Tag Archives: Laughing Buddha

7 tips for more happiness in life, part 3

‘How do I laugh more?’ is still one of the most common questions I am asked in coaching sessions.
This is the third 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 3 – ‘when feeling angry/stressed/‘blue’, laugh at yourself’

 

This classic reminder, used by both Alan Watts and Eckhart Tolle, is an essential step towards happiness. We tell ourselves stories all the time, and being human we tend to believe them.

How can we break this pattern, and how do laughter practices help?

As ever, awareness and mindfulness are crucial. The more we practice being aware and living in the ‘now’, the easier it becomes to remember we’re just telling ourselves a story. Consequently, the easier it becomes to break out of the pattern.

One way to stimulate this awareness is the laughter meditation practice of chuckling & laughing-out-loud on each out-breath.
When you develop this practice it becomes easier to use it when you’re angry, stressed or anxious. You find that in the middle of the drama you can still have awareness, and with this awareness, you can take this laughter meditation action step – and laugh out loud at yourself.

To do this:

  • Breathe in
  • Pause
  • Smile
  • Breathe out with a chuckle
  • Repeat
  • Repeat again etc

This practice, combining nls: natural laughter skills, laughter yoga and the Barefoot Doctor’s Taoism, is described more fully in chapter 2 of ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’.
It is an inherently mindful & joyful practice because laughter brings our attention into the present moment. It cuts through the drama of our story, and eases any anger, stress and anxiety.
Psychologically it helps because we start to exercise control over our state of consciousness.
Neurologically this practice works because our brain responds to our laughing rather than our worrying, so the more we practice this, the more we re-wire our brain for peace, calm and happiness.

‘Thank you……not sure I could have gotten through the year……to laugh again at all the right and ‘wrong’ moments’. (private comment)

 

A note of caution – this is not an easy practice!
I find when I’m in the thick of an anger, stress or anxiety drama, it requires considerable effort to do my chuckling meditation.
A note of reward – just one chuckle is enough!
Once I’ve had the presence of mind to take this action step, it immediately starts to break through and provide perspective, clarity and calm. I experience an immediate easing of the internal pressure my drama was creating.

I also find it the perfect antidote to over-seriousness and use it whenever I feel this tendency encroaching – so I use it several times a day! I now find it an essential, enjoyable, life-enhancing safety valve.

I’d love to hear your experiences.

Coaching

Happiness

Action for Happiness

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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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Are you willing to laugh?

‘When I’m unhappy, stressed, or depressed, sometimes the last thing I feel like doing is laughing – can I really laugh myself into a better mood?’This is a common laughter yoga, nls: natural laughter skills, and laughter meditation question.

The psychologist William James observed ‘We don’t laugh because we’re happy, we’re happy because we laugh’.
But does laughing always make us happier?

The key is willingness.

Willingness empowers every stress-busting, mood-lifting activity we undertake. Particularly when combined with mindfulness, willingness can break us free of anxiety and even depression. The impact and benefit can be long-lasting. We can become happier.

To activate our willingness, one way is to use the inner smile, a classic Taoist/Zen as well as mindfulness-based stress-busting technique.

How do we activate it?

  • Breathe: start taking slow deep breaths, breathing out more slowly than you breathe in
  • Relax: focus on loosening and dropping your shoulders, and do some backward shoulder rolls, maybe even backstroke movements
  • Smile: soften any habitual facial mask by allowing a hint of a smile across your mouth and eyes
  • Internalise: drop this feeling as deeply into your torso as you can, focusing especially on your heart, belly and perineum
  • Laugh: use the power of your mind to bring some pleasant, happy thought or memory into your awareness and have a quiet chuckle.
  • Feel – be mindful: in an aware, attentive, mindful way take a moment to feel and register the quality of what you’ve just experienced
  • Repeat as often and as much as necessary

This and other exercises are in the book ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’, co-authored with the Barefoot Doctor.

As ever, the more you use this practice, the better it works, because you’re learning new habits. You’re harnessing your brain’s neuroplasticity, its ability to create new neural pathways. You are increasing grey matter concentration within specific areas of your brain which are involved in learning & memory, emotion regulation, sense of self, and re-assessing perspective.

What practical benefits do these bring? Among others:

  • You energise your stress-busting, mood-lifting, happiness-boosting processes
  • You strengthen your ability to be more mindful, to ease anxiety and depression, and to lift your mood at will
  • You develop the knack of becoming more optimistic, resilient and happier

All you need is willingness, and yes, you can laugh yourself happier. People do all the time. This why Dr Kataria, founder of laughter yoga, says: ‘it’s time to take laughter seriously’.

www.joehoare.co.uk

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Need more time? Well, laugh more!

‘Purleeeeease – laugh? When I’m stressed and busy? Meditation? Laughter meditation? I just don’t have the time. Let’s get real here – how can I manage more things when I’m short of time already?’

Ring a bell, anyone? I remember this time management conundrum well, so I enjoy helping others out of it.

Funny things happen when you laugh, especially when you laugh as a health promotion practice. In our era of intensifying stress and time pressure, the quest for happiness, serenity and productivity is also intensifying. As anxiety and depression increase, so do practices like yoga, meditation, laughter yoga and nls: natural laughter skills.
As time monsters proliferate, so do subtle time management practices.

