Tag Archives: stress

Beyond McMindfulness (hint: think ‘laughter practices’)

‘This makes me more present than anything else’, said the Maori homeopath, ‘more than my own meditation practice’

She was referring to the awareness practices she’d just experienced in a yogic laughter session at the Bristol laughter club.

blc logoIndividually at first, we explored awareness of feet, breath, hands, ears and so on.
We then explored them progressively and cumulatively.

Next, we explored how deeply we could maintain this awareness  while walking and moving.

Next, we took off our regular masks and added the quality of a soft face, ie a smile. We experienced the extra dimension the smile added.

Progressively we explored how there’s no limit to how deeply we can be aware, and how the smile deepens awareness.

Simple but not easy, to use Jon Kabat-Zinn’s expression.

The effect? Becoming more present, absolutely anchored in the present moment, connecting warmly with fellow human beings.
The quality of experience? Quiet, joyful contentment.

This simple exercise gets better the more we use it. ‘Gets better’ means becomes more effective. The more present we are, the better we can respond to the requirements of the current moment – with less stress, less anxiety, less frustration, more calmness, more peacefulness, more effectiveness.

McMindfulness does not deliver this. Mindfulness does. Yogic laughter practices do, par excellence.

Awakening the Laughing Buddha within

 

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What’s your next step? ‘Be the question’

In a quandry? At a crossroads?

Frustrated, dissatisfied, stressed, suffering, angsty, antsy?

Solution: get out of your own way, you know exactly what to do.

Last weekend I spent a fair bit of time helping people realise they know exactly what to do next in their life. Time after time, we’d chat for 3 or 4 minutes and then it became clear, crystal clear, what their next step was. The only ‘problem’ was them being in their own way – and once they saw this, they had their ‘A-ha’ moment and with a bit of help saw exactly what to do next, and how.

It’s a different step for everyone, but we always know. Always.

  • Sometimes it’s asking ourselves the right question.
  • Sometimes it’s accessing body wisdom.
  • Sometimes it’s shedding our ‘story’.
  • Sometimes it’s starting a new practice.

It always involves change & growing through resistance, and yet we always know it’s right because our knowing side, our still small voice of calm, just knows.

The knack is getting out of our own way – through breakdown, addiction, meditation practice etc – and using outside help.

This ‘help’ comes in many forms, for as Wayne Dyer said beautifully:
‘We’re all just walking each other home’.

So this ‘help’ can just as easily be a dog or tree or a child, it’s not necessarily adult or ‘professional’.

Ask, in the sense of ‘be your question’, and your helper and your solution present themselves. Always. Without fail.

This is the most empowering and solution-focused mindset we can have. I’ve seen it get people into their new groove time after time.

We know. We always know.
Be your question and ask for help.
Ask me, if you like.
But just ask.

www.joehoare.co.uk

‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’

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Glastonbury festival: sex, drugs & laughter yoga

2015-06-25 12.51.01

As Tina Turner might have said: ‘what’s laughter yoga got to do with it?’

Well, as it turns out – everything!

Fortunately I had decided before going into the 200,000-strong melee that I was going to have a wonderful festival. I’m very glad I decided that. I had lots of opportunities to laugh in the face of disaster after disaster, and I took them all.

First though, the ‘good’ bits. 2015-06-28 10.53.22Doesn’t get much better than the Dalai Lama, tens of thousands saw & heard him, everyone loved his message of warm-heartedness, and managing to get this close was a result!
The essence of his message – practice compassion, to everyone, to all life, always. Practice warm-heartedness, and keep practicing – which is at the heart of my own laughter yoga practice (and boy, did I need to practice – more on that later on). And he of course is a big giggler, especially at himself – a warm, wonderful, enthusiastic example.

