Tag Archives: laughter the best medicine

Natural laughter yoga

 

I am not a fan of paper qualifications.

5 of the smartest people I’ve ever met were educational dunces. Also, I look at some of the leading figures in the world and observe that paper qualifications were not the prime cause of their success.

Additionally, a paper qualification is neither a measure nor guarantee of competence – I mean, do you see the way some people drive?!

The relevance of this to how I practise and teach laughter yoga is that I teach principles. I show people that when we understand laughter yoga principles, we can apply them anywhere and everywhere, all the time, individually and in groups, in any setting, anywhere in the world.

These principles make laughter yoga exercises fluid, spontaneous and natural.
They have the potential to make exercises invisible because when they are applied spotaneously, ‘in the moment’, laughter yoga exercises stop being formulaic and become flowing and natural. It can appear as if there are no exercises, and nothing is happening except the laughter.

Using the principles this way also encourages expansiveness and creativity. They expand formal exercises. For example, the last time I did ‘milkshake laugh’ with a group, it lasted about 10 minutes as everyone got creative, the exercise got funnier,  people laughed more & more naturally, they became even more creative and the exercise got funnier. The exercise just ‘worked’ better and better.

A key principle here is empowering the group.

Another aspect is that a course cannot teach understanding. A course can teach techniques but understanding comes from inside us.

Understanding does not require experience. It becomes easier with experience, but some people are natural ‘understanders’, ie they can observe one situation and easily transfer the principles to another. One facilitator I know learnt his group dynamic skills by observing performers at the first Isle of Wight pop festival!

We can all learn to be better ‘understanders’. The keys to this include open-minded observation, and the question children fortunately ask lots – ‘why?’

For me, the most important benefit of this approach is it allows people to use laughter yoga in any way imaginable. When you understand the principles, you can infuse them into whatever you do. This applies not just to obvious laughter yoga exercises, but to any wellbeing activity, and to any activity at all. One person is a life model who sits naked while being drawn, and who sits more comfortably and confidently because she imbues her sitting with inner laughter yoga.

So, principles, everyone?

I’d love to know your views, feelings & thoughts.

Learning the ‘natural’ approach to laughter yoga

‘Invisible’ exercises footage  (TY Dave Berman)

General information

‘Living more joyfully’ – 3 basic principles: an online course

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Laughter yoga with fewer exercises and more laughter.

 

Why do YOU do laughter yoga? And how?

Nowadays, I never aim to make people laugh. The funny thing is that because of this, I find they laugh more.

The reason for this apparent contradiction, I reckon, is that I ‘begin with the end in mind’, to use Stephen Covey’s Habit 2 from his best-seller ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’.

For me, the ‘end in mind’ is for people to come alive and to experience union / connection, ie to experience the yogic benefits of laughter yoga.

In this approach, the laughter itself is secondary but because it is coming from a strong personal experience of connection, there is lots of it and it is genuine, natural, joyful & spontaneous.

The key in this approach is to use laughter yoga as principles rather than as a formula & set of exercises.

When we use principles rather than formula, laughter yoga becomes more fluid, more spacious, more spontaneous and also requires less practitioner effort.

For participants, it is more finely tuned to their specific requirements, is more natural and genuine, and specifically aims to allow everyone to find their own level.

It can also be pitched discreetly as a healing experience. Following from this, it means it can therefore be a richer and more rewarding personal experience, and, according to feedback, more enlivening – because the experience is all coming from the inside out.

Essentially, the principles can be reduced to spontaneous ‘playful presence’.

As everyone who practises ‘being present’ knows, this is an ever-deepening never-ending journey. Among other things, it requires an unflinching honesty, the shedding of skins and, especially, the willingness to FEEL.

If followed courageously, life keeps getting better.

Obviously in a short session, all you can do it touch on this, so to achieve this ‘playful presence’, it can be good to be facilitative rather than formulaic, and possibly not use any laughter yoga ‘exercises’ at all.
Why use them if you don’t need to?
Why use them if the laughter is happening naturally, genuinely and spontaneously anyway?

In this approach, laughter yoga is a process and an experience of coming alive and experiencing the joy of being alive – without laughter yoga ‘exercises’ but with masses of laughter.

I would love to hear your thoughts & feelings on this.

Laughter Facilitation Skills aka #laughteryogawithJoe 

 

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Laughter yoga: #laughteryogawithJoe – the Laughter Facilitations Skills course

 

What does this course offer Laughter Yoga leaders?

The short answer is it ‘teaches’ laughter yoga from the inside out. What this means is the laughter comes from a deeply experienced inner place – a place of natural, spontaneous, genuine joyfulness.

