’ – Joseph Campbell.

Every time I see someone do this, enter their cave and face their shadow, I see beautiful transformation occur.  I see the shedding of a bit more ‘story’, a growth in authenticity, an inspiring vulnerability. I see people get stronger by owning their ‘weakness’.
To do this, we need courage. It has to be more important to do this, to enter our cave, than to cower, flinch or run away – however enticing these false friends appear.

How do we find our courage?
We all have our own ways. My preparation includes the ancient insightful worldwide tradition of smiling. I put a genuine smile on my face, feel the inner warmth this generates, connect with my zest for life, and open myself to feeling whatever ‘It’ is. I feel it as deeply as possible.

‘It’ can be a wild ride, and having set off and started, ‘It’ might take you across some jagged unexpected inner terrain. Hang on. Hang in there. When you have a pause, take the time to breathe, smile and regroup. Smile and reach in for your stillness. Keep going till the ride is over.

Always remember: the purpose of ‘It’ is to bring about self-healing, an increase in kindness, compassion, authenticity and connection.
Also remember: it’s a never-ending journey.

Smiling helps. That’s why it’s such an ancient recommendation.

www.joehoare.co.uk
‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’

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Laughter, happiness: what’s pain got to do with it?

All the best & juiciest bits of life are in our shadow, that painful place where we don’t like to look, that place we try and rationalise away. We cleverly or clumsily pretend it isn’t there, or worse, pretend we don’t need to go there – into the lurking cave where our ‘monster’ lives.

What we forget is that inside this same cave is our treasure, our life’s juiciness. It is just the other side of our fearsome ‘monster’. But we’re afraid the ‘monster’ will devour us, destroy us, annihilate us.
What we also forget is that our ‘monster’ wants to play, to dance. A love dance. A happy dance. A playful dance. A dance of delight.
Our ‘monster’ wants us to set it free.

I have seen people transformed by taking their ‘monster’ into their arms and play with it.

I’ve seen their body change. I’ve felt their breathing change. I’ve heard their voice change.
I’ve seen them transform – relax and become happier.
I’ve heard their laugh change.

All of us in the field of developing human potential – mindfulness, meditation, laughter yoga, laughter therapy, positive psychology, emotional intelligence et al – need to have danced with our ‘monster’, our pain.
How else can we invite others to develop, if we haven’t?

Build your courage.
Smile. Laugh. Breathe deeply. Laugh. Loosen your body. Laugh. Mentally say ‘YES’.
Trust – hold your hand out in invitation, take your ‘monster’ and dance & play.

Do it. Do it now. Whatever it takes, however you do it – just do it now. Dance & play with laughter and delight. Lead and follow. Swirl, twirl, roll & rock, leap, sway and smile.

Do it now.

www.joehoare.co.uk

‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’

Monthly laughletter

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7 tips for more happiness: the smiling mindset

It’s all in the smile

Whenever possible, whatever you’re doing, do it with a smile. This simple-but-not-easy practice is the antidote to over-seriousness. Who needs over-seriousness? It is not only a joy-killer, it hampers our communication, how we connect with others and limits our effectiveness. It tends to creep up on us, and makes us stressed, anxious and even depressed. If nothing else, over-seriousness limits our enjoyment, whether at work, home and in life.
Besides Eeyores, who consciously chooses not to enjoy their life?

Why smile more?

When we develop a smiling mindset, we enjoy life more. We find more enjoyment everywhere – at our desk, at our computer, with colleagues, while travelling, even in meetings. This simple benefit that we enjoy life more is good enough reason for many people to develop their smiling mindset and smile more.

In this vein, beware of Botox! When we limit our facial expressiveness with anti-wrinkle treatments, we might also be limiting our happiness.
Smiling improves our mood, eases our stress, and makes us happier. It is also good for our health as it tends to lower our blood pressure. We think, focus and concentrate better. The list of benefits goes on and on.

‘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 and I actually made it to my lecture. 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. I was able to write up lecture notes quicker and found it helped clear my mind and thus, improved my cognitive ability.’

The smiling mindset – smile with your eyes

While it is true that smiling is contagious, so are good vibes. The smiling mindset is an attitude and it can be learnt. More importantly, it can be felt, and so it flows naturally into a mood and energetic communication. The key to this attitude is to soften the muscles around our eyes (orbicularis occuli), the muscles that we use in a genuine (‘Duchenne’) smile. When we relax these muscles our whole face softens, we promote facial expressiveness and so communicate more authentically, and we naturally & genuinely build positive emotions in ourselves and others.

It is a simple yet profound practice, like mindfulness. It is a natural antidote to stress, anxiety and more, also like mindfulness. It is also inherently enjoyable.

Activate yours

You can activate yours while sitting, running, walking, driving, waiting – wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. Use the power of your mind. Think ‘smile’ to yourself. Loosen up your body, and send it ‘relax’ messages. Start to move and swing your arms. Get up and stretch. Be as physical as you can. The saying from Dr Kataria and laughter yoga is ‘motion creates emotion’ so use all the resources available to you, and this includes your body.

While doing all this, smile. In particular, feel the quality of your smile from the inside out, your inner smile. Keep your face soft. Twinkle. Allow any feelings of good-natured enjoyment to arise, and welcome them. Allow all feelings to arise, be aware/mindful of them and welcome them – just keep the inner smile attitude going.

Make this a daily practice. Do it several times a day. Do it as often as possible. Keep practicing, diligently. This can change your life.

