As a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Certified Laughing Yoga Leader, I combine seriousness with silliness. I help people understand CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and how our thoughts often lead to anxiety and depression symptoms. If we change our thoughts, we can change our experiences in life.
Several years ago, I worked as a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Substance Abuse Counselor for Health and Human Services. Although I loved my work, it was emotionally and physically draining. I worked with children being removed from their homes, adults with serious mental health issues. My days were full of seriousness and often traumatic events, and most of my clients were either sad or angry. As the months and years passed, I realized that not only did I need more lightness and happiness in my daily life, but that my clients did as well. I decided at this time that I needed to set a personal goal of bringing more happiness into my life.
In 2012, I attended the National Wellness Conference, where I embarked on a new journey towards personal happiness. Not knowing anything about the subject, I signed up for a ‘Laughing Yoga Leader Workshop’. I had no idea what I was getting myself into but thought that anything with the world “Laughter” in the title, sounded good. In my line of work, laughter and happiness were greatly lacking.
Although I had taken yoga classes in the past, I knew that Laughing Yoga didn’t involve yoga posses, but incorporated laughter with yogic breathing techniques. I tend to be more on the serious side and thought a weekend of laughter was just what I needed.
The week prior to the workshop, I experienced several stressful events and thought that the workshop couldn’t have come at a worse time. The last thing I felt like doing was laughing or pretending to be happy. At the time, I was feeling stressed and burnt out emotionally, and what I really wanted to do was to retreat and hibernate from the world, but what I decided to do, was to intentionally choose happiness.
I struggled to get to the workshop and tried to talk myself out of it every step of the way. Once there, I entered the classroom and quickly found an empty seat in the back of the room. I thought, if I wanted to, I could always leave. The instructor immediately led us into a laughing exercise which involved introducing ourselves, saying something silly and laughing. I felt completely out of my comfort zone and wanted to leave immediately, and again had to talk myself out of leaving.
The instructor explained that the laughter at first will feel fake but often turns into real or genuine laughter. Although in the beginning, I felt awkward, I eventually started to authentically laugh when I looked at other people’s faces and heard their laughter. I even found myself having fun and found that the laughter was actually relieving my stress. I had even stopped thinking about my own personal problems and realized that no matter what was going on in my life, that I always had the choice to choose happiness.
As the weekend progressed, laughing became easier and I had broken through my resistance to remain serious. I completed the weekend workshop feeling good, although none of my initial problems had been resolved or addressed, I felt lighter and happier.
What impacted me most about Laughing Yoga was that I realized that I could either choose to be unhappy, consume myself with worry or negative thoughts, or I could choose happiness, although difficult, but not impossible. It simply is a choice.
Choosing to intentionally laugh, keeps you connected to the present moment because you can’t genuinely laugh and worry at the same time. At the time of the workshop, my situation hadn’t changed at all, but my thoughts about the problems did, and I realized that I could choose happiness and joy just the same as I could choose stress or worry.
I am now a Certified Laughing Yoga Leader and bring laughing yoga into my private practice helping clients to see that they can also intentionally be happy, the same as they set their intentions to go to work each day, to eat meals and to spend time with their kids.
We can all learn to laugh, even during the darkest of times, as bringing a bit of laughter into our day, doesn’t take away from the seriousness of hardships that we are experiencing, but can actually help us to get through these stressful times and help us on the road to recovery.
I have often found working with clients, that people often become accustomed to being unhappy or finding reasons to stay angry or sad. Sometimes people don’t know how to redirect their lives to a happier state of mind. By creating the intention to laugh, even for a few minutes a day, you can transform your life!
Starting today, set your intention to laugh. It doesn’t matter if you laugh at silly things, laugh alone, or with others. Just laugh!