The key practice becomes one of accessing this natural joyfulness, and letting it out, letting it grow, and sharing it.
The ‘inside out’ approach works on its own, and as a complement to ‘traditional’ laughter yoga.

How is this different from other Laughter Yoga courses?

This question is most easily answered by previous participants. Here is one comment from Anne Parry, a Laughter Yoga Trainer:
“This training was different from my previous training, therefore complementary to it.  The weekend was more about principles rather than being prescriptive; and encouraged a gentler approach to introducing laughter……”

This comment is from Nic Walker who had no previous laughter yoga experience, and who now runs her own sessions:
“This wasn’t just about making people laugh but about a more mindful approach to life and wellbeing. He helped us choose to look for the humour, for the positive, to breathe and smile……I’ve now been running my own Laughter Room near Trowbridge for over a year, and doing corporate laughter and wellbeing events and it’s some of the most satisfying work I’ve ever done. I realise I don’t have to ‘make’ people laugh, but to give them permission to let go in a safe space, and they love it too.”

How can it help you?

The key to this course is it offers principles rather than prescription. This means that it adds to and complements your existing skills. Through this course you find new and unexpected ways of adding to existing exercises, effortlessly creating new ones, and being able to devise new ones on the spot.

I’d love to extend these skills to you too. Invariably they bring unexpected and unanticipated benefits – and delight.

For your next steps: there are two courses coming up, one in July (almost sold out) and one in October (earlybirds still available). There are special discounts for existing laughter yoga leaders (15%) and Retreaters / LFS ‘refreshers’ (25%)

I hope to see you soon.

For more general details and videos, head over to www.joehoare.co.uk
#laughteryogawithJoe

 

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The ‘perfect’ laughter yoga exercise: what I learnt as a lumberjack

 

I learnt many skills in my previous career as a lumberjack.

One that has served me well is listening – not to the hinge cracking, nor the tree falling, but to people.
An important part in my lumberjack career was sales and I learnt that if you listen, or rather when we listen, we hear all the person’s under-currents, assumptions, preferences and particularities.
This type of listening, when we feel the nuances of the communication, is a great skill to master – if we ever can.

Its practical application in laughter yoga is been enormous.

It is a subtle skill to feel the nuances in a group – and helpful when we are looking for perfect pitch, so to speak, pitching the ‘perfect’ exercise, ie the perfect exercise for that moment.

It is a common practice to have a set, pre-planned repertoire, and it is essential to set the correct intention and to do proper preparation and planning. However, it is important to be able to vary our plan.

Sometimes this is forced on us by ‘circumstances’, other times there is a subtle invitation, if we know how to listen. Sometimes someone from the group makes a comment or observation, or behaves or interacts or moves in a particular way that lends itself to becoming a ‘perfect’ exercise. When we turn this moment into a warm, generous and inclusive exercise, it can be perfect.

It can certainly be ‘perfect’.

On one occasion, out of the group emerged a hokey cokey. In the context of the workshop it was about as tangential and off-the-wall as you can imagine – but everyone loved it. One person came up to me afterwards and used the words: ‘it was just perfect!’
The reason it was perfect was because it ‘caught’ the moment, it was spontaneous, inclusive and engaging, it was inviting, playful and fun, everyone found their own enjoyment in it, and everyone found it rewarding. This is my definition of a ‘perfect’ exercise.

In my own personal and professional journey I experienced many similar delights. I found the ‘working with what is’ approach in Kindling Point exceptionally useful as it fosters the ability to allow ideas and material to emerge from within the group.
Our skill in the laughter yoga / laughter therapy / laughter wellness / laughology / laughter facilitation arena is then to turn this into a ‘perfect’ exercise.

When we embrace this, sessions become richer, more rewarding, more effective, more engaging, more life-enhancing.

We can all learn this skill.

How to create ‘perfect’ exercises

Laughter Facilitation Skills

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Why laughter yoga is good for your mental health

 

‘I feel better’

This is the most common reply I get to the question ‘how do you feel when you laugh?’, and the reason is because there’s magic in laughter.
When we laugh in an open and good-natured way, we are experiencing a moment of joy, of present-moment awareness, and quite possibly exuberance. In such a moment, we are enjoying our life, so we feel better.

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This experience is the antidote to stress, anxiety, worry and worse. Psychologically, it builds our resilience because feeling good is an empowering experience. ‘Feeling better’ feeds our resourcefulness and helps us deal better with life’s challenges. It improves our mental health, and gives us a more positive and optimistic outlook.

