Monday, September 23, 2013

Learning to Let Go and Laugh

If you were a relatively happy kid (I was), you probably enjoyed many deep belly laughs (I did). You can remember times when giggle-fits had you and a friend collapsing into puddle-like pools, limp from laughter exhaustion for reasons you can no longer remember. (I sure did.)

This hardly ever happens to grown ups, even though we know for sure that it is quite beneficial. Really. It's scientific. But, like exercise, everybody knows it's good for them, but few do it with any regularity. Adults rarely let themselves be so out of control as to give in to such hysterical guffaws and giggle-fits that they actually double over with laughter or fall out of their chairs, let alone happily collapse.

Deep belly laughter--in fact, even gentle giggling and chuckling-- can release a tsunami of hormones and neurotransmitters that bathe your brain and circulate throughout your body. These wonderful chemicals throw switches in every system of the body to turn on to healthy functioning.

That's how mirthful laughter reduces and reverses stress-related chemistry, helps muscles relax, opens arteries to make it easier for blood to flow to the heart, helps digestion, and helps your immune system to work more efficiently.

These effects begin as soon as you experience mirthfulness, whenever you truly feel tickled by something, or are genuinely amused. And, if you can manage to laugh for as little as a  minute (more is better), the effects can last for 24-48 hours, or until you get aggravated or stressed, whichever comes first.

But wait! There’s hope! Act Now!

If you have been to a modern laughter club or laughter circle, you have already learned this. But if there are none close by, these guidelines will be a big help.

The simplest way:
First you give yourself permission to let go and laugh like crazy.
Then take a nice deep breath, smile, let out the breath and let yourself chuckle.

If you need more step-by-step directions, try this:
1. Sit in a quiet room alone. Plan to stay there for about 10 minutes. Loosen your belt. take off your shoes.
2. Loosen any other tight clothing so that you will not feel restrained. Be sure to take off your tie.
3. Think of a funny joke or a ridiculous event in your life.
4. Take a nice deep breath, smile, let out the breath and let yourself chuckle.
5. Do it again.
6. Again.
7. Typically, by the third try you will be able to begin to laugh out loud.
8. Now, see if you can do it and laugh for at least 30 seconds.
9. If this is difficult for you, plan to do it with a friend. This approach is usually effective because both people give permission to each other to be silly.
10. If you are embarrassed when you first start, you may want to close your eyes. This will make everyone else disappear so that you can be more spontaneous.
11. For more assistance you may want to play a tape of people laughing or watch comedy movies for your planned laughter times. You may also find it easy to laugh if you look at yourself for a long time in a mirror.


“Laughing To The Future” - YouTube TEDx presentation
Hugh McClelland is a Television Producer and Project Manager who has been a Certified Laughter Leader and Laughter Yoga Instructor since 2004. He has organized laughter training sessions and led laughter sessions for government departments, corporate sales teams, hospital care staff, cancer survivors, personal development
groups, and palliative care staff.

"Finding Your Inner Laughter" - Audio CD
Certified Laughter Leader Carol Hubert uses her calming energy along with music, drumming, and guided imagery to lead the audience to laughter without jokes. This 90-minute audio recording of a live program guides you through all of the elements of a laughter session. You can experience the benefits of laughter exercises, relaxing, freeing up your mind, learning the six steps of Good-Hearted Living, and having fun. Listen and do the session along with the 600 people who were in the audience.

"How to Create Therapeutic Laughter" actually has wide-ranging applications for business, healthcare, and education. It encompasses all of the positive emotions for health, happiness, and productivity. It goes beyond the power of laughter to include a variety of Positive Activity Intervention activities, and the role of attitudes and emotions in health, healing and 'flourishing'. Anyone who might like more laughter in their live, or like to lead others in laughter therapy can do so by completing the course  either in a 2-day workshop or through convenient home study, or both. It's all included. 

Take advantage of the fact that laughter is contagious by laughing along with recorded laughter.

