Laughter is a therapeutic tool. I’m not joking!
I have facilitated Recycle Your Stress into Laughter workshops in the form of a half hour of fun, laughter and healthy de-stressing.
Consisting of therapeutic laughter techniques with deep breathing exercises, attendees leave refreshed and revitalized.
While living in Colorado, Hillary Saffran (that’s me) was trained as a certified laughter leader through the World Laughter Tour founded by psychologist Steve Wilson.
This systematic, therapeutic and credible method is now used by hundreds of professional organizations and healthcare communities. Those using these techniques for their own workshops are nurses, psychologists, counselors, activity therapists, health educators, marriage and family therapists, social workers, and volunteers.
The roots of these methods can be traced to ancient practices, biblical prescriptions, and modern science. Laughter therapy reflects Steve Wilson’s 45+ year career in psychology and a philosophy of happiness through living with a positive sense of urgency, summed up as; “Don’t Postpone Joy”.
So don’t postpone your own joy!
Healthy attitudes and healthy living is definitely a laughing matter!
The Benefits of Laughter Go Way Beyond Entertainment
It Gives Us Perspective
Have you ever been down about something and a friend makes a joke or says something that you can’t help but laugh at? It’s in this moment that laughing takes us out of the mind mush, making us forget for just a few minutes what the problem is.
Certified Laughter Yoga Leader Rhonda Lee, M.A.Ed., says, “Laughter brings us fully to the present moment, which is the same goal as meditation. In fact, if you are fully engaged in laughter, it is impossible for you to really focus on anything other than the laughter. It is during this pause that we are able to redirect out thoughts without trying, and a radical shift in perspective can occur. Also, laughter produces endorphins and boosts our serotonin levels as well. This means that our body has a chemical reaction that causes us to shift our perspective. And then there’s cortisol, the hormone produced by stress. Laughter actually causes this stuff to lower as well. You can’t not shift your perspective on events when this happens. It’s like magic!”
Laughter creates distance from the lost wallet and flat tire. It opens the space around the problem we’re facing, making it easier to handle.
It Makes us Take Ourselves Less Seriously
A couple of years ago when someone would make a comment about how I liked wearing un-matching socks, I would get defensive. The time I went to a hockey game and looked down to see two different shoes on my feet, I beat myself up over it. I responded this way because I didn’t know that laughing at myself could make the situation better.
“Laughter allows us fuller emotional expression,” says Jeffrey Briar, Director of the Laughter Yoga Institute in Laguna Beach, CA. “When we express our vulnerability (and survive), this teaches us that we can be our true selves without fear. When we are a little vulnerable at the same time as we are being playful, we accept ourselves just as we are — and as we are not. Laughter teaches us to love ourselves.”
Laughing at ourselves can help us improve our self-esteem by confirming that who we are, as we are, is unique. It gives us the opportunity to accept ourselves and to let go of judgment and criticism. As we do all of this, we not only improve our relationship with ourselves but also with those around us.
It Connects Us
There’s an old saying that a couple who laughs together stays together. Why? Because laughing binds people together, says Neuroscientist Robert Provine, Ph.D. Laughter establishes a positive emotional climate and a sense of connection between two people.
Laughter can make us closer to our partners, friends, and family. By sharing moments of joy together, we feel safe, comfortable, and loved. “People who laugh together,” says Briar, “enjoy being together. This is often true even if they do not have other things in common. Views on politics, religion or social values may differ widely, but even people who don’t share the same social values can enjoy sharing social laughter. Laughing with another person sends forth a powerful message of acceptance. Laughing with others in a non-judgmental, playful way generates spontaneous yet sincere feelings of friendliness and trust.”
It Relieves Stress
One way to combat stress, especially in the workplace, is to bring in some laughs.
A study on humor, stress, and coping strategies found that those in a group with a high sense of humor had less stress and anxiety than those who experienced the same everyday problems but with lower sense of humor. The high humor group also used more positive reappraisal and problem solving strategies than the low humor group. What this means is that humor can make us more focused and productive, not only in the workplace but also in our everyday lives.
It Shows What You Feel
It’s hard to keep laughter in, so much so that sometimes I’ll hear people apologize after they laugh. A wonderful effect of laughter is that it forces us to show what we’re feeling. It brings emotions to the surface in an acceptable form of expression.