[bctt tweet=”Be optimistic. It feels better. The Dalai Lama” username=”@joehoare”]

Fortunately, optimism is a quality we can all develop. Psychologically, we need to go through a process where we challenge our non-optimistic thoughts and feelings, and based on our own experience, replace them with more realistic and accurate ones. This is proven current psychological practice and at the heart of several approaches to improving mental health.

Laughter yoga helps these processes. There is a simple laughter yoga exercise which involves smiling. In this exercise, you smile a genuine and good-natured smile for 10-15 seconds, ideally at yourself in a mirror. Doing this usually requires a psychological shift because to keep your smile genuine (ie not false and insincere), you have to you take control of your mood and put it into a good-natured state. This is brain-training, and can be transformative.

‘What I have learnt …… 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.’

Laughter yoga is often thought of as a group activity, and it usually is. However, as with almost every other practice, it is one that can be on your own too. Learning to keep the practices going when on your own allows the benefits to deepen and grow.

‘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 ……. 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.’

So, even on our own we can use laughter yoga to improve our mental health.

However, laughter yoga is also a group activity. When we do our laughter yoga in a group, it builds connection. One of Dr Kataria’s great insights at the outset of laughter yoga was that when we connect with someone else while doing laughter yoga, we become more playful and spontaneous and therefore even more good-natured.

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Connection is an antidote to loneliness. Because loneliness is a major contributor to mental ill-health, the group activities of laughter yoga also help promote mental good health.

But there is much more to laughter yoga than just the psychological aspect. Laughter yoga is a mind-body / body-mind activity. It also uses physical activity and exercises to energise us, and to help us engage with our innate playfulness. The mind-body / body-mind quality helps activate the biochemical changes on several levels simultaneously, and these changes have been shown to have benefits that can last up to 24 hours. All we need do is keep topping up the benefits.

[bctt tweet=”‘People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.’ Zig Ziglar” username=”@joehoare”]

I myself have used laughter yoga smiling exercises for years. I use them at the start of my day, every day. The most straight-forward benefit I have noticed is that morning grumpiness has been banished. I do the exercise until I feel my mood access a good-natured state of mind, and I feel that experience through my whole body. I do this exercise particularly when tired, sleep-deprived, ‘rough’ or under pressure because exactly as one my clients commented, I too have ‘found that any task I was going to do post exercise became easier.’

Here is the exercise I do and recommend:

  1. As early as possible in your day, smile warmly and genuinely for at least 10-15 seconds. (This takes a small amount of focus and persistence.)
  2. Even better is to do this exercise in a mirror so you’re smiling at yourself. If you find this too difficult at first, just do the simple smiling. It’s the 10-15 second aspect that’s important.
  3. At the end of your day, repeat this exercise.
  4. Before going to sleep, write down 3 things you’ve appreciated and/or been grateful for today.
  5. During the week, please be on the lookout for signs that life might be going better. These signs can be easy to miss: an unexpected feeling of comfort; feeling more relaxed in a previously stressful situation; some enjoyment; thinking differently. However small, keep alert for these indicators that life is going better, and write them down.

I hope this simple laughter yoga exercise has the same benefit on your mental health as it has on mine and thousands of others.

Please ask if you have any questions.

www.joehoare.co.uk

 

 

 

 

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What can I expect on a laughter yoga retreat?

 

‘Laughter yoga with Joe’ is about the journey back to joyfulness. We are all wherever we are on our own life curve, dealing with whatever we’re dealing with, experiencing whatever we’re experiencing.
Wherever we are is the perfect platform for our next step – and all we can ever do is take the next step, one at a time?

What if we can do this with lightness, joyfully? With zest for life?

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Strategically, spiritually, on a soul level we have a yearning to return home. Inside us, that warm, loving, kind part of us yearns to connect, to reach out and communicate warmly with our fellow humans and beyond. So often our history, our ‘story’, gets in our way and hampers us. Sometimes we’re afraid, afraid of our ‘shadow’ or just afraid.
What if we can just march straight through our ‘story’, enjoying the journey and so focused on the joyfulness that it provides us with the energy to become more joyful ourselves?

How can we do this? The secret lies in the present, experiencing the NOW.
Start here & now by dropping your shoulders, taking a deep breath, putting a small warm genuine smile on your face, and breathing out slowly while keeping that genuine smile alive.

‘Laughter yoga with Joe’ is a very NOW experience in which we use all the resources we have, often discovering we have many more than we previously realised.

On a Retreat, we laugh, sing, dance and play. We explore lightness and joyfulness. We breathe & relax, and are quiet & calm.
We have space and permission to be free and spontaneous. In a safe and permissive space, we allow and welcome all emotion.

