Laughter really is the best medicine

 

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Laughter really is the best medicine.
Yes, I know it sounds cliché and much too simple, but it really is the best medicine. Laughter is actually the second best way to reduce your stress. Why do you think cat/dog videos are so popular? Because they make you feel good and laugh.

Life doesn’t always go as you planned or as you want it to. Sometimes you get served a big bowl of sh!t and still have to eat it. I know, gross.  In those times, it’s often difficult to see the silver lining or even imagine that things will get better. In those times, you can be susceptible to situational depression, consistent sadness, confusion, being in the doldrums where your perception is doom and gloom.  With enough consistency of that thought process and experience, your brain continues to play mean games with you by focusing on all the things in your life such as your work, your home, your body that are ‘wrong.’  You know, all the things that you say to yourself such as, “I have to, I need to, or I should or I can’t.”  When you are in this state, there isn’t much room for laughter because your mind won’t quit, it’s as if your mind is on a perpetual loop refusing you to relax and enjoy the moment, any moment. Hence, you create more stress, angst, and dislike toward yourself and your environment.

Here’s where laughter comes in.

Laughter breaks up that pattern. Laughter breaks up any stress pattern. Comedians are adept at this. They take painful experiences and tell it in a way that makes it funny.
Laughter actually sets off chemicals and hormones that make you feel good by increasing dopamine levels. If you’re flooded with dopamine, you’re feeling pretty good, thereby reducing your stress levels by reducing the cortisol and epinephrine in your system.  This increases your immune system and mood.

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What Joy in this little face.

The field of psychology has many theories and thought forms with positive psychology being one disciple.  Positive psychology is self-explanatory, focusing on the positive (your strengths) changes/increases your mood and overall satisfaction in life. This is a fairly different perspective than primarily focusing on problems (what’s wrong) within your therapy.  For some people, positive psychology may sound too simple, quackish or too woo-woo.  But, you don’t treat or heal trauma and stress with more trauma and stress. Doesn’t happen. That’s science.

Truth be told, there was a time in my life where I struggled with situational depression/overwhelm meaning that I was so focused on feeling sad, focused on what was wrong that I trained my brain to keep focusing on what was wrong, what needed to be fixed or changed in some way instead of what was right as it was. When I was stressed to the point of literal burnout and my health was impacted, intuitively my body turned toward joy and laughter.  I was so stressed that I literally couldn’t take in any more trauma or stress in any way, mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, or energetically. Instinctively, I stopped watching or surfing the news online, if I did look at the news, it was only good news. I didn’t look at anything gruesome or violent nor any entertainment gossip. I didn’t reach for my phone first thing in the morning.  Here’s what I did. I only looked at feel good cheesy movies, good news, funny tv shows,  stand-up comedians, and movie cartoons. Although movie cartoons always make me cry, a la The Lion King etc., I laughed and enjoyed myself more often than I worried or felt stressed.

Guess what happened next?  My stress levels went down, I began to lose weight without trying, I wasn’t anxious, sad or irritable, I slept through the night, and my body began to heal.  I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel, the silver lining, the possibilities in my life.

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Even the President takes time to laugh…

Colleagues and friends looked at me strange after I disclosed, thinking I put my head in the sand, away from the world or lived in woo-woo land. I didn’t put my head in the sand but I did disconnect from taking in all the doom and gloom, the violence, abuse and neglect that permeates the news, many people’s experiences and the world in general.

I recommended and still recommend unplugging from stress as homework to clients. However, clients are also hesitant to do this as homework, even though they want to change their lives and experience less stress.  They often think, “How can something I see online or TV, or the conversations I have with others impact my sadness or depression?”  There is often resistance for various of reasons,

  1. It’s ‘too simple.’
  2. It’s work. Some say they want change but don’t really want to do the work.
  3. It disrupts their life in a different way, meaning it changes their life in some way.
  4. They’re stuck in their negative frame of thinking.