Laughter Unlimited By Janet Lifshin
This is the most popular laughter recording of the past 6 years. A great value. You get 30 continuous minutes of the most contagious, infectious laughter you will ever hear. Produced by Vanessa Vendola and Certified Laughter Leader Janet Lifshin, this audio CD is a laughter classic.
A practical tool for therapeutic laughter and personal growth. Pragito Dove makes this experience accessible, practical, and powerful. A transformative healing process that enhances love, gracefulness, flexibility, and enjoyment in your life. E experience your sense of playfulness and fun with the Laughter Meditation. Pragito guides the listener through a complete meditation that induces feelings of harmony and well-being. From the author of Lunchtime Enlightenment.

"Laughing Celebration" By Sarito Sun
With more than 20 years as a Meditation Expert and Hypnotherapist, Sarito Sun is dedicated to helping people individually and in groups. Sarito believes that laughter, joy, and meditation are three of the most powerful ways to shower the world with peace, health, and prosperity. Starting in the 1970's, Sarito has worked with people from all walks of life, including renowned authors and spiritual leaders. In her own personal search, she has explored modern methods as well as powerful ancient techniques for awareness and meditation. Sarito provides group sessions for businesses and organizations, including the Chopra Center in La Costa, CA. She also teaches at Churches in the San Diego-LA area. 

Please share this blog with anyone who might like to laugh more.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Prayer for The Birthday of the World: Happy 5774 Years

During the time in my life when my flower-child hippie side was more conspicuous, there was lots of interest in vibrational energy. There was fascination with Far Eastern spiritual practices like Trancendental Meditation, and chemically-induced 'insights' to the interconnectedness of all and everything. We spoke of auras, mantras and chakras, and the importance of being here now. We referred to picking up on the vibrational energy of people and situations as “vibes”. The vibes could be good or bad, foreboding or comforting: Hey, man, I like the vibes in this coffee house.

There is now compelling contemporary evidence that vibrational energy is  real, detectable and influential. According to the Institute of Heartmath, “Every cell in your body is bathed in an environment of magnetic forces which are invisible to the human eye. Numerous rhythms within your body can synchronize with solar and geomagnetic activity.”


Tradition, Not Literalism
According to Jewish tradition, on the evening when Rosh Hashana begins the world has a birthday. By this measure, this year on September 4 on the secular calendar the world became 5774 years old.

In the Jewish religion, the ten days starting with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur are commonly known as the Days of Awe or the Days of Repentance. This important period, which always occurs in the autumn, is devoted to serious introspection, a time to consider the sins of the previous year and repent before Yom Kippur. Among the customs of this time it is common to seek reconciliation with people you may have wronged during the course of the year. These are days that call for sincere personal reflection and affirming better intentions for the coming year. This holiday is both solemn and joyous since it is both the Day of Repentance or Day of Judgement and the birthday of the world.

What does that have to do with laughter therapy?
One of the basic principles of laughter therapy is that the method and programs are non-religious; participation is not restricted by religious belief. An important part of our therapeutic strategy is to be open to welcome everybody. Proselytizing is not permitted. Group prayer, in the traditional form of spiritual communion with a deity, is not part of the program.

Recent scientific evidence points to important distinctions in human well-being depending on whether your happiness is hedonic-based (feel-good pleasure), or eudaimonic-based (virtue or altruism). This research strongly suggests that our well-being depends more on meaning than happiness. Another study, using fMRI technology, revealed that brain activation patterns are specific to particular induced (genuine) emotions. Extrapolating from these findings, I infer that inclusion of activities such as Good-Hearted Living(tm) along with activities that induce true mirthful laughter makes for a program (laughter therapy) that is more likely to lead to well-being than one that has people doing only laughter exercises, or worse, faking laughing.

As we continue to illuminate the human condition, especially our understanding of the better nature of humankind, we have expanded laughter therapy from a simple set of so-called laughter exercises to activities that go beyond the act of mirthful laughter. We incorporate the promotion and cultivation of the attitudes, emotions, and conditions that incline people to laughter; affirmation, meditation, ‘holding a good thought or positive intention’, and contributing to community and society are encouraged.