In this warm, generous and spacious way we practice being present, in the NOW. This is where the magic happens.

Resources:
www.joehoare.co.uk

www.bristollaughterclub.com

Hawkwood College laughter yoga retreat

 

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Finding your place in the laughter yoga world

 

You’ve got the enthusiasm. You’ve done the training. What next?

Sometimes what follows is a scenario where you run one or three sessions and then you don’t quite know how to develop these further. Sometimes people come to a session, love it, and in spite of raving about it, they never return.
Sometimes they might not quite ‘get’ what it’s about. Sometimes they might think it’s ‘just’ a bit of fun but not really important, not comparable with ‘serious’ practices like….well, yoga?

This can be discouraging.

In my 14 years in the laughter yoga world, this is a scenario I’ve encountered many times. I also wrestled with it myself in the Bristol laughter workshops (www.bristollaughterclub.com) where on one occasion in the 13 years it’s been running, only 1 person turned up. After the initial scariness (on my part, I should add), we proceeded to have a very valuable hour and a half.
It was excellent coaching practice.

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Nowadays these sessions average over 20 participants, with lots of them coming back. The sessions always attract further interest and professional inquiries, from charity to blue chip. This is partly because there is a greater general awareness of and appreciation for all wellness and yoga practices, but also because I’ve developed my own style and built my own niche to maximise the value people get.
They ‘get’ the value.

I’ve also been in lots of other people’s sessions and have experienced successful styles that are completely different to my own. I’ve observed and felt that style itself simply doesn’t matter. What matters is that it’s YOUR style. As you develop your own style, you will find your niche.

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In my experience, more often than not, this niche combines with other modalities & practices which is why you need to have the courage to be flexible, spontaneous and adaptable.

The laughter yoga world is expanding fast now because the whole wellness world is expanding fast. World-wide there is greater interest in being healthy & happy, and personal development practices are something that more and more people are prepared to devote time, energy and resources to.

It has become clear to me that we all have a niche. It is sometimes/often/usually not what we expect, but we all have one. Finding your niche and building your presence & impact, and hence rewards, is the subject of this webinar.

Time, science and general interest are all on our side. There are excellent resources on Facebook, twitter and Linkedin. I post articles regularly in the ‘about’ section on my own website.

We are moving with the tide of history. At the very least, do keep practicing?

Exclusive webinar, limited places: build your niche, presence, impact and rewards, 13th March, 6pm UK time

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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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The challenge is to live

This lovely quote comes from a recent interview Howard Jacobson with Clive James.

Inside us all is the fire of life. It is our uniqueness, our own gift to the world. It is the person inside us who wants to break free, to rise to life’s challenge, live life fully on our own terms and live our life’s purpose.

Are you clear about your own life purpose? I am 100% clear about mine. 2013 July 15th 011

I’m here to cheer people up, to spread good cheer, to help us all access that place in ourselves where we say ‘I feel better’.
‘I feel better’ is the most common response when I ask people how they feel when they laugh, so I encourage everyone to laugh, live and find their inner ‘taa-daaah!’

Just imagine the whole world, all 7 billion of us, experiencing ‘I feel better’?

I’ve made so many mistakes and my teachers include surviving suicide, 18 months of insomnia hell, financial catastrophe, and dealing with Fear, stress, anxiety, depressed spirit and more.
The result is I know about pain and suffering and how to come through it. I’ve written about it (‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’) to give people hope, courage, and practical tips.

I know that the safest course is to take the risk and live because as we’re all going to experience pain and suffering anyway, let’s make them worthwhile? Let’s punctuate the in-between spaces with celebration so we enjoy them as fully as possible?
Let’s fill them with warmth and kindness?
Let’s reach out and help others when they’re down?
Let’s emit our own ‘taa-daaah!’ as much and as often as possible and make the ride worthwhile?

‘The challenge is to live.’

There are many ways to find your own fire, your life purpose. These include practicing getting out of your own way.

  • Develop the practice of just being – ‘sometimes I sit and think, and sometimes I just sit’ (attr. Mark Twain).
  • Practice mindfulness to develop your awareness and inner peacefulness.
  • Develop your inner smile. Learn to access your inner joyfulness with nls: natural laughter skills & laughter yoga practices. Use their smiling and laughing techniques to access your zest for life.
  • Remember to use your body, and not just your head, to experience life.
  • Take the risk to feel.
  • Take the risk to be open and non-judgemental, and to reach out to share heart-felt experiences with fellow human beings.

Your benefits will include greater wellbeing, and a healthier, happier, more productive, more love-filled life.

May my own experiences help you.

www.joehoare.co.uk

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