Tag Archives: depression

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
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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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7 tips for more happiness, part 6: Don’t be so serious

‘But seriously…..’
Are you serious about your happiness?
In the west, there is a presumption, a conditioned response, that the most weighty and important things in life are the serious ones. ‘But seriously…..’ is the comment we often use when wanting to make a point or be listened to…..or be taken ‘seriously’.
But where’s the evidence?

One recurring comment from people who experience nls: natural laughter skills & laughter yoga is how much they enjoy a break from their seriousness. They start to enjoy life more. They become more  present & mindful, more aware of the present moment. They become more joyful. Spontaneously they smile and laugh more, openly and genuinely.
We all communicate & connect better in this state. We also feel happier.

Are these sufficient reasons for engaging with our light-hearted, playful and good-natured side? Perhaps they should be because communication & connection are perfect antidotes to stress, anxiety and depression.
However, we often want the reassurance we feel from scientific & medical studies especially when we venture into the workplace arena of increased productivity, resilience and endurance.

Positive psychology is producing & highlighting streams of studies linking happiness with improved communication, resilience and productivity.
So how do nls: natural laughter skills & laughter yoga overlap with positive psychology to make us less serious, happier and more productive?
3 ways  are:

  1. They encourage playfulness. There are excellent TED talks on why playfulness matters. Almost every aspect of our lives improve when we incorporate playfulness into it.
  2. They get us active. The right kind of physicality not only relieves stress & tension but also improves posture, and refreshes our creative thinking.
  3. Smiling & laughing are natural mood-enhancers, for ourselves and others. Done appropriately they are a personal and team tonic.

How can we become less serious? Besides reading the previous blogs for tips (!), make a point regularly of using senses other than just your head.
Mindfulness practices happen to work well here – sit or stand and be aware, using as many senses simultaneously as you can. Smell, touch, taste, feel, sense, listen, look, see – and smile.

Combining these practices adds an uplifting and connecting quality, with surprisingly long-lastig effects: ‘Just wanted to share with you that when I got home, talking to a friend on a phone many hours later,  I notice last night my cheeks where rosy and sore from so much smiling.  The same feeling has been all day today……… My thoughts of the event itself was ‘yes. Great fun. Really good’…  24 hours later it is now ‘yes. Great fun… truly amazing’. (Martin Schofield, Sales Executive)

Do your smiling exercises. Both the pencil in the teeth and the 15-second smilining exercise from the book ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’ generate profound changes in people.
I just wanted to let you know how I have been getting on since I came to the last Laughter Club meeting in September. I have been following your instructions to smile first thing every morning and last thing at night. Wonderful!
I have to say that I have felt a real change in me. My face seems lighter and I feel more positive.
Last week whilst reading the news on Bristol hospital Radio my fellow news-reader read a funny story and I laughed until I cried and neither of us could finish the news through constant giggling. I do not remember the last time that I laughed that much and I wanted to thankyou for giving me courage to laugh out loud again.’ (Jonathan Fifield)

When these practices make us less serious, more relaxed and happier, and happiness even makes us more productive, what are we waiting for?

Further resources:
‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’
Positive psychology – ‘Authentic Happiness’
TED talks on playfulness

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7 tips for more happiness, part 5

People often want to laugh more:

  • To be more cheerful, sociable, and appreciated
  • For resilience-building & stress-busting
  • To become more mindful and happier

Consequently, ‘How do I laugh more?’ is still one of their most common questions, in coaching, on courses, and in team sessions.
This is the fifth 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 5: ‘Use your head’

We sometimes forget our head is a good slave but bad master. Used right, it is a powerful psychological tool for resilience, mindfulness and happiness.
We can use our head to change our mind and improve our mood. Affirmations use, focus on and repeat particular thoughts so we to trick ourselves into feeling happier, more resourceful and more resilient, and therefore genuinely become so.
As recent research shows, “Practitioners who are interested in using self-affirmation …….might be interested to know that the strategy produces measurable neurophysiological effects.”

I like the phrase ‘I feel great’.

003Particularly when combined with an upbeat posture, this produces profound effects. When I was in China, I used this phrase with stunningly unexpected results at a University, with both students and teaching staff. Within 24 hours, they had adopted it as their slogan and were using it publicly.

They were genuinely more cheerful, less stressed and happier.

 

 

The other fundamental way to use our head for mindfulness, stress-busting and resilience-building is to remember to stop occasionally in our pursuit of goals, and simply be aware. Research keeps increasing the list of known benefits, at work and more widely in life.

Using our head as a tool in this way is a never-ending practice. In ‘Full Awareness’ when we combine affirmation practices with other practices like breathing, relaxation, visualisation and other nls: natural laughter skills and laughter yoga practices, we start to develop a fuller range for our stress-busting, resilience-building and mindfulness toolkit.

An invariable consequence of this is that we also start to laugh more. In general the more we laugh, the better we feel. The better we feel, the more resourced we become, and so we build ourselves a virtuous circle.

Why not use your head to laugh more?

 www.joehoare.co.uk

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7 tips for more happiness, part 4

‘How do I laugh more?’ is still one of the most common questions I am asked in coaching and on courses.
This is the fourth 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 4: ‘Get out of your head’

This is perhaps the best-known and least-followed tip for all of us on the wellness path.

Why?

The simple answer is that potentially our brain is an over-thinking self-aggrandising monster that wants to indulge itself forever. Unchecked, this is exactly what it does, and it causes us endless stress, anxiety, misery and even depression.

How do we break this cycle?

 

  • Practice being aware. Practice witnessing your own thoughts and feelings. As soon as we’re aware, we have the possibility of choosing our next action.
  • As soon as you’re aware, and want to make a change, do something physical. Stretch. Walk. Move. Hop. Jump. Hoover. Dance. Getting into our body immediately breaks the over-thinking cycle.
  • Do some facial yoga. Pull faces, stretch your face muscles, open your mouth wide, stick your tongue out, give your eyes and forehead a workout. Include the whole of your face and head so you loosen all your facial muscles.
  • SMILE! Having done your facial warm-ups, put a warm smile on your face, even if it’s a small one. This smile triggers an almost-immediate mood-change.
  • Practice your inner smile. Develop your ability to connect with your inner glow.
  • In a good-natured, kind way, learn to laugh at yourself. Learn laughter meditation. Laughing at ourselves in this way gives us space to see the humour and quirkiness in our behaviour, and helps remove any sting we’re feeling.
  • Practice becoming a professional laugher, like the Dalai Lama: ‘I have been confronted with many difficulties throughout the course of my life……… But I laugh often, and my laughter is contagious. When people ask me how I find the strength to laugh now, I reply that I am a professional laugher.’ (The Dalai Lama)

The Dalai Lama was an inspiration for the exercises in ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’ because to become a professional, we need to practice.
When we practice getting out of our heads, we get out of our heads and into our bodies, we might also find we get into our hearts, just like he does.

And we might also find we laugh more, and become happier.

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

Laughter and meditation benefits

Laughter meditation

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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.

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