Tag Archives: endorphins

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 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 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.

Coaching

Happiness

Action for Happiness

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Depression: ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going.’

This quote ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going’ is one of Churchill’s. He suffered from depression, calling it the ‘Black Dog’. If it gets the upper hand it can be overwhelming, as we all know from recent events.
Many years ago, in my 20’s, I was overwhelmed but miraculously and happily survived.

How can we help prevent this overwhelm? My own area of expertise is nls: natural laughter skills and laughter yoga, and I use the healing power of laughter with people experiencing stress, anxiety and depression.

  • First of all, awareness helps. Some people find it helpful simply to use this ‘going through hell’ quote like a mantra. In almost every session nowadays I use this quote. It helps give people perspective and courage. It gives awareness and a sense of possibility, and is a reminder to persevere.
  • Secondly, practical tools are essential. Nowadays there are many freely-available excellent resources including laughter yoga and nls: natural laughter skills. The basis for their effectiveness is the mood-enhancing power of smiling & laughter practices. These are wonderful when practiced in a group: The smiling practice technique you teach has transformed my life and I rarely walk around with a growly face these days.’ (Jonny) 
  • Thirdly, it’s good to practice on your own. In spite of all the group opportunities, there are times when we have to face our demons alone. To be able to do this we need a toolkit, and what it needs to contain is whatever works for us. There are many options and it is good to explore them so we find our own particular combination of effective practical tools.
    I wrote ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’ with this in mind. It contains 16 practical exercises based on the self-healing power of smiling & laughter practices. They are simple and easy-to-use, and above all, they are practical. For some people, they provide the missing piece in their own toolkit: ‘I was in a deep, dark hole, and ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha Within’ was a real lifeline for me. I’d tried various other things, like CBT, meditation, exercise, a gratitude diary – but none really helped. When I used the exercises in the book, I was able to lift my dark mood within a couple of minutes.’ (David)
  • Finally, remember we can all train our brains to be happier. Neuro-science and our increasing understanding of meditation and neuroplasticity show us the value & effectiveness of learning such techniques. Courses which combine disciplines like laughter yoga, positive psychology, meditation and mindfulness are especially recommended.

The important thing is to explore, persevere, reach out and ask for help – and remember another of Churchill’s quotes: ‘Never, never, never give up.’

Useful resources include:
www.joehoare.co.uk
BBC
Laughter Yoga
Laughter Therapy

 

 

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7 tips for more laughter in your life

‘How do I laugh more?’
This is the first in a series of 7 quick tips on how to use nls: natural laughter skills and laughter yoga to experience more laughter in your life.
It is a common question I get asked in coaching, workshops and conferences.

Tip 1 – ‘Permission to Enjoy’.

2013 July 15th 011Often the biggest barrier is in our own mind.
When you take this immediate, simple and often overlooked step – giving yourself permission to enjoy – laughter usually starts immediately.
What is guaranteed and always starts immediately is a lifting and lightening of the mood.

‘Permission to enjoy’ means putting laughter and enjoyment up your priority scale. It means remembering to enjoy the ride, not just to head for the destination, seriously, glumly, in resentment or even fear.
It means to take occasional little bits of the most irreplaceable quality in our life – our time – and spend it on appreciating the journey we’re experiencing.

‘Permission to enjoy’ means beating back stress, over-seriousness, anxiety and even depression, by flicking a simple mind switch.

Use it as a mantra.
Say it to yourself now, and see if you feel different.
Have a look round your environment, wherever you are, and see what you can find that brings a smile to your lips.
It’s even better if you can find something, anything at all, that elicits a little chuckle.
Set a ‘Permission to enjoy’ alarm/reminder on your phone at least once a day.

Give yourself permission to enjoy your life.
It feels better.
You’ll promote your own wellbeing.
You’ll feel happier.

 

www.joehoare.co.uk

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Can laughter yoga make me more confident?

Bristol Laughter Club‘How do you feel when you laugh?’ is a question I often ask in laughter yoga
sessions at the Bristol Laughter Club. The most common answer is ‘I feel better’.
When I then ask how people experience that, their responses include feeling more relaxed, grounded, intuitive and focused. When they continue this deeper reflection, people realise they’re more mindful, relaxed and happier, more aware of the totality of present moment rather than just what’s passing through their head.

‘Don’t believe everything you think’ say both the philosopher Alan Watts and the contemporary mindfulness & awareness guru Eckhart Tolle.

The upshot of this mindfulness is we feel happier and better about our own life experience, and a common way people express this is they feel more confident. This is an especially wonderful benefit for those who suffer from the modern epidemics of stress, anxiety and depression.

A recent participant on a nls: natural laughter skills course is a life model, i.e. she poses naked for artists to draw her. She now sits with greater confidence, and feels more confident about dealing with tricky clients.
The particular exercises that help her in these circumstances are the ‘Inner Smile’ and the ‘Inner Laugh’, covered in depth courses and described at length in ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’. Developing the ability to do either or both of these on demand gives her the ability to change her mood in an instant. Because this is empowering, she has gained enormous confidence in her work and day-to-day life.

The ‘Inner Smile’ is a quintessentially mindful exercise and at heart invites you to take your attention inside and smile, internally. There are many refinements but this is the exercise in its simplest form. It is easy, non-obtrusive, and you can do it anywhere. you can even practice it now.
These exercises also sit naturally alongside other disciplines like Positive Psychology, CBT and yoga.
If you practice your ‘Inner Smile’ and ‘Inner Laugh’ regularly, you become more mindful, less stressed, anxious and depressed. The benefits you experience include relaxation, being grounded, focus, the ability to prioritise your time and efforts, increased happiness, and greater confidence.