Secondly, my team – oh, they were outstanding. It’s always good but this year was the best by far. 2015-06-28 14.58.34 2015-06-28 14.41.12We were all present, engaged, enthusiastic and because we loved what we were doing, the crowd loved it too. Every day got better and the crowd got bigger. We got crazier, more spontaneous, more outrageous, and so did they. Laughter congas & laughter dragons every day.

Thirdly, the music of course. Lionel Richie, I love you, and I loved ‘dancing on the ceiling, with you. We all did. We2015-06-28 16.41.522015-06-27 20.27.38 all loved getting ‘Happy’ with Pharrell too. HUGE crowds.

 

Then there was all the quirky stuff, all the time, wherever you looked – like the tightrope-walking fiddle player? 2015-06-27 18.06.40The Mexican slow-motion bungee jump2015-06-24 21.38.40ers?

 

 

 

The fire show? 2015-06-24 22.09.13The fire?! 2015-06-24 22.43.33

 

 

 

rubbishA rubbish orchestra?

 

 

 

The face painting? 2015-06-27 17.49.10

After all this, what could possibly go wrong?

Hahahahaaaa!

 

1. Noisy neighbours / not much sleep – every night, another opportunity to use silent laughter practices and extend warm-hearedtness & compassion. First night, excited rowdiness. Second night, pre-dawn rowdiness. Third night, all night rowdiness. Fourth night, teenage rowdiness. Thank you for allowing me to develop my practices so much. I lay in bed, smiled, chuckled to myself, and silently extended wamth to my revelling neighbours.

2. Rain. My tent ended up on a lake – and there were three little holes in the groundsheet, so there was a little lake inside too. Lots of Edward de Bono (lateral thinking) and laughter yoga skills needed here.

3. My glasses. My new £200 glasses. Collected on Monday, lost on Thursday…….breathe, relax, smile – and report to Lost & Found, giving all my contact details..

The final very best bit, my highlight even above the Dalai Lama was my wallet.

I lost my wallet – cash, cards, lots of ID and more.

However, before I even knew I’d lost it, it was returned to me?!
I was mid-conversation when my phone rang. I saw a number I didn’t know, said to my friend ‘this call is important, I have to take it’, and the voice the other end of the line said, ‘you don’t know me, but I’ve got your wallet’. I checked my pocket, and yes, it wasn’t there! Hahahahaaaaaaa! Two angels in human form had found it where I’d been sitting a few moments before, rung into Lost & Found, got my phone number from them (you see – if I hadn’t lost my glasses, they wouldn’t have had my number?!), and promptly contacted me.
My £200 lost glasses ended up saving me £000’s of stress & hassle – and gave me my most heartfelt laugh of the festival.

Oh, by the way, the festival was all about laughter yoga, not sex & drugs at all.

2015-06-28 10.37.08

www.joehoare.co.uk
www.bristollaughterclub.com

 

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7 tips for more happiness: the smiling mindset

It’s all in the smile

Whenever possible, whatever you’re doing, do it with a smile. This simple-but-not-easy practice is the antidote to over-seriousness. Who needs over-seriousness? It is not only a joy-killer, it hampers our communication, how we connect with others and limits our effectiveness. It tends to creep up on us, and makes us stressed, anxious and even depressed. If nothing else, over-seriousness limits our enjoyment, whether at work, home and in life.
Besides Eeyores, who consciously chooses not to enjoy their life?

Why smile more?

When we develop a smiling mindset, we enjoy life more. We find more enjoyment everywhere – at our desk, at our computer, with colleagues, while travelling, even in meetings. This simple benefit that we enjoy life more is good enough reason for many people to develop their smiling mindset and smile more.

In this vein, beware of Botox! When we limit our facial expressiveness with anti-wrinkle treatments, we might also be limiting our happiness.
Smiling improves our mood, eases our stress, and makes us happier. It is also good for our health as it tends to lower our blood pressure. We think, focus and concentrate better. The list of benefits goes on and on.

‘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.’

