Tag Archives: resilience

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.

Be optimistic. It feels better. The Dalai Lama Click To Tweet

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.

‘People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily.’ Zig Ziglar Click To Tweet

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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3 profound benefits of laughter yoga

 

I love describing things in the simplest way possible, and the benefits of laughter yoga can be described in 3 ways:

  1. You feel better
  2. You are better
  3. You do better.

You feel better. ‘I feel better’ is the most common reply I get when I ask people how they feel when they laugh.
‘Feeling better’ is at the heart of our human experience. It is perhaps the most important quality we can experience because when we feel ‘better’, life is ‘better’.

Feeling better, in a life-affirming and constructive way, can be achieved even in difficult circumstances. There are many stories of people who managed to laugh and feel better even in life-threatening ones.

‘Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit’ (Bernard Williams). Laughter yoga practices activate resilience by giving us the means to improve our mood and activate our zest for life at any moment we choose.

Life feels better with laughter yoga #laughteryogawithJoe Click To Tweet

 

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‘Vedant has really taken what you said on board and now everyone at our hospice is doing their 15 second smiles morning and evening.
The patients respond really well to such a simple device – it is lovely to see the effect it has.’

You are better. The list of health benefits gets longer every day. These benefits are physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual.

In their simplest form, the benefits occur because laughter yoga is a pain-relieving and energising practice. Its wholesome, life-affirming qualities energise us if only because we have more oxygen in our system, and well oxygenated blood is a life-enhancer. The overall cardiovascular benefits underpin our ability to be healthy on many other levels.

‘Laughter is internal jogging’ (Norman Cousins)

Our tolerance threshold for physical pain increases as a result of laughter yoga and laughter generally. This benefit spills over to emotional and psychological pain. We benefit because we communicate and connect better with others, and when we replace isolation & loneliness with connection we experience a healthier, happier and longer life.
‘The smiling practice technique you teach has transformed my life and I rarely walk around with a growly face these days.’

We can all learn to laugh more, and we become measurably better.

You do better. Laughter yoga is a mindfulness activity, and consequently we experience the benefits of mindfulness even though we’ve accessed it in a different way. Among the many benefits of mindfulness, and hence laughter yoga, are the ability to prioritise better, think more clearly & calmly, experience less exhaustion and greater job satisfaction.

An additional benefit laughter yoga brings to our activities is energy.
‘Thank you for your contribution to our team meeting. Our goal to encompass stress relief, team building and fun was certainly achieved.’

Because of its core cardiovascular benefits, coupled with the mood enhancement, we have more energy to bring to our activities. This energising aspect inspires and enables us to do better.
‘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.’

Whether practiced alone or with a group, these are some of the benefits of laughter yoga.

If you have enjoyed this blog, please share it. Thank you.

Further resources include:
Laughter Yoga with Joe

Laughter and pain

Action for Happiness

Choosing happiness

Benefits of laughter

Bristol laughter club 

Laughter Yoga

laughter-yoga

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Laughter yoga – a force for mindfulness and peace.

 

There is a huna saying: there are no limits. This is certainly true for laughter yoga.

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When you get into the heart of laughter yoga, two qualities you find are mindfulness and peace. By practicing laughter as a yoga, by taking your awareness inside and feeling the inner changes brought about by your laughter practice, you become present and peaceful.

There are many other qualities you might experience too,  for example

– energised,
– healthy,
– empowered.
You might have to navigate your way through some inner turbulence, but after the outward expression of your laughter yoga, there is the potential to feel still, aware, and peaceful.

Because laughter is a universal language, laughter yoga is potentially universal.
It is also cross-cultural, and accessible to every culture and group.

One recent example is from a Women’s Group from a recovery organisation. In their 20 years they had never allowed a man into their group room.
They were stressed, dealing with a lot of pressure, and wanted additional skills to help them cope better, build resilience and find a sense of inner calm.
After they approached me thinking I was a woman (Jo not Joe), their organiser asked them if they were happy having a male presence in their group, and they replied ‘yes’.
Besides feeling honoured I also felt extremely alert to any nuances, and so the session was geared to ensure they ‘owned’ it and felt good about themselves. It started very gently as they eased themselves into playful light-heartedness, and then they really took to it.