“Laughter is a socially acceptable, safe way to express joyful feelings,” says Briar. “What many are not aware of is that by laughing we can also show, publicly, other feelings, such as vulnerability and a childlike intimacy. We can even express ‘iffy’ feelings like exasperation, frustration, bewilderment — but when such feelings are done as triggers for shared social laughing, the social consequence is usually compassionate — people feel for our less-than-wonderful feelings; and/or they join in the laughing. Laughter allows us fuller emotional expression.”
It Improves Mood
When something TV or in a book I’m reading makes me laugh, it’s hard for me to feel angry or sad. “When we are laughing,” says Briar, “we cannot be worried, anxious or stressed at the same time. Positive emotions generated by laughing exclude negative emotions. The practice of hearty laughter will dispel negative emotions like fear or resentment.”
The more laughter we have in our lives, the more upbeat we are in our day-to-day. And the more we can see it as a technique to boost our mood, the easier it is for us to use when we get down in the dumps.
It Boosts Creativity
Have you ever noticed that you get your best ideas when you’re relaxed? Well, because laughter relieves stress, it also has a way of opening us up to our creative power.
Lee says, “I have worked with many artists in using laughter to boost their creativity. Laughter de-clutters the brain and allows for clear and critical thinking skills to become more abundant. Also, laughter unifies the left and right brain, which can help us to unleash our creative skills.”
So the next time you’re wracking your brain to get something out on the page or come up with a million-dollar idea for your next presentation, try laughing for a couple minutes. If you want to explore the positive effects of laughter even more, check out Creative Laughter events. It may be just what you need to open the creative floodgates.
It Can Heal Us
Laughter, as already noted, has a therapeutic quality. Studies have also proved this to be true.
In an Integrative Psychology article on the therapeutic value of laughter, Norman Cousins, who wrote more than 10 books on humor and healing, wrote, “the therapeutic value of laughter relates to the abatement of panic and its effects more than to any specific biochemical manifestations or changes.”
Even if it’s just for an hour or two, laughter can relieve us from fear and anxiety.
The studies on laughter and its benefits have inspired laughter yoga, laughter meditation, laughter therapy, and humor therapy. And what’s great about laughter is that it’s an easy to access (and free!) technique that we can use daily to help us improve our lives.
Need Help dealing with Stress?
Everyone reacts to stress differently. Some react in healthy ways, utilizing exercise, playing music, perhaps watching a movie for a quick mental vacation, or spending time with friends. Others react to stresses in destructive ways – substance abuse, overeating, and the like.
As I was reading articles on business blogging, I came across a great article by entrepreneur Ali Brown on writing a success journal. What a wonderful idea! Not only is a success journal a constructive way to achieve and record your goals one step at a time, but it is also a self-esteem booster, which in turn, is also a stress reliever.
That being said, here is Ali’s article:
Posted on June 20, 2013 by Ali Brown
It’s said our purpose here on earth is to create, and I see achievement as simply stepping into our best creations. Whether it be making a million dollars, or making our most delicious batch of cupcakes ever, achievement inspires. It encourages us to keep bettering our best and also excites others to reach for the stars as well.
When you have conquered a goal or challenge that once seemed impossible, you feel on top of the world, and with that comes an enormous sense of pride and satisfaction. But that’s not all. Success is energizing and a huge self-confidence booster, as you realize what you are really capable of! So achievement breeds more achievement. For each goal you achieve, view it as the first step into a much bigger venture—it’s the end of one journey and the beginning of many more. And one great way to stay connected with your success is to RECORD it.
One of the best things I ever did for myself, and my success, was to start keeping a success journal. It’s my secret tool to winning big.
Buy a pretty notebook and keep it near your bed. Every evening, before you go to sleep, write down at least three successes from your day. If you find this a little daunting at first, remember this can be anything from big to small. My list often includes both. I remember chuckling a while ago when reviewing my list because it included: “I was honored as one of Ernst & Young’s Winning Women” along with “opted for a salad instead of burger for lunch” and “organized file cabinet“. That’s how life is, ladies (and gents). The crucial thing is to get started.
You can write your journal entries at any time of the day, but if you do it as I do—last thing at night—you’ll drift off to sleep in a positive frame of mind. I find sometimes it even helps me wake up with solutions to problems I had not considered the day before—my subconscious kept wanting to achieve while I was sleeping!
