Tag Archives: laughter the best medicine

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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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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‘What if it’s too hard to force even a smile?’

In a recent session, the prevalent themes of depression, anxiety and stress came up and I was asked this excellent and classic laughter therapy question – ‘what if it’s too hard to force even a smile?’
There are two short answers. The first is: don’t.
If you don’t want to force even a smile, don’t. There’s no reason you have to smile. Whatever we do is a choice, conscious or not, and every choice is wonderful. Every choice is an experience, and every experience is valid and useful. So if you don’t feel like smiling because it’s too hard, don’t.
The second answer is that if you want to force a smile: do.
The short answer to any question on how to do something is always: by doing it.

However, as we peel away the layers of stress, anxiety and depression, we come to realise the question is how to motivate ourselves to do something we sense/feel/know will help us, even when we don’t really feel like doing it. This is a common occurrence for all of us but especially for people with extreme conditions like cancer and MS. Once we realise it’s a motivation question, that is, how to help us do something we know is going to help us, solutions start to present themselves and we start to relieve our stress and ease anxiety & depression.
One clue is that the question has even been asked. This indicates mindfulness and awareness. In my coaching practice, mindfulness and awareness are essential (and easily developed) because they underpin a willingness on the part of the asker to change their life experience from an often stressed or anxious state to something more positive and upbeat. As soon as there is willingness, there is a measure of space and separation around the situation, and this space allows the possibility of conscious choice, and a lifting of stress and anxiety.
Fuelled by this willingness, and using insights from nls: natural laughter skills, laughter yoga and positive psychology among others, there are two simple paths. One is experiential, and the other uses the power of our mind. Practicing either of these, we can all learn to lift our spirits by smiling more.
When we have reached the point where even though it’s too hard to force even a smile, we’ve decided we’re going to, if you’re an experiential person, just smile. Recently I was with a group of elderly people who suffer from macular degeneration (sight loss), and one of them said chirpily that when she starts to get ‘down’ she just smiles. She is naturally experiential and has discovered her own, and now widely used, antidote for low spirits and depression.
For others, it’s easier to use the power of the mind and in their mind’s eye either to remember something that generates a smile, or anticipate something. Both routes are wonderful, and both work well because they’re based on a positive choice you’ve made. They are empowering.
If you find you can’t bring yourself to do either of these but want to do something, hold a pencil in your teeth, or even your finger. Hold it across your mouth without it touching your lips. This facial position is the facial position of a smile, and simply having your face in this position tricks your brain into releasing mood-enhancing endorphins as if you’re smiling a genuine smile. There is a business coach I know who uses this technique when she’s driving between clients, to help her arrive in her most upbeat, positive mood possible.
There are of course many other ways we can change our mood, including exercise, yoga and meditation, but the beauty of the approach described above is that you don’t need any props, external stimuli or other activity. Because of their simple effectiveness, these smiling exercises are the starting point in the book ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’. People’s testimonials in the book speak for themselves.
Even if you’re stuck in a hospital bed or on a desert island, plagued by anxiety, worry or depression, with no access to friends, phones, TV or any other media, you can still force a smile this way, once you’re ready to.
Happy smiling.

laughing buddha

www.joehoare.co.uk

 

Links:
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nls: natural laughter skills
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Awakening the Laughing Buddha within

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The laugh at the end of the tunnel.

The revolution is underway. It’s on television. It’s on the radio. It’s in social media. It’s happening. Yes, every day, people are being ‘turned’ by the healing power of laughter.

It’s a revolution because through nls: natural laughter skills, laughter yoga, the healing power of laughter and others, laughter is being explored like yoga and meditation. It is being explored as a way of promoting your own health, wellbeing and happiness.

Laughter used to be viewed to something that only happened when something was funny – so, nothing funny, no laughter. How sad was that? There can be long pauses between funninesses, long no-laughing gaps. How depressing.

This started to change big time in the 1970’s after Norman Cousins’ experiences (‘Anatomy of an Illness’) when he laughter himself well. The change speeded up from the mid 1990’s when Dr Kataria started Laughter Yoga. The impetus is gathering all the time – laughter is good for your health.

Laughter is especially good for your spiritual health. It liberates your consciousness, opens your heart, helps you connect and communicate better – in short, it connects you with your innate joyfulness. Your laughter becomes not the destination but your way of travelling. Taoists call this ‘laughter readiness’, ready at a moment’s notice to roar with laughter at the absurdity and ridiculousness of life, and the perfect counterpoint to crying about it?

There are wheels within wheels:

– You can train yourself to laugh more.

– The more you laugh, the more things you find to laugh about.

– The more you laugh, the funnier life gets.

– The more you laugh, the happier you become. ‘We don’t laugh because we’re happy, we’re happy because we laugh’ observed the psychologist William James. It’s a fine way of travelling.

Happy travels to you all.

www.joehoare.co.uk

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