It worked, they loved it, and they want more.

Another example is with a Pakistani Women’s Group. The same principles of gentleness, flexibility and respect applied. It was important to find the edges of their willingness so they could stay engaged and take part fully. Once we did this, everybody relaxed into it, encouraged each other, and felt great by the end of a short session.

On the face of it, both these sessions were difficult if not impossible but by finding a way of making the laughter yoga exercises relevant and appropriate to each specific group, they were able fully to take it on board.
One group became quite rampant, the other became more quietly jolly, but both of them felt energised, ‘alive’, calm and peaceful by the end.

How do we do this? The keys to this are
— gentleness,
— flexibility and
— respect.

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I call this approach nls: natural laughter skills because it is based on
— moving
— breathing
— smiling
It builds gentleness, flexibility and respect into the heart of laughter yoga, and helps it realise its potential for mindfulness and peace.
Whether you are an organisation, team, group or an individual, there are no limits.

if you have enjoyed this blog, please ‘like’ share it? Thank you, I greatly appreciate this.
Further resources include:

www.joehoare.co.uk

nls: natural laughter skills

www.bristollaughterclub.com

 

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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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Walk and smile. Smile and walk (happiness tips, vol2, #2)

 

Walk and smile. Smile and walk.

In his sadly brief life, Kierkegaard said ‘Above all, do not lose your desire to walk’.
(His full quote is below)

I like to walk and smile. In fact I have a mantra: ‘Walk, Breathe, Smile’.

Three significant factors that the increasing amount of research into lifelong brain health (and ageing better) shows is first, how we can keep learning all our lives, and secondly, how we can learn new practices by repetition, how hugely we all benefit from walking.

The power and effectiveness of smiling comes up time and again. Almost any set of happier living tips nowadays includes smiling because it is such an easy and immediate way of improving our mood. What is not always appreciated or mentioned is that we can use smiling as a practice.

We can all learn to smile more. We can teach ourselves.
There are enormous benefits from walking more. If we are motivated enough to walk, we can introduce the smiling practice too. They are great practices to combine.

I’ve written about smiling practices in previous blogs. Basically, you soften your facial muscles (which incidentally makes you much more attractive and produces instant beautification).
As you deepen your own practice, be alert for the feeling of the smile. Move your awareness away from your eyes, mouth and face and focus instead on the inner quality of your smile. Focus in your chest and heart.
Feel.

Time and again I take clients through this awareness process so they become aware of the vibrational quality of their smile. They become aware this emits a welcoming quality.
In trainings and workshops, it is fun and revealing how easily we pick up on invisible signals. We all sense mood more readily than we sometimes realise.

Walking is an excellent opportunity to practice this. Walking, and especially connecting with nature, is a general feelgood activity in its own right and experience has shown me repeatedly that it can be very easy to add a smiling practice into it.

Among other things, it makes the walk even more enjoyable. This combination adds to Kierkegaard’s list of benefits.

‘Walk, Breathe, Smile’.
I hope you’ve fund this interesting and/or helpful. If so, I very much appreciate all shares.
Thank you.

Also, all comments are welcome.

To take your own journey further in conference / team / workshop / one-to-one sessions, and /or for more information, please visit
www.joehoare.co.uk

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Happiness tips, vol 2, part 1. Want to feel the joy? Learn to feel.

 

It’s all about feeling.

Laughter yoga helps us feel. Laughter yoga helps us feel happier, even when it hurts.

Sometimes, though, there is an expectation that laughter yoga will make us feel happier instantly. After all, the eminent psychologist William James observed ‘We don’t laugh because we’re happy, we’re happy because we laugh.’

Time and again, I have found his observation to be true – with a caution. Sometimes we have uncomfortable feelings we have not acknowledged. Sometimes they need freedom and to be released. This cannot happen without being prepared to feel the uncomfortableness.
Sometimes this hurts.

How does laughter yoga help?

‘Remember to breathe’ is advice we’ve probably all heard numerous times.
In laughter yoga, it becomes ‘remember to laugh’.