We are taught to believe that ‘it can’t be this simple,” but it can.

For the person who has difficulty with seeing the positive in self, life, or your environment, begin with laughter.  Laughter is contagious, it lifts your mood, helps you forget just for a moment about what’s ailing you. Laughter decreases your stress hormones and increases your feel-good chemical hormones, thereby increasing your immune system.

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For a 1 week: Shut off the news, watch only things that make you laugh or feel good. Engage in conversations that are positive.  If you find this difficult to do without hurting others’ feelings, take some alone time away from the situation or people involved if you can.  Notice what happens. Notice what happens if you find it difficult to do. Do you automatically reach for something negative, that will induce negative feelings and stress in you such as judgement, scorn, sadness, anger, apathy, or overwhelm?

I’d love to know how it goes, if you’re willing to share.

 

I love the woo-woo with a science eye.

 

#1 Stress Reducer

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I’ve posted about stress, but I haven’t yet posted about what helps reduce stress. The #1 stress reducer : Sleep. Ahhhhh…sleep. I don’t know about you, but I love to sleep. So much so that my favorite room in the house is my bedroom, and my favorite piece of furniture is my bed. But lately, I haven’t been getting the restful sleep that I need or that I’m used to.

Sleep allows your body to rest and realign, allowing your brain to process and dump the day’s experience. Deep sleep is what we’re after because it is in the 3rd and 4th stages of sleep that our brain waves move reeeaaally slow. There are no eye or muscle movements.  This is Delta sleep stage. This sleep state induces healing. If we find ourselves getting continuous or more light sleep than deep sleep, your body and mind will not have the time or space to rejuvenate or heal.  Lack of sleep impacts your weight, your heart,  immune system and makes you age faster or at least look like it.

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Stress and sleep are closely linked and sometimes it’s like asking the question: what came first the chicken or the egg. Stress can impact your sleep, just think about any time you’ve lost sleep because you were worried about something , a relationship, a job, a performance etc. Losing sleep can create stress. Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night or maybe too early in the morning only to find that you’re unable to go back to sleep? The more time passes, you toss and turn, you try different sleep positions thinking and hoping this will help. Instead, you become more stressed out because you see the clock getting closer and closer to the time you actually need to get up and all you want to do is scream “Ugh!!!!!!?”   Frustrating I know. Not sleeping through the night can snowball into more than one night. Not getting enough sleep can lead to stress or compound your stress, and stress can lead to not getting enough sleep because of worry or anxiety. It is cyclical, and they both interact and impact each other.

 

There was a time when I worked at a rehab center, which I liked to call an emotional ER. People would be admitted  because their lives were in shambles due to addictions and trauma. There was constant stress and intensity, so much so that my nights after work looked like Homer below.  I was getting a lot of sleep, but not the deep sleep I needed for my nervous system to Fully decompress, destress or heal. I was in a state of exhaustion.  Many people may find themselves in this state due to situational stress, stress that is due to a certain career, job, receiving higher education (freshman 15 weight gain) demands and expectations.

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So, the next time you find yourself overwhelmed, exhausted or stressed, and your body is needing you to sleep, give yourself permission and some time to take a catnap.  This is normal. This is your body telling you that, “Hey, I need to heal. I need to decompress.”  Your body and your mind will thank you.

 

Sleep Well

 

Stress and the nervous system

 

Hey There! This is the first of a series of videos about stress, your nervous system, relationships in the hopes that it will help you, your health and your relationships. This first one is a little bit longer, but I hope you enjoy it.

Inside the Need to Please

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Do you automatically answer “Yes!” when you’re asked to help in some way? Do you feel guilty when you say ‘No’ to someone else’s request? Do you often say yes, when you really want to say No? If you think about saying No, are you worried about what others will think of you? If you answered yes to these questions, then You, my friend, are a people pleaser.

People pleaser’s are lovely people. Everyone ‘loves’ you because you’ll do anything others ask you to.  They will bend over backwards trying to please others, to not offend others and to seek approval.