The smiling mindset – smile with your eyes

While it is true that smiling is contagious, so are good vibes. The smiling mindset is an attitude and it can be learnt. More importantly, it can be felt, and so it flows naturally into a mood and energetic communication. The key to this attitude is to soften the muscles around our eyes (orbicularis occuli), the muscles that we use in a genuine (‘Duchenne’) smile. When we relax these muscles our whole face softens, we promote facial expressiveness and so communicate more authentically, and we naturally & genuinely build positive emotions in ourselves and others.

It is a simple yet profound practice, like mindfulness. It is a natural antidote to stress, anxiety and more, also like mindfulness. It is also inherently enjoyable.

Activate yours

You can activate yours while sitting, running, walking, driving, waiting – wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. Use the power of your mind. Think ‘smile’ to yourself. Loosen up your body, and send it ‘relax’ messages. Start to move and swing your arms. Get up and stretch. Be as physical as you can. The saying from Dr Kataria and laughter yoga is ‘motion creates emotion’ so use all the resources available to you, and this includes your body.

While doing all this, smile. In particular, feel the quality of your smile from the inside out, your inner smile. Keep your face soft. Twinkle. Allow any feelings of good-natured enjoyment to arise, and welcome them. Allow all feelings to arise, be aware/mindful of them and welcome them – just keep the inner smile attitude going.

Make this a daily practice. Do it several times a day. Do it as often as possible. Keep practicing, diligently. This can change your life.

Smile:)

www.joehoare.co.uk

 

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7 tips for more happiness, part 4

‘How do I laugh more?’ is still one of the most common questions I am asked in coaching and on courses.
This is the fourth 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 4: ‘Get out of your head’

This is perhaps the best-known and least-followed tip for all of us on the wellness path.

Why?

The simple answer is that potentially our brain is an over-thinking self-aggrandising monster that wants to indulge itself forever. Unchecked, this is exactly what it does, and it causes us endless stress, anxiety, misery and even depression.

How do we break this cycle?

 

  • Practice being aware. Practice witnessing your own thoughts and feelings. As soon as we’re aware, we have the possibility of choosing our next action.
  • As soon as you’re aware, and want to make a change, do something physical. Stretch. Walk. Move. Hop. Jump. Hoover. Dance. Getting into our body immediately breaks the over-thinking cycle.
  • Do some facial yoga. Pull faces, stretch your face muscles, open your mouth wide, stick your tongue out, give your eyes and forehead a workout. Include the whole of your face and head so you loosen all your facial muscles.
  • SMILE! Having done your facial warm-ups, put a warm smile on your face, even if it’s a small one. This smile triggers an almost-immediate mood-change.
  • Practice your inner smile. Develop your ability to connect with your inner glow.
  • In a good-natured, kind way, learn to laugh at yourself. Learn laughter meditation. Laughing at ourselves in this way gives us space to see the humour and quirkiness in our behaviour, and helps remove any sting we’re feeling.
  • Practice becoming a professional laugher, like the Dalai Lama: ‘I have been confronted with many difficulties throughout the course of my life……… But I laugh often, and my laughter is contagious. When people ask me how I find the strength to laugh now, I reply that I am a professional laugher.’ (The Dalai Lama)

The Dalai Lama was an inspiration for the exercises in ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’ because to become a professional, we need to practice.
When we practice getting out of our heads, we get out of our heads and into our bodies, we might also find we get into our hearts, just like he does.

And we might also find we laugh more, and become happier.

For more information, please visit www.joehoare.co.uk

Laughter and meditation benefits

Laughter meditation

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7 tips for more happiness in life, part 2

‘How do I laugh more?’ is still one of the most common questions I am asked in coaching sessions.
This is the second in a series of 7 quick tips on how to use nls: natural laughter skills and laughter yoga for more laughter in your life.

Tip 2 – ‘Be authentic: give yourself permission to have a tantrum’

Seriousness is an exhausting burden. It is an affliction of the spirit. No one gets happy by being serious. It often induces stress, anxiety and even depression, and blights our happiness.
We adults often feel we have to be serious, but are we dying inside sometimes when we do this?
Are we being authentic?