Smile:)

www.joehoare.co.uk

 

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Laugh – and be mindful (7 tips for happiness, tip 9)

Laugh – and be still. Express, and then feel.
Take a moment to breathe and be still – relax, breathe, smile, and feel.

The practice of laughter is a joyful path to mindfulness. Why is there so much attention on mindfulness nowadays? Benefits include:

  • Become more resilient to daily stress
  • Improve your health and well-being
  • Improve your relationships
  • Become happier

The apparent contradiction between the explosiveness of laughter and the calm of mindfulness dissolves when we feel the stillness after the laughter. When we develop our laughter meditation practice, through nls: natural laughter skills, laughter yoga and/or laughter therapy, and use it to become more aware, we are experiencing a mindfulness meditation practice.

What are the benefits?

Why use laughter practices? Benefits include:

  • Energising
  • Physical workout
  • Improved breathing
  • Produce natural painkillers
  • Relaxing
  • Antidote to the ‘blues’

The laughter meditation technique has two parts. First is to develop the ability to chuckle in a good-natured way as we exhale, on two or more consecutive out-breaths. Four consecutive chuckling out-breaths is a good number to start with.
The second part after this laughter practice is to stop, smile, breathe and feel. When we focus our awareness in this way, we are using classic mindfulness awareness. We are developing our present moment awareness.
As a practice, the more we use our awareness in this way, the more mindful we become and the greater the benefits we experience.

Why laughter practices?

The attractiveness of laughter practices as a form of mindfulness practice is enjoyment.
Some people find the laughter practices enhance mindfulness without having to go through the mindfulness process. They immediately start to experience the benefits through their smiling and laughing practices alone.

The psychology, science and medicine that underpin this are becoming better known all the time. It is not a coincidence or a fluke that these practices work. There is an ever expanding evidence base which supports it, from positive psychology, hard science, and psycho-neuro-immunology.

How do I use them?

The basic practice is to maintain a genuine good-natured smile for 10-15 seconds, and then relax, breathe, smile and feel.
You can extend this into a full-blown inner smile practice.

The more advanced but still simple practice is to chuckle in a genuine good-natured way on 4 consecutive out-breaths – and then relax, breath, smile and feel.

If you already have a mindfulness practice, you can explore doing it with a smile. The smile can be almost invisible as long as it softens your face and you experience this effect on your awareness. Meditate mindfully, with a smile.

If you are already very experienced, you can explore adding the good-natured genuine chuckle to your mindfulness meditation. As you are already experienced, no doubt you are comfortable with exploring new qualities in a non-judgemental way, just to see how they affect you.

There is a tribe for whom these additional practices bring unexpected benefits.
What I have learnt in the process of awakening my inner laughing Buddha 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.
Namely, acceptance,  peace, lightness, playfulness, joy in living, connection being more centred,  and being able to inhabit my body more.  It is so simple, yet so profound, it’s laughable!

Do let me know how you get on?

Where can I learn more?

Here are some helpful links:
inner smile
laughter meditation
laughter/mindfulness course
book

 

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7 tips for more happiness, tip 8: don’t try to laugh

Never, ever, try to do something. Either do it, or don’t.

If you want to be happier, be happier.
If you want to use laughter, use it.

How do you laugh more? You breathe in, hold your breath for a second, and breathe out willingly with a good-natured chuckle.
It’s not about a loud laugh, nor a big one, just a willing one.
Do it now?
There, you’ve just laughed.

Note how you feel. Be alert for any changes in your feelings, mood and overall consciousness. Repeat this process three more times so that for four consecutive exhales you’ve chuckled, willingly. This is a basic nls: natural laughter skills practice.

‘I’ve managed to do the exercises every morning (apart from today) since the class! I’ve found that each day after I do them my mood definitely improves and I tend to have a better day because of it. I think it gives me a more positive view of the day and makes me wake up a bit before I go to lectures etc……..My mood and energy levels have definitely improved each time I’ve done the exercises, and my resilience has also improved.’

This simple practice changes lives. When we separate our laughter from jokes & humour & funny and just laugh as a practice, like breathing or stretching (eg yoga) as a practice, we start to liberate our consciousness from a culturally conditioned prison, as well as improving basic qualities like mood, energy and resilience.

This liberation is always an uplifting experience, and always induces happiness.

Among other things, the process being activated by this practice is freeing our awareness from the bullying domineering and often nagging voice in our head.
‘Don’t believe everything you think’ is advice which comes from many cultures. This nls: natural laughter skills practice gives you an effective tool.
It changes lives.
It inspires, encourages and motivates.
It energises and builds resilience.
It helps overcome stress and ease depression.
It helps you think more clearly, and for longer.

As a one-minute morning practice, it sets your day up well like a Louise Hay style affirmation. When you combine it with an inner smile practice, you have a quick, simple and extraordinarily effective way of getting on top of your life in a continuosly improving way.

‘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 and I actually made it to my lecture. 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. I was able to write up lecture notes quicker and found it helped clear my mind and thus, improved my cognitive ability’.

Remember, all you need do is breathe in, hold your breath for a second, and breathe out with your good-natured chuckle.
Repeat as often as possible but at least 4 consecutive out-breaths.

Enjoy your practice.

Please click below for more information on
nls: natural laughter skills
smiling & laughter practices
the book
retraining the brain courses
team & conference sessions
coaching

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7 tips for more happiness, part 7: laugh at your fears

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?

 

Resources

 

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