If you’re one to say Yes when you really want to say No, then most likely you’ll begin to feel resentful and taken advantage of. This often leads to being self-righteous by feeling unappreciated for ‘all the sacrifices’ you’ve made (place the back of your hand on your forehead and tilt your head back for further dramatic effect). When I hear that what I really want to do is throw my head back and let out an ‘ugh!’  I’m not pointing fingers. After all, I’ve chosen two professions in which I take care of others. I know this well.

Here’s the deal. People pleaser’s don’t realize that they’re playing the victim. However, they play the victim by blaming other’s for not acknowledging them for ‘all the things they do’ or their sacrifices.
And…here’s the kicker.  People pleaser’s actually do it to be liked, loved and accepted with the ‘don’t rock the boat’ mentality. Below this need to please, is a deep need to be loved and accepted by keeping everyone else happy.

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                  Please! Don’t Leave Me!

Most likely if you’re a people pleaser you’re probably scoffing at this idea. Saying, “I do these things out of the goodness of my heart.”  What people pleaser’s don’t realize is that people pleasing is really a form of manipulation. I know, I’m cruel but I’ll say it again. People pleasing is a form of manipulation and control.

Let me explain. You say yes because:

  1. You want to be seen as a ‘nice’ person or to be seen a certain way by others. This is manipulation. You are behaving in a way that is inauthentic to who you are and what you want thereby manipulating how others see you. It’s like you being your own Public Relations team.
  2. You want everyone to get along, no upsetting the apple cart, which translates into no confrontation of problems/issues thereby controlling the environment by controlling other people’s behavior to control the outcome.  You’re subconscious is basically screaming, “Love me, Don’t leave me!”

When you do things for others, out of the goodness of your heart, are you expecting ANYTHING in return, such as acknowledgment, help, a hug, a thank you, or approval? When you say Yes, when you really want to say No, you perform for the love, acceptance and perception of another.

Here’s the issue with the aforementioned, if you consistently people please to be ‘nice’ so you’ll be liked, you’re not being You, which leads to being resentful. But, as much as you might be resentful, angry, self-righteous and blaming other’s, you can only blame yourself.  That’s the reality.  Because you don’t have to say yes.  There’s power in that.

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What do you do to nurture yourself?

What do you do to nurture others?

 

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The Listening Body – Abdomen

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Please note as I share this information with you, that there can be various meanings behind what our bodies store and what our bodies communicate.  This is my interpretation from my education and years of experience working with a multitude of people (and bodies).

The abdomen is one of the most sensitive or rather vulnerable parts of the body that stores our emotions and experiences – positive and not so positive. The abdomen is not often freely exposed to others and the abdomen may not be touched by another or self on a regular basis.  When was the last time you consciously touched or placed your hands on your abdomen for more than 5 minutes?  I’m not talking about rubbing your belly after Thanksgiving or indulging in too many sweets and saying “I shouldn’t have’ or ‘Make it stop.”  When was the last time some one close to you placed or laid their hands on your abdomen?  And if so, how long did you allow that to happen?  The fetal position innately protects the abdomen area, when we cry or laugh a lot, often it’s a natural response to cradle the belly.  When someone becomes too close in our personal space, we may innately interlace our hands in front of our abdomen area.  We subconsciously ‘protect’ our vulnerability by ‘protecting’ our belly’s on a daily basis.

The body itself is a storehouse of emotions, but I find that the abdomen in particular is a major storehouse for our emotions and experiences.  When emotions get suppressed, it’s literally swallowing those emotions – down the digestive tract they go to the belly to sit undigested in the nervous system and muscular system and impacting the immune system.  People will often begin to swallow when an emotion like sadness surfaces.