‘The busier I get, the more I meditate’ says the Dalai Lama.

How is it possible that the solution to time shortage is to take up more time-consuming activities? Sound a bit funny, this? Yet this is what works.

First, following an earlier theme that laughter practices stimulate a sense of ‘I feel better’, this  gives us a sense of greater control in our life. This alone is an excellent reason to start laughter practices immediately. We feel more in control of our time,a pre-requisite for time management.

Secondly, laughter and smiling practices bring us into the ‘now’. The decision to use these practices breaks us out of our hamster wheel of mind-swirling overwhelming demands. Being mindful and in the ‘now’ immediately breaks the cycle of pressure, whether time pressure or pressure on the spirit.

Thirdly, time spent being mindful reconnects us with our intuition, our sense of inner knowing. This is where our time management solutions are. Allowing mindfulness and our intuition to guide us allows the important time management priorities to reveal themselves. Like cream, they float to the surface.

So far, so good – but how do we access all these benefits? Where do mindfulness, laughter yoga and nls: natural laughter skills fit in?

  1. Wake and Smile – W.A.S.
    Possibly your simplest and most powerful daily practice is to start your day with a smile. You start your day with conscious positive intention. You can either lie in bed and do it, or even smile in the mirror. The practice is for it to be a genuine, good-natured smile for 10-15 seconds. Use the ‘pencil in the teeth’ technique if necessary, as in ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’. Just do it, whatever it takes.
    Starting your day well gives you a sense of being in control and ready for what the day brings.
  2. Laugh at Lunchtime – L.A.L.
    At lunchtime, repeat this smiling exercise, or look around and find something to have a good-natured laugh about.
    Use the power of your own mind to access thoughts or memories that bring you a sense of lightness, wellbeing or joy.
    Listen to your intuition and re-prioritise your afternoon accordingly.
  3. Laugh at Work – L.A.W.
    During your working day, find moments to stop, relax, stretch, breathe, smile and chuckle. We all need regular breaks to keep our work focused, relevant, creative and productive. Add the L.A.W dimension to access your intuition and help you prioritise and manage your time well.
  4. Laugh at the End – L.A.T.E.
    At the end of your working day or at the end of your day, do one final smiling & laughing exercise. Besides the mild euphoria this induces, it also helps you settle and calm down. Whether you’re about to head home or head to bed, you do so with an enhanced sense of calm and peacefulness.

The more you develop your laughter practices, the more you improve your health, happiness and wellbeing – and your time management.

www.joehoare.co.uk

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Wake Up Laughing

‘What’s the point? Why would I do this?’ I was asked recently.
These questions take us to the heart of the healing power of laughter. Why is it such a good stress-buster? Does it ease anxiety and depression? Does it improve health, wellbeing and happiness?
Basically, does ‘laughter the best medicine’ deserve its reputation? The short answer of course is ‘Yes’. The long answer is also ‘Yes’. But why is this so?

When I ask people how they feel when they laugh, the most frequent comment is ‘I feel better’.
What does this mean to you? If you stop, breathe, smile and explore ‘feeling better’, what do you experience? Do you get a sense of an upward curve, of life improving?

I specifically invite you to stop, breathe, smile, relax right now, and simply feel what you’re feeling, whatever that is. Take a moment to feel the experience of your life before reading any further, and then add the phrase ‘I feel better’ into your experience. Do you notice a difference?

The longer I use nls: natural laughter skills, laughter yoga and laughter therapy, the more I appreciate the Dalai Lama (‘Be optimistic. It feels better‘) and contemporary psychological insight that ‘I feel better’ is significant and underappreciated.
It is arguably the most important attribute in our life because when we feel better, we have a sense of life improving, in particular:

  • We feel more in control, and we enjoy life more.
  • We beat back stress because we become more resilient, generous and open-hearted.
  • We improve our mood because we are having a better experience of being alive.
  • We feel more cheerful and optimistic because we ease anxiety, loneliness and depression.
  • We improve our relationships because we are a warmer, more approachable human being. We become someone people instinctively warm to and want to communicate with.

Aren’t these good enough reasons to ‘wake up laughing’?
The fact there are important, numerous and well-documented benefits for conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular health, depression, weight loss and many others is an added supportive factor. Physiologically and psychologically, these are highly significant, and they also combine well with disciplines like yoga, meditation, laughter meditation, positive psychology, as well as mindfulness practices.

However, the improvement in spiritual, psychological and overall wellbeing is perhaps the most fundamental benefit. This is another way of saying we become happier, and is why organisations like Action for Happiness support these activities.
Excitingly and interestingly, even a short exposure to nls: natural laughter skills and laughter yoga can activate this. One person came up to me at a healing arts festival and told me she’d taken part in one of my 15 minute sessions the previous year. She told me she had then spent a difficult and relentlessly demanding year as carer for a family member. She found that as a result of her 15-minute experience she felt so buoyed up that this kept her going all year.

All the other health benefits are important but to me sometimes they pale besides the improved life experience that these 15 minutes contributed to this person.

I leave you with this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882), and I encourage you to ‘wake up laughing’.
‘To laugh often and much………To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition…….. This is to have succeeded.’

www.joehoare.co.uk

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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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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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