Speaking most broadly, prayer does not have to involve a deity. When seeking solutions to human problems, one can concentrate on thanksgiving, earnest requests, petitions, or entreaties to oneself, one’s neighbors, government, or to the energy of cosmos.

“Days of Awe” - What’s that? And, what does that have to do with laughter therapy?

Awe is one of the most wonderfully healthy emotions. I would put it as one of the top 5 significant emotions a human being can experience (gratitude and hope are two of the others).
In contemporary vernacular slang, awesome is a simple shorthand way to refer to something that is very impressive: That new white convertible is totally awesome.
More traditionally (and therapeutically) it is an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, etc., produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful, or the like. Something that is ‘awesome’ has the power to inspire fear or reverence. Combining the two usages, it refers to something that is so wonderful and impressive, often something in nature, that it blows your mind: That sunset was awesome!
Laughter therapy is an eclectic method that has roots in Norman Cousins’ now well-verified belief that in addition to humor and laughter, all of the positive emotions are beneficial for human beings. “Careful readers of my book [Anatomy of an Illness], however, knew that laughter was just a metaphor for the entire range of the positive emotions. Hope, faith, love, will to live, cheerfulness, humor, creativity, playfulness, confidence, great expectations--all these, I believed had therapeutic value" (p. 50).

Norman Cousins

All of that said, here for your consideration is the Days-of-Awe prayer written by Rabbi Howard L. Apothaker, Temple Beth Shalom, New Albany, Ohio, for inclusion in their Yom Kippur 5774 religious services.

As you read these virtuous ideals, you may want to focus on them verbatim (as written) or consider trying this prayer as a series of affirmations, meditations, mantras, or visualizations of intention for a better world. You may want to substitute “We pray” with words that are more comfortable or meaningful to you, such as “I contribute to…” or “I focus on…” or "I visualize...". Experiment to find the words that suit you best.

An Acrostic "Days of Awe" Prayer
Written by Rabbi Howard L. Apothaker

During these Days of Awe, we pray for open minds and open hearts, encompassing the A-to-Z, from Awe to Zeal, for returning to our most humane conduct.

We pray for an end to animosity, and a return to affability.
We pray for an end to bigotry, and a return to blessing.
We pray for an end to cruelty, and a return to caring.
We pray for an end to deception, and a return to devotion.
We pray for an end to enmity, and a return to engagement.
We pray for an end to faultfinding, and a return to forgiveness.
We pray for an end to greed, and a return to generosity.
We pray for an end to hostility, and a return to heartfulness.
We pray for an end to injustice, and a return to integrity.
We pray for an end to jingoism, and a return to judiciousness.
We pray for an end to Klannishness, and a return to kindness.
We pray for an end to lewdness, and a return to love.
We pray for an end to maliciousness, and a return to mercy.
We pray for an end to nastiness, and a return to niceness.
We pray for an end to obstinacy, and a return to open-mindedness.
We pray for an end to prejudice, and a return to peacefulness.
We pray for an end of querulousness, and a return to quietude.
We pray for an end to ridicule, and a return to respect.
We pray for an end to selfishness, and a return to sacrifice.
We pray for an end to trash-talk, and a return to tact.
We pray for an end to violence, and a return to values.
We pray for an end to warfare, and a return to welcoming.
We pray for an end to xenophobia, and a return to examination of self.
We pray for an end to yelling insults, and to a return to yielding ground.
We pray for an end to zero-sum, and a return to zeal for cooperation.

May this "alphabet of prayers" reflect the breadth of our concern for our people, for all peoples, for every person; at this time, through all time, in our time; and for all humane convictions and creeds.