 When I work with someone, I look first at the abdomen. Is the belly taut and/or extended (like beer belly), with taut meaning no give in the musculature or skin.  Think of the Pillsbury Dough Boy, I know it’s an animation, but it’s how my mind works. When he’s poked in the belly, his dough is pliable and moves back.  In a taut belly, there is no give and if you thump the belly, it will have a somewhat hallow sound.  When I see this, I also take into account stress levels (cortisol hormone flooding the nervous system ) and the energy centers of the body, specifically the second Chakra. The abdomen houses various major and minor muscles as well as 100 million neurotransmitters.  Cortisol, the stress hormone (activated by suppressed emotions/experiences) can cause weight gain in the abdomen area by flooding the nervous system (neurotransmitters).  The muscles can be overstrained and tight.

Ok- now for some physical ‘consequences’ in healing:  I find that when people are ready to let go of what they have been stuffing emotionally, there usually follows a gag reflex or literal vomiting of food or dry heaves.  There may also be a gurgling within the digestion, flatulence or a letting go of the bowels – to put it nicely. This is the energy being discharged from the body or rather regurgitated back up through and out the digestive system to be released.

Exercise for Self:

Lie down in a quiet space (5-10 minutes if you have it) and place each hand, resting on your abdomen and breathe deeply into your hands.  Feel your hands move with your breath and notice what happens, if anything in your abdomen.

Ask: “What Fun or Joy do I have in my life?”

Love your Abdomen.

The Listening Body

life-energyPeople often don’t realize that their bodies are continuously speaking to them, giving them information in seconds.  Your body registers the temperature of a room upon entering, the heart beat of another, the light in the room making your eyes adjust, your body registers the safety of the situation, and the recognition of people (do you know anyone in the room?).  All of this happens on a subconscious level.   Often, we continue moving throughout our days without any stillness to register what our body is actually feeling and communicating.  However, if you ever used the terms, “He/She’s a pain in my neck,” “I’m sick to my stomach,” or  “My heart is broken,” then your body is clearly speaking to you.

Along with the brain, the gut (abdomen) has the most concentration of neurotransmitters  and these neurotransmitters/neurons receive and send information to the brain as well as one’s environment.  The gut is often considered the ‘second’ brain, even though the abdomen (gut) sends and receives much more information to the brain than the brain sending information to the gut.  Of course, in our society, I think it would almost be blasphemy to say that the second brain is actually the first brain, because we make meaning from the cranial brain. However, many cultures and indigenous populations view the abdomen or gut ‘instincts’  as being the first brain, the more important, knowledgable brain while the second brain is relegated to the less trustworthy cranial brain.

The abdomen (Gut) contains around 100 million neurons, more than the spinal cord, which is part of the Central Nervous System.

Because of this element (Central and Peripheral Nervous System), the body is the storehouse for your experiences and trauma: accidents, emotions, surgeries etc.  It’s no wonder that a person’s digestion can become blocked due to  anxiety, stress,  and unexpressed emotions.  When working with people, I often ask them for any physical ailments.  I ask for any consistent indigestion or other digestive issues including heart burn, acid reflux as well as I look for any extended belly’s and weight-bearing in the abdomen. I then usually ask the client “What is going on in your life that you are not digesting, that’s not sitting well with you?” This is often something that the individual is attempting to make ‘ok’ or rationalize in their life but it’s not working for the body (Nervous System, Intuition).  Therefore, it becomes stored energy responses within the body.

The body has many signals of information that it tries to communicate to you and we’ll take a closer look at specific areas of the body and its signals in the following posts.

Exercise: Noticing

Sit comfortably in a quiet space, eyes closed and connect with your body through gentle breathing.  You may want to bring your attention to your breathing, the rhythm of your exhale and inhale. During this breath as you notice your heart rate decrease or increase (hopefully it decreases), sounds you hear, skin sensations, or smells, Notice any tension or physical pains that you have or had.  Just notice what your body is telling you in that moment through your senses and follow that sensation for a moment. Then return your focus to your breathing.   You can repeat this exercise multiple times each time noticing any changes in tension or physical pain once you return to breathing state.