Tag Archives: depression

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.

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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.

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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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‘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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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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Laughter Yoga: time to start laughing with, not at?

 

There was a time not long ago when a client of mine was appalled at the possibility of yoga being taught as a stress management technique.

How times have changed.

Nowadays everyone knows about it, lots of us have tried it, and some of us use it regularly. The benefits from its breathing and stretching are so well established that it has moved from being sneered at to being welcomed.

Is this now the case with laughter yoga / yogic laughter?

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As we move into an era where personal, professional and environmental wellbeing are recognized as both essential & intertwined, the answer looks increasingly ‘yes’.

As with mindfulness, the benefits of yogic laughter include enhanced wellbeing (‘happiness’), reduction in stress, anxiety and depression, and improved resilience.
These benefits are also attainable through positive psychology and the likes of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and as research is starting to show, through yogic laughter practices as well.

Even the Pentagon has had happiness seminars.

These benefits impact our professional life as well as our personal life. Evidence is accumulating fast to show how we think more clearly, more creatively and for longer when we are in a positive mood.
Yogic laughter practices create this positive mood instantaneously.

The environmental aspect is becoming appreciated because in this arena too, health-inducing inner practices contribute to practical effectiveness. Leading figures and pioneers like Satish Kumar of Resurgence and Sir Julian Rose of the Soil Association use these practices.

What does yogic laughter offer?

Key yogic laughter practices include:

  • Willingness: being prepared to explore a practice for its benefits, even if the practice initially feels unusual
  • The smile: both smiling and laughing change brain chemistry and improve mood & effectiveness
  • The power of the mind: using the power of memory and anticipation for these same benefits
  • Movement and posture: we change our mind by changing our posture and how we move.

As with mindfulness, yogic laughter practices can require only a little time, they are simple if not easy, and are learnable.

If happiness and good mood are recognized as valuable across a spectrum as wide as Oprah, Google and the Pentagon, I’d say we’re getting there.

Time to laugh with, not at?

Resources include:
Learning yogic laughter practices

Wake Up Laughing’ in Resurgence & Ecologist magazine

Happiness at work – Shawn Achor

General information

Yogic laughter in action (video)

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You are awesome – yes, you.

 

I was thinking awesome this morning.

I suddenly realised that two of the most awesome people I’ve known in my life were both almost completely uneducated, yet they both had a spark that people still remember. That spark was their ability to figure things out, be nobody’s fool and therefore highly perceptive.

In today’s parlance, they were creative, intuitive and authentic. They understood themselves, and therefore life, well enough to see to the heart of situations. Neither of them had high flying careers yet they excelled,  and impressed everyone who met them because they were so ‘real’.

If they could, why not us too?

Can we be more ‘real’? We’re already unique, creative individuals, so can we learn to expand our uniqueness?
Why might we want to?

One simple way to expand our uniqueness is to become more aware of the flow of life. Life is swirling and changing in & around us all the time, yet how aware of this are we? If we’re ‘in our heads’ the answer is always: not very.
As soon as we engage with our embodied consciousness, awareness floods in, stress and tension ease, mood improves, life becomes more enjoyable, we communicate better, and relationships and effectiveness improve.

How do we do this? A simple mantra is ‘feet, breathe, smile’.

When we put attention on our feet, especially the soles of our feet, we get out of our heads.
When we become aware of and focus on our breathing, we relax and calm down.
When we smile, we imbue our awareness with good-naturedness.

One of the cumulative effects is to deepen our connection with our knowing self, our intuition – including perceptiveness and ability to ‘figure things out’.

I observe people entering this state of embodied awareness, and every time they become more radiant and beautiful.
They become relaxed, empowered and confident.
Without fail, they know what to do next, what their next step is and how to take it.
They become aware they have the resources to do what needs doing.
They do it.
They activate their zest for life.

Joehoare---front-Business-card---flatThey become awesome in front of my eyes.

Get out of your head and go for full awareness.
Use the mantra and practice: ‘Feet, breathe, smile’.
Give it a go. Get more awesome.

Tell me how you get on.

Useful links
Zest for life
‘Feet, breathe, smile’
Take your next step

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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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