Because laughter practices are life-enhancing and energise our zest for life , they generate a cushion to help us through our uncomfortable feelings. They can help us ride any pain associated with our uncomfortable feelings.
After all, a laugh is simply a form of breath.

Like many practices, these are simple but not easy. The knack is to keep going. That’s where the benefits are.

There is a difference between experiencing this in a group or as a personal practice.
When running groups and workshops, we have to be alert and allow people space to experience their own feelings. This involves well-developed group and facilitation skills.

As a personal practice, we have to be alert to any additional resources we need. Whatever additional resources we need, the laughter yoga personal practices help.

So laughter yoga can help provide us with the resources we need to deal with the feelings it reveals.

Simple, but not easy.

Start practicing now?
Breathe in, hold your breath for 3 seconds, smile, and exhale with a good-natured chuckle.
Repeat at least 3 times.

Keep at it.

Useful links include:

Practices (book/audio)

zest for life

laughter yoga with Joe

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What does laughter yoga add to mindfulness?

 

The short answer is lots.

Time and again, the feedback from participants after experiencing a session is they’ve never felt so present, so quickly.
It is extremely common for physical symptoms like headaches to disappear, for stress levels to drop, for energy levels to rise, for awareness to expand and consequently for people to experience an unexpected calm and serenity, all within fifteen or twenty minutes.

Whether the session is titled ‘Mindfulness’, ‘Gentle Laughing Mindfulness’ or simply ‘laughter yoga with Joe’, the core activities are the same. There are specific facial exercises combined with embodiment, breathing, moving, feeling, connecting. The delivery is light-hearted, flexible and spontaneous with ‘space to learn’ so participants can be aware of their own processes. This is an important aspect.
The cumulative effect is to activate people’s zest for life.

Why does this work?
The immediate answer is because it gets participants out of their heads.
Very quickly indeed it breaks them free of their endless thinking cycle. It moves their awareness into their fuller consciousness – their body, their breathing and their overall connection with self and others. When this is done as a repeating, deepening pattern, it becomes an endlessly beneficial practice.

A subtler answer is it works because of the difference between being aware and being aware with a smile. This is like the difference between a passive, observational meditation and a proactive, dynamic one. Both ‘work’, and both have their place.

The smile gives the experience a particular dynamic.

How long do the benefits last?
As with mindfulness itself, the more it is practiced, the better it ‘works’. Again, it is simple but not easy. The strong incentive is that even experienced practitioners feel so good so quickly.

What’s the best way to start?
Smile. Feel the smile. Be aware of the internal quality of the smile. Smile with your whole being, and be alert for any differences in how you feel and how others behave and react.

It might be the most enjoyable practice you ever do.

Do it now?

zest for life

laughter yoga with Joe

Smiling & embodiment practices

latest news

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Laughter wellness: what is it and why does it work?

 

At last.

‘Now we are 8’, 8 years into the Great Recession, one ever-pressing question is: what works? The harder the times, the more pressing this question.

Three of the threads proving their effectiveness are:

  • Mindfulness: present-moment awareness, encouraging emotionally intelligent and self-responsible behaviour
  • Positive Psychology: the impact of positivity on emotions, happiness and effectiveness
  • Wellness: overturns stress, anxiety & depression, and promotes connection and resilience.

In the ‘Wellness’ picture, the role of ‘laughter wellness’ has its place because it is upbeat & energising, simple & effective, and fast.

It combines wellness activities with enjoyment. The result is calmness, connection and resilience which manifests in happier productivity.

BNP (Banque National de Paris), among others, used ‘zest for life’ recently.
We moved around the space, walked at different tempos, internalised & isolated ourselves, communicated & connected with each other, and kept expanding our awareness – all in a framework of good-natured exploration.

Apprehensive, heady, pressured individuals turned up and surprised, relaxed, energised & connected individuals left.

The surprise was because of how little we did and how well it worked. We moved, we breathed, we kept expanding our connection. We all felt well, no matter how we were feeling at the start of the session.

The moral? Laughter yoga in the form of ‘Laughter wellness’ has the magic combination of simplicity, enjoyment and effectiveness.

It works.

Time to take laughter wellness seriously?

Laughter yoga, laughter wellness and ‘zest for life’

Huff Post laughter yoga

10 minute session video

Get training

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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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