This comment from the life model expresses this well: ‘Now I’m with James (name changed) the tetraplegic, putting into practice the laughter from the course…….He admits he is being deliberately difficult. I am so much more powerful now.’

What can these practices do for you?

www.joehoare.co.uk

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Laughter meditation? Mindfulness? At Glastonbury Festival??

How is it possible to be mindful in the middle of a music festival like Glastonbury?  How is it possible to practice a mindful walking meditation in the middle of 250,000 revellers?

How do laughter yoga, nls: natural laughter skills and laughter meditation help? This what the Chris Evans Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 2 was curious about, and why they sent Alex Jones to find out.

Alex Jones from the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Joe Hoare at Glastonbury 2014

Alex Jones from the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Joe Hoare at Glastonbury 2014

The easy path when surrounded by noise, distraction, stress, anxiety, and wild revelry is to give up your own centeredness and get gobbled up by the madness. After all, isn’t that what we’re being invited and tempted to do?
And yet, you might find that even in these tempting circumstances, your own small voice of calm, your intuition, communicates with you and invites you to be mindful and hold your own centre.

Through discipline, commitment and persistence you can internalise your laughter yoga, nls: natural laughter skills and mindfulness practices and experience their calming, centring benefits in any circumstances. When you focus on the inner sensations, these practices develop a somatic quality. You feel them in your perineum, in your belly and in your heart, as described in the book Alex is clutching, ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’. They provide you with an anchor so you stay centred and grounded, in your own power, no matter what the external circumstances.

Your practice becomes:

  • walking steadily, mindfully, with awareness
  • feeling your inner sensations
  • your feet connecting with the ground
  • your breathing relaxed
  • your posture supported by your chi
  • your inner smile beaming

Your laughter yoga practices develop your relaxed breathing, your nls: natural laughter skills adds chi and your inner smile, and your mindfulness adds awareness.

When you practice these at home, or in classes, workshops and in coaching sessions, you’re developing your ability to tap into these stress-busting, anxiety-relieving, depression-lifting, happiness-inducing, health-boosting qualities at will. You can use them not just in noisy wonderful party places like Glastonbury Festival, but also at work, at home, and in times of stress, anxiety, worry and depression.

People find they work, so just keep practicing a little bit every day:

  • relax
  • breathe
  • smile
  • chuckle
  • feel

For further practical information to help you develop your own practice, visit www.joehoare.co.uk

For further insights about approaches to inner freedom, read Victor Frankl’s book
‘Man’s Search for Meaning’

For other research into the benefits of meditation, visit the BBC site here, and read a neuroscientist’s view here

 

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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’.

www.joehoare.co.uk

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Wake Up Laughing

‘What’s the point? Why would I do this?’ I was asked recently.
These questions take us to the heart of the healing power of laughter. Why is it such a good stress-buster? Does it ease anxiety and depression? Does it improve health, wellbeing and happiness?
Basically, does ‘laughter the best medicine’ deserve its reputation? The short answer of course is ‘Yes’. The long answer is also ‘Yes’. But why is this so?

When I ask people how they feel when they laugh, the most frequent comment is ‘I feel better’.
What does this mean to you? If you stop, breathe, smile and explore ‘feeling better’, what do you experience? Do you get a sense of an upward curve, of life improving?

I specifically invite you to stop, breathe, smile, relax right now, and simply feel what you’re feeling, whatever that is. Take a moment to feel the experience of your life before reading any further, and then add the phrase ‘I feel better’ into your experience. Do you notice a difference?

The longer I use nls: natural laughter skills, laughter yoga and laughter therapy, the more I appreciate the Dalai Lama (‘Be optimistic. It feels better‘) and contemporary psychological insight that ‘I feel better’ is significant and underappreciated.
It is arguably the most important attribute in our life because when we feel better, we have a sense of life improving, in particular:

  • We feel more in control, and we enjoy life more.
  • We beat back stress because we become more resilient, generous and open-hearted.
  • We improve our mood because we are having a better experience of being alive.
  • We feel more cheerful and optimistic because we ease anxiety, loneliness and depression.
  • We improve our relationships because we are a warmer, more approachable human being. We become someone people instinctively warm to and want to communicate with.

Aren’t these good enough reasons to ‘wake up laughing’?
The fact there are important, numerous and well-documented benefits for conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular health, depression, weight loss and many others is an added supportive factor. Physiologically and psychologically, these are highly significant, and they also combine well with disciplines like yoga, meditation, laughter meditation, positive psychology, as well as mindfulness practices.

However, the improvement in spiritual, psychological and overall wellbeing is perhaps the most fundamental benefit. This is another way of saying we become happier, and is why organisations like Action for Happiness support these activities.
Excitingly and interestingly, even a short exposure to nls: natural laughter skills and laughter yoga can activate this. One person came up to me at a healing arts festival and told me she’d taken part in one of my 15 minute sessions the previous year. She told me she had then spent a difficult and relentlessly demanding year as carer for a family member. She found that as a result of her 15-minute experience she felt so buoyed up that this kept her going all year.

All the other health benefits are important but to me sometimes they pale besides the improved life experience that these 15 minutes contributed to this person.

I leave you with this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882), and I encourage you to ‘wake up laughing’.
‘To laugh often and much………To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition…….. This is to have succeeded.’

www.joehoare.co.uk

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