Category Archives: Laughing Buddha

‘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:
laughter therapy
cancer
nls: natural laughter skills
lift our spirits
Awakening the Laughing Buddha within

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Say hello to your creative muses – do something different.

I was reminded by a friend fresh off his NLP course recently about the value of doing things differently.
Magic happens when we break out of routine – our minds freshen up, we get fresh insights, our creative muses often visit. On a course a while back one participant told of a company department where for a month everyone had to take a different route to work. The expected result was their creative output increased. The unexpected result was weight loss. What’s the moral here? – the unexpected brings unexpected results.
I decided last night to take up a practice I used to do regularly when I was a countryside dweller, which is walking at night, midnight rambles. I set off round the park and the more I walked, the more my creative muses visited. They’ve even encouraged me to blog more.
Night is a magic time to walk. All our senses are sharper because we’re in the unknown, we can’t mooch along in a usual daytime semi-unconscious reverie because we need to be alert. This alertness opens our consciousness, and I found my muses pouring in idea after idea. Even better, they linked up all kinds of ‘dots’, showing me how to connect up different threads I’ve been pursuing this past year. I’ve had a busy year running nls: natural laughter skills courses, and my muses showed me how to develop these further make the experiences even more accessible and valuable to participants.
In fact, next time, I’ll have to take a notebook because so many came through that I forgot some of them.
I’ve come to realise that my muses want to visit, they want to implant their ideas, and although they come on their own timetable (which is sometimes 4am, that magic time when our conscious brain is most switched off – be prepared for disturbed night’s sleep, folks), they will visit at more social times too – provided we’re ready and open to them. However, you do need to be prepared to stop what you were doing and receive their inspiration otherwise they might move on and it’ll be lost.
The magic is that by setting up a receptive lifestyle and mindset, muses will visit you more often too, which is an uplifting and joyful experience. My inner Laughing Buddha smiled.
I’d love to hear your experiences.

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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 be happy.

How to be happy.

After a nls: natural laughter skills session, someone came up to me and said that until his late teenage years he was a grumpy git. One day, he decided to stop being a grumpy git and become pleasant and agreeable so for the rest of his life (and he’s now in his fifties) he did, and he still is. He was great company.

The message is clear: stop trying to be happy. Abandon immediately this modern pursuit of happiness. If you want to be happy, just be happy. Focus your attention on happiness and simply be happy. Here and now, for this moment, just be happy.

Think of happiness as a way of travelling rather than the destination because if you set your destination right, you never arrive, you find you always keep travelling.

If you’re wondering how to maintain this, become an appreciator.

As an appreciator, you look for opportunities to be appreciative, to appreciate as much as possible as often as possible. A subtle process comes into play when you do this because you start living mindfully, ie you start living more and more in the present. You become more aware of the totality of your life experience, not just your thoughts.

Anyone who practices living in the present knows that now is a place of lightness and delight with occasional disturbances. When you’re fully engaging yourself in the now, you free yourself from past regrets and future worries. You connect with your intuition and your inherent creativity & spontaneity, and you liberate your consciousness, your mind, body and spirit.

This is where the magic happens. This is also where happiness is, so take a moment to celebrate.

This is a robust model. We are blessed nowadays because science is providing an endless stream of evidence supporting ancient practices of meditation and mindful awareness. There is increasing research demonstrating how to worry less and become more appreciative and therefore happier. All they require is consistent practice.

So, stop trying to be happy. For this moment, here & now, just be happy.

www.joehoare.co.uk

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How to stay upbeat in a crazy world?

How to stay upbeat in a crazy world? How to stay positive? How to be authentic? These are the questions that come up time and again, as they did at the Penny Brohn book club last night.
The answer – it takes what the Dalai Lama calls ‘effort’, concentration and repeated practice and a revolutionary practice for we westerners is to smile more – start your day with a smile. The practice is to smile genuinely for 10-15 seconds. The key is the genuineness. If you are naturally experiential, just do it. If you’re more visual, use the power of your mind to recall/anticipate scenes that make smile. Whatever it takes, just do it.
And be on the lookout for any impact this has on your day.
‘I can see for smiles and smiles’.

laughing buddha

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Homage to Laughter Yoga

My debt to laughter yoga is huge. My delight at meeting Madan and Madhuri was enormous. The freedom they gave me to laugh out loud joyously is priceless.

I first came across laughter clubs in 1996, in the Funny Old World section of Private Eye magazine, where I read about laughing for the sake of laughing. I was already running personal development workshops (free your natural voice / toning & overtone chanting) where people laughed lots anyway. One person came up to me after a session and said they’d never laughed so much in their life before, and she was well into her 50’s by then. So I was accustomed to the liberating power of laughter. However, the thought of running a workshop called ‘laughter workshop’ was just too daunting, so I was intrigued by this article. I still have a copy today.
I was also aware of Patch Adams, had read about Robert Holden and the healing power of laughter in Matthew Manning’s excellent ‘Guide to self healing, so I dipped my toe in and ran my first workshop in 1997. I never really felt comfortable in these sessions because I didn’t feel I had the proper response to the vibe: ‘go on, make me laugh’ – until I met Dr K in 2002.
I have had several life-defining moments in my short life, and this was another of them. I drove up to Birmingham where he was running a workshop, we met the evening before, and I just loved every second. And this was before the workshop itself where he created a space where I finally gave myself full permission to laugh fully, joyously, for a long time. More importantly, the workshop also gave me an essential insight, that last piece of my laughter jigsaw, that one piece without which the picture was incomplete – connection.
My role was not to make people laugh, but to help people connect. When we connect in good-natured & open-hearted way, natural joyfulness wells up and expresses itself through laughter. Laughter itself can cause this of course, but when laughter combines with connection, magic happens.

I was so moved by this experience, I invited Madan and Madhuri back to the UK the following year where we had a couple of fabulous days in Bristol, more training – and some real life. When he arrived at the train station (from Birmingham), he’d lost his passport. I observed ‘that’s no laughing matter’, to which he replied ‘well, actually, I think I need to laugh more’, and did. There was someone walking his talk. Inspirational.

Madan, you lit a beacon in my life for which I will always thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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