Tag Archives: psychology

What can laughter yoga do for coaches?

Laughing and coaching – ever the twain shall meet?

There are many styles of laughter yoga, as there are of coaching. One key practice (which we explored recently at the SWCouncils conference) is a smiling practice.

This practice is based on a 1988 pencil-in-the-teeth experiment by Professor Frach and Associates which demonstrated the mood-lifting effects of smiling, and their longevity.
As soon as we start examining this, the potential application to coaching practices becomes clear – it is a fast, simple and effective way of shifting mood.

Mood-changing, emotional fluidity and resilience are part of an essential coaching toolkit.
These specific qualities are developed through laughter yoga practices, especially the solo practices.

Although laughter yoga is often considered a group activity – which is how it originated – it has evolved to become fluid and user-friendly in all circumstances.
Part of the practice becomes learning how to internalise these qualities, and learning to make them work fast and effectively.

The Laughter Facilitation Skills course ( #laughteryogawithJoe ) in Bristol, 7/8th October, focuses specifically on this aspect, among others.

At a recent (unrelated) training session, one of the delegates was a coach. She spends part of her working time travelling between clients. She had discovered, independently, that by gripping a pencil across her teeth and therefore having her face in the smiling position, she was in the best mood she could be by the time she reached her next client. This is the smiling exercise!

With a few additional tweaks, her toolkit expanded significantly, but it was great to come across someone who had figured this basic practice out for themselves.

Additional resources

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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‘Help! I’m feeling overwhelmed’ – insights from Laughter yoga

 

Laughter yoga is not some quirky insubstantial time-filling activity. Laughter yoga helps real people with real life. The insights in nls: natural laughter skills provide a robust practical framework for navigating us through a crisis.

Winston Churchill commented ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going’.
To help do this, here are 7 core nls: natural laughter skills steps.

  1. just hang in there
  2. keep breathing
  3. set tiny wellness targets (‘for the next 5 minutes I’ll relax, breathe & smile’)
  4. within yourself, allow the possibility of change (‘resistance is futile’ … and it has the potential to turn pain into suffering?)
  5. Make a point for 5 minutes at a time, once or thrice a day, appreciating really ‘tiny’ normally insignificant things – fingernails, the fact that bones mend, the texture of your skin, the colour of your walls etc)
  6. Remember that with all you know and all you already do, clarity is on its way. You just have a bit of turbulence to get through
  7. The universe never puts more on our plate than we can handle

This framework is even more effective when these steps are done with a smile. The act of intentional willing smiling relaxes our psyche and opens us to the possibility of change. With practice, the act of intentional willing smiling generates a palpable internal sensation, a warmth, softening and gentleness we can feel. This quality

  • makes it easier to endure the painful moment
  • reduces inner resistance
  • and facilitates inner change.

All that you need do with this intentional willing smiling practice is keep practicing, as in ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’.
As John F Kennedy remarked ‘The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining’, and the more we integrate this smiling practice into our daily life, the better we are able to deal with life’s inevitable turbulence. We are developing our resilience, and using as many of our own resources as possible – physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual.

Do these steps really help?
Here is a recent comment ‘I feel anyone going through change and feeling overwhelmed will benefit from the wisdom of these words. I read them every day and they ground and encourage me, as well as reassuring me that I am doing enough.’

Just keep practicing your intentional willing smiling.

www,joehoare.co.uk

next workshop ‘Joy. More Joy

next webinar – ‘add mindfulness to your laughter yoga’

next course ‘Laughter Facilitation Skills’

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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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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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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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How to change your thinking without thinking about it

There is a knack to this.
So often we think that to change our thinking we have to concentrate on our thinking. We forget dear old Albert Einstein’s observation: ‘We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.’ What is likely to happen, I’ve observed, is that our old thinking simply re-appears through the back door so we end up moving the same furniture around the same room without changing anything significant.
Worse, we can end up reinforcing and justifying our original thinking. Can you think of anyone you know like this?
Moi – oui, I can 🙂
The apparently counter-intuitive approach is to be experiential, to explore body consciousness, to be mindful in a non-attached way. The surest route to change your life from being a thinking-based one to an experience-based one is through the body. Get physical. Bring your attention into your physicality as well as your thinking process – move, stretch, breathe, play, sigh, groan, sing, dance, dance, dance. Become 100% involved in the physicality of your being as well as your thoughts & feelings, bring all your attention, and a smidgeon more, into whatever it is you’re doing. Even, especially, into the most mundane ones.
And periodically check your awareness so you’re present without being lost.
Do this regularly and you’ll find magic – and you’ll find you’ve changed your thinking without thinking about it.

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