The value of doing this every day is that it will not only increase your self-confidence, but it will motivate you to do more. Try it and you’ll see—I promise.
I also love opening up my success journal when something is not going well. If I become discouraged over a project that isn’t coming together how it should, or I’m down in the dumps over a mistake that I made, I open my journal to help remind myself how much I have accomplished already.
The good news: Success becomes a part of you!
The act of writing down your successes daily—especially at night before you go to bed—fixes them in your memory and they become a part of you. Your journal will continually and actively remind you that you are an achiever. This will keep your momentum going and help create more success in your life.
So don’t wait any longer—go out today and buy a pretty notebook and beautiful pen and write down those successes tonight. Your first one could be taking action on this article!
Thoughts? Please share your comments below!
“Entrepreneur mentor Ali Brown teaches women around the world how to start and grow a profitable business that make a positive impact. Get her FREE CD “Top 10 Success Secrets for Entrepreneurial Women” at www.AliBrown.com“
Great article! However, “success” looks different for everyone. Therefore I will share with you my really, really honest Success Journal for today:
I successfully did not fall asleep at the wheel and kill myself and others on the way to work this morning. I strive to do the same on the way home.
I successfully did not devour the smores ingredients sitting on the second shelf of my cupboard this weekend. I purchased these processed non-nutritional items at the request of my visiting son last month that were never used. I assure you – they are alive and know my name. Why don’t brussel sprouts taste the same as chocolate, graham crackers and marshmallows? Why do postpregnancy bellies, even after 18 years, have the same consistency of jello after 2 million, 475, 987 abdominal crunches, sit-ups, and anything else aerobic and supposedly toning?
Why is my Success Journal things that I have successfully not fallen prey too?
Hey – I did something successful today – I wrote this entry!
– Hillary Saffran
Secret Pill for Stress Relief
“. . . The flea when jumping accelerates 50 times faster than a space shuttle. Although fleas cannot fly, they can jump over seven inches high and thirteen inches long, that is about one hundred and fifty times its own length. Without its outer shell it would get smashed by the velocity of the jump, and especially on its landing….” Insecta Inspecta World (hwww.insecta-inspecta.com/fleas/cat/jumping.html)
When you rolled out of bed this morning I’m sure you asked: How high can a flee jump? No? Me either. But, I found myself face-to-face with the answer to this fascinating question. Being somewhat creative, I wondered how I could use this useful and valuable information. So I did a little research.
Amazing as it sounds, when fleas are put into a container (as in a small, uncapped jar), the little rascals will literally jump out. If you place a sheet of paper over the top of the container, the fleas will jump up and hit the sheet of paper then fall back to the bottom.
Here’s what’s really interesting: After several failed attempts to jump out of the container, the fleas are “mentally reconditioned” and will only leap as high the sheet of paper – even after the paper has been removed. Their previous reality has been replaced with a new one that limits their performance.
That’s a worthy lesson for us to mull over. I believe many of us, based on personal experiences, are held in place (in our business endeavors, spiritual growth, personal development, personal relationships, etc.) by our own self imposed limits.
In some behavior, we are like fleas. For example, we were jumping high, but we got hit hard by a failed relationship, loss of a job, financial crisis, or ___(fill in the blank)____, and we are face-to-face with difficult times.
Understand that there is no physical barrier. But lots of folk carry on as though there is a ceiling that prevents them from breaking out and experiencing any kind of new reality.
Like the flea, some of us have learned that jumping high meant getting the snot kicked out of us, so we make mental adjustments to lessen the pain.
A heartbreaking side effect of that choice is, however, we limit our hope for the future.
My heart truly goes out to those who feel despair brought on by stress. I’m empathetic – I truly feel their pain. The sad reality is, faced with the personal challenges before them, many of my friends and acquaintances have limited their options by constructing the mental barriers I previously referred to.
They are like the fleas that will not jump out of the uncovered container. Not knowing what else to do, they ask fellow fleas, “How do we break free? How can we move forward? How do we get out of this mess? How can we succeed?”
Here’s a valuable principal founded on truth:
Don’t ask your fellow fleas what to do. If they held the answers for breaking free, they wouldn’t be in your position. In a worst case scenario, they will keep you from moving toward success by unconsciously doing their best to hold you where they are. Remember – misery loves company.
