Are you looking for a way to feel calmer and more balanced, to improve your health, your mood, or your connections with others?
You might think that laughter is a superficial answer to your problems, but please take a few minutes to think again, while I tell you why I became a Laughter Yoga Leader and Gibberish Professor.
I’ve posted elsewhere about the physical and emotional benefits of laughter but today I want to focus on what I see as the spiritual benefits of laughter. These I see as
• Taking a different perspective
• Choosing how we react
• Living with humour and joy
Very often the things that stress us are not as important as we think they are, and when we tell ourselves this is a ‘disaster’ our body responds accordingly, limiting our oxygen intake, tightening our muscles, increasing our stress. Laughter increases oxygen and relaxes us, but it also helps us take a different perspective. It’s quite funny really how worked up we can get because the internet is down, the washing machine broken or the traffic is slow. In Laughter Yoga we do exercises where we learn to laugh at the things we can’t change, such as our Visa Bill, getting wet in the rain or, as we practiced in December, receiving an awful Christmas present, or no presents at all!
From a psychological perspective the trigger is an event and the emotional response is a choice. Is it a disaster? Is it funny? You choose. The more we can choose that it is unimportant and not a disaster, the healthier and happier our systems will be.
Spiritually, I like to think of laughter as giving us the perspective of being able to laugh at ourselves, not in a cruel way, but compassionately. I think to myself, “Oh, poor you. You think your perception is reality, don’t you?” For me, laughter can remind me these are just our human experiences, our training exercises, to help us develop our personality, our responses, our compassion and other qualities. It is necessary to have challenges so we can learn to choose our responses. And so many challenges turn out to be either assumptions in our own head, or situations forgotten about in the future.
In Laughter Yoga, we laugh for no reason, this means we are no longer dependent on other people or circumstances to make us laugh, we choose to laugh because it is good for us. It improves our physical health and our mood. This reminds me of Robert Holden’s ideas in Happiness Now! I remind my group participants that happiness is not, ‘when’ or ‘then’ (‘when I get that job’, ‘when I find my soul mate’, ‘then, when I was young’, ‘then, when I lived by the sea’) but happiness is there inside us, waiting for us to notice, to feel it and claim it.
This isn’t to say there aren’t times when we are filled with great sadness and then this becomes the emotion that most needs to be expressed. The perspective of choosing our responses to circumstances helps us be more resilient and to respond in ways that promote our health and those around us. For example, if we choose to get drunk in response to sadness or to overeat when we are angry, there are consequences for our health and for the people around us. If we choose to express our feelings appropriately, we minimise fall out and can move on more easily. If we have trained ourselves to laugh at the small stresses, we can devote our sadness or anger to the situation without feeding difficult emotions on into deeper intensity and distress when we then lose our car keys or the cat is sick on the carpet.
Roberto Assagioli, the founder of psychosynthesis wrote about the spirituality of laughter further in Smiling Wisdom:
Spiritual humour is a paradoxical combination of an attitude of serene and detached observation, the feeling of the oneness of life, and deep sympathy for and compassion with others.
From another angle, humour is the contemplation of the passing pageant of life….[the Sage] keeps his higher and real Self a detached and smiling spectator.
To attain such a state of inner freedom, it is necessary to use humour first of all toward oneself, gently making fun of one s little personal self which is so full of its own importance, giving itself such airs and taking itself so seriously, and which is touchy, restless and suspicious.
I invite you, me, all of us, to live with a little humour, to face the day with a smile, even if it’s a wry smile. Let’s take life a little less seriously. Laughter will increase your resilience so that when happiness is available you can choose it and take it, and when more painful feelings are appropriate you can feel more resourced to express those feelings clearly.
So when can you start?
This Saturday, 1st of March, I am beginning my
31 Days of Laughter
I am challenging people all over Facebook to follow my laughter tip for 31 Days and see if it changes their life. It’s easy, it takes a minute or two and you don’t have to travel anywhere or pay anything. Just click “like” at the top of my Facebook page and the tips will show in your news feed daily.
Of course if you want some more interaction you would be welcomed with a smile at my Laughter and Happiness Group. And if you can’t make it I will be posting laughter clips on my YouTube channel. In the meantime enjoy this clip of Laughter Meditation with me and my friends laughing, because we want to.
For more details about Laughter Yoga: https://www.blue-skies.org.uk/laughter-yoga/
Follow me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BlueSkiesMiriamGranthier
and twitter: Miriam Granthier @MiriamBlueSkies
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