Carl Jung talked about ‘making the darkness conscious’ and its role in liberating our consciousness. Isn’t childishness sometimes our ‘darkness’?

Where does laughter come in?

Giving ourselves permission to be childish and have a tantrum doesn’t mean this is how we’re going to live. It does mean that instead of suppressing it, we are prepared to and dare to express it.
In this context, permission itself is a healing act. Clients invariably become lighter in spirit, and every time this is accompanied by laughter.

Laughter yoga and nls: natural laughter skills practices help us dare to be childish. Their meditation-style practices and are generally best done alone and somewhere you can be noisy – as with many laughter practices.

Give yourself permission to have your tantrum. Start by feeling it and expressing it in your imagination or mind’s eye. See yourself doing it. Feel the feelings that arise – and at every juncture, be present and laugh – not in denial, but as a healing act.
Accept you feel this tantrum but don’t blame yourself. Take responsibility for it, stay present with it, honour it – and practice releasing it through your laughing practice.

Doing this accomplishes several things:

  • You honour your all feelings and therefore become more authentic
  • You strengthen your ability to laugh at yourself
  • You become more emotionally flexible
  • Your honesty & authenticity make you more inspirational, beautiful and attractive
  • You become more mindful, relaxed and happier.

Besides using these laughter yoga and nls: natural laughter skills practices as a way of easing your way out of Jung-like ‘darkness’, you can also use these practices to help you access it in a healthy, balanced, robust way, as described in ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’.

laughing buddha

You smile and laugh more to allow your childishness to release itself, which therefore results in you smiling and laughing more.
This is a double-win. Your quality of life improves. You become happier.

‘The smiling practice technique you teach has transformed my life and I rarely walk around with a growly face these days. I am eternally thankful……for this.’ (Jon)

How do you release your childishness? I allow myself to consider sulking! Having allowed myself the luxury of considering this, I breathe deeply & consciously, let my attention drop until it reaches my joyfulness, feel its gentleness, and smile softly.

What about you?

Coaching

Happiness

Laughter Yoga

 

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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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Gentle laughing mindfulness

I was asked on a recent Laughter Facilitation Skills course ‘How can I combine laughter yoga with mindfulness?’

2014 July 23rd 036

Laughter meditation and mindfulness are natural companions. Mindfulness is the practice of awareness. It is the act of noticing your body, breath, emotions, thoughts and environment, without necessarily responding to any of them.
People usually find this practice calming. Because of this calm, they often experience quiet joyfulness. This quiet joyfulness often brings a smile to their face.

Laughter meditation, whether through laughter yoga or nls: natural laughter skills, stimulates mindfulness. It brings attention into the here & now. People find they become more present and more aware of their own processes and environment. This happens in a naturally joyful way.
The act of laughter meditation therefore can stimulate joyful awareness.

The easiest way to combine these practices is through by smiling practices.
These smiling practices, as described in ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’, can add the specific quality of joyfulness into mindfulness. As a meditative practice, this is like the difference between a ‘zazen’ or observing meditation and a dynamic one.

Both approaches work well.

When you next do either a laughter yoga or nls: natural laughter skills meditation, make a point of being aware of your body, breath, emotions, thoughts and environment. The practice is to combine your laughter with your awareness so you are aware of both.
When you next do your mindfulness meditation, do it with a soft, small, genuine smile on your face. Notice any difference this smiling quality brings to your awareness. Be open to expressing it as occasional chuckles or laughs of delight.

This is gentle laughing mindfulness.

Notice how it can lift your mood, ease stress, anxiety and depression, give you a psychological boost, and promote a sense of wellbeing and happiness. If you practice this often, you will rewire your brain for greater happiness and an improved quality of life.

You can learn more about these practices in ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’ and on 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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