If you truly want to disentangle yourself from the tentacles strangling the life out of you, and if you want to experience freedom from your self imposed limits, seek out those whom are not limited by your mental obstacles. Find someone, a mentor, who is where you want to be. That person can help you much more than fellow fleas sharing the same limited mindset.
Here’s what I suggest:
- Clearly define where you want to be
- Answer This: Who can help you get there?” and “What am I willing to give in return?
- Set some target dates for successes
- Define how you will get there
- Work your plan and make adjustments as needed
- Connect with those not limited with your mindset
- Take one other flea with you on your journey
It’s now up to you. What will you do? Whatever your choice, you have chosen a path. Robert Frost concludes his famous “The Road Not Taken” by writing:
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
“Somewhere ages and ages hence:
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
“I took the one less travelled by,
“and that has made all the difference.”
I challenge to you is to take the “road less traveled” and shred the paper barrier.
Trying to Eat Healthier? Getting Stressed about Food? Does this Article Make My Butt Look Fat?
Do you find yourself having “fat days” and then feeling frustrated for weeks on end?
Are there days you look in the mirror and feel hopeful but other days when you can’t believe how tight your jeans feel at the waist?
I ask these 2 questions today because after over a decade of helping other women get past their “fat and frustrated” days…
I too still have those moments where I revert back to my old dieting mentality and think “Jenn, I can’t believe you ate that last night! NOW look at yourself!”
Know what I’m talking about?
We all do it from time to time but some more often than others.
Beliefs that Need Breaking
I had a coaching call recently with a client and she shared with me that she has dieted for so many years that she has these beliefs that she really needs my help breaking.
This is so she can get back to being the lean, energetic and happy woman she knows is hidden under all that weight!
With that in mind, here are 4 major dieting myths that can keep you feeling fat and frustrated…
And the truth behind each of them.
If I just deprive myself one more week, I will reach my goal weight!
Depriving ourselves creates a tug-o-war, emotionally.
Think for a minute when you tell yourself (or your kids) that they can’t have something…
You IMMEDIATELY want it don’t you?
So telling ourselves we can’t have something is clearly not the answer.
However I hear over and over again from countless women that starting Monday they are going to STOP eating those cookies or STOP drinking the wine…
Then come Thursday, they are right back at it and feeling like they have no self control. Not to mention when we get ourselves into a place of “just one more week.”
We set ourselves up to feel frustrated when our bodies don’t cooperate as quick as we’d like and then we want to give up versus setting no time limit because we are actually enjoying what we’re doing, knowing this is a long-term process and we’re going to enjoy the journey!
I have to eat bland, tasteless food like grilled chicken and broccoli or a salad to lose weight.
You can lose weight while still eating tasty and yummy food.
It’s more about food combinations and eating meals that stabilize your blood sugar levels.
This is so energy from fat stores will be used by your body instead of the energy from the food you’re eating.
It’s in your best interest to learn about the delicate balance of insulin and glucagon…
Two hormones that regulate blood sugar and can be your best friends if you let them!
Not to mention there are some simple spices out there that can make food preparation quick and tasty.
For example I made a delicious baked chicken by baking organic free-range chicken breasts or thighs in a 8×8 glass dish.
After marinating them quickly in Tamari (wheat free soy sauce), add cold-pressed organic olive oil, garlic powder, sea salt, ground pepper, basil and oregano.
Bake at 400 ‘till chicken is just slightly pink at the core….it will keep cooking once you take it out.
I then bake a handful of sweet potatoes for the family. Just place them on a baking sheet at 400 for about 40 minutes…
I usually do this while I plan to be home playing out back and I set a timer.
Once a fork easily passes through the center they are done. Sprinkle with cinnamon and butter and enjoy!
I will just do more cardio to get the weight off
Over the years I’ve seen so many women at the gym running on treadmills, taking cardio after cardio class…
But still never being able to lose that belly fat, reshape their hips or get the cellulite off their legs.
More cardio is not the answer to getting the weight off and will definitely not help you lose the belly fat.
If you’re doing cardio at an elevated level where you are unable to talk, then you’re in anaerobic state of exercise and you are no longer burning fat…
But are instead, burning the calories from the food you ate this morning.
In addition, until you add LEAN muscle to your body (and clean up your diet), it is not possible to reshape your hips, flatten your belly and get the weight off long-term.
It’s the lean muscle that gives you the ability to eat