The thoughts you hold become your actions and your character and your destiny.These are some pretty good thoughts to hold onto. Concentrate on them and let them guide your actions. They resonate with virtuous ideals. The more you think and act on these, the more likely you are to enhance your well-being. And, with each step closer to these conditions, the more likely you are to experience good vibes, man, well-being, and true mirthful laughter.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Make Your Life More Playful

Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play.
Misce stultitiam consiliis brevem; dulce est desipere in loco.
(Mix a little foolishness with your prudence: it's good to be silly at the right moment.) -Horace
Don't ever let your mind keep you from having a good time. -Jason Mraz

A sense of playfulness is the best defense against taking yourself too seriously.
-Peter Kai Chang
I think entrepreneurship is our natural state -a big adult word that boils down to something much more obvious like playfulness. -Richard Branson
Playfulness is more important than play. According to SteveGross, Executive Director – and Chief Playmaker – of The Life is good Playmakers, “We all know that it is critical for kids of all ages to play. And we know that play can take many forms. But there’s a deeper idea about the importance for kids to learn how to be playful – and how that spirit should permeate their development.”
The same goes for adults.
One of the surest techniques for being playful is to not keep score. As soon as you start keeping score or comparing one person’s performance to another, playfulness goes away and self-esteem is at stake. Stress and striving start, and unhappiness looms with the prospect of falling short, losing, or failing.
In 10 Ways to MakeYour Life More Playful, Melissa Kirk, says, “When we lose ourselves in play, whether creating a make-believe world, throwing a ball between friends, frolicking with our dog, or watching silly YouTube videos, we allow ourselves to get out of the linear, problem-solution, adult mindset. We’re activating a part of our brains that we don’t use much in the grown-up world: the one that doesn’t care about deadlines or mortgages or how much we weigh, the one that doesn’t care how we look to others.”

Bernie Dekoven, author of The Well Played Game, observes,  "Even though I rigorously claim that ‘the playful path is the shortest road to happiness,’ it often happens that we don’t choose to be playful. We could, but we don’t. Maybe we’re not happy enough. Maybe some perverse part of ourselves is having more fun being miserable. But even the best of us, even the most professionally playful of us, forget to be playful. And even though we have the choice and we know we have the choice, we simply can’t get ourselves to play. We can’t act playfully, or feel playful or be playful.

"Sure, we can play the same kinds of games we played when we were children, but experiencing those same games, as adults, weaving them into the context of what we have since learned and experienced and dreamed, the games become something else, we become something more. We care for each other differently. We appreciate each other differently. We play with each other differently.

"For many reasons, it can take us years, decades before we can allow ourselves embrace fun and silliness the way we once did when we were children. And when we finally make it back, we discover that we are different, and it is different; and yet it welcomes us, embraces us as powerfully, as naturally, as meaningfully as it did when we last understood its place in our lives – more meaningfully, because we are adults, and we must, not because, but in spite of it all, choose to have fun, to be silly."

Techniques to Facilitate Play Behavior
1.    List three times or periods in your life during each week when you are free from responsibility.

2.    Go back to your own childhood and think about the kind of play you enjoyed at that time.

3.    Pay attention to your dreams and daydreams about play. For one month keep a journal record of your dreams. Pay attention to the ones that are particularly free, spontaneous, and joyful.

4.    Plan to spend at least two hours each week watching children play. Do this for one month. Do you find yourself smiling inside as you watch them? What kinds of activities are they experiencing?

5.    Plan to play with children during the week. If you have your own children, make a special effort to play with them ''just for the fun of it.” Did you laugh out loud during your play with them?

6.    List three friends who are most playful and fun to be with. Think about how you could plan to spend more time with these people.  

7.    Think about the kind of environment or setting that you need for play. Do you need to be outside your home? Do you need to be wearing special "play" clothes? Is there a special room in your home where you feel most free and spontaneous?

8.    Lock the bathroom door and look at yourself in the mirror. Try to think serious and then humorous thoughts. Smile at yourself in the mirror for two minutes.

9.    Practice laughing with a friend. If necessary, have that friend tickle you. Tell each other jokes. go to a silly movie, Make a tape of yourself laughing and plan to play it back in privacy when you are feeling most depressed.