I was invited to present on Laughter Wellness at TEDx Manhattan Beach at the beginning of November. The video just came out. Here it is:
…And here is the script I wrote to prepare for it:
Please stand up.
I invite you to do 2 things.
The first one is an assessment of how you currently feel, so please close your eyes, take a deep breath and self-assess yourself – that’s you, here, now – on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is “I feel very bad” and 10 is “I feel very, very good right now”. Take another deep breath, make a mental note of your result – we will come back to it in a few minutes – and open your eyes. Thank you.
The 2nd activity is equally simple. Imagine you are an actor and this is an audition. The role you are applying for is possibly one of the easiest of your entire acting career. All you have to do is pretend that you are part of a very happy audience and give the person on stage – which will be me for now – a rousing standing ovation for just about 15 seconds.
You may want to stomp with your feet, clap with your hands, shout words of appreciation, make loud noises, whatever a rousing standing ovation looks and sounds like to you.
Ready? Go![15 seconds of applause]
Thank you. Please sit down.
There is a new frontier in wellness, and it’s a space where people understand that emotional health is as important as physical health and that ultimately, how we feel is a choice because it is the outcome of what we do, not what happens to us.
It’s a topic that I am very passionate about because I have been witnessing over and over for the past decade how healing positive emotions can be in people’s lives on so many levels.
It all started for me with a personal crisis in my early 30s. My business at the time was incredibly successful, my work schedule incredibly insane, and my personal life incredibly empty.
I was lost in the illusion that I had to be rich to be happy, and that making money was far more important than feeling good.
To cut a long story short, I consciously decided after my 2nd stress-related burnout that I would not die the richest man in my cemetery [pause] and I walked away from it all.
One of the modalities I came across on my healing journey was the emerging world of laughter therapy and I fell in love with it.
I’m now known as the Laughter Wellness guy and it’s been my full time job for the past 14 years. Today I’d like to share with you the essence of what it’s about.
Let’s warm up our laughter muscles.
We’re going to make an extended “a” sound as we slowly lift both arms all the way up, and then we’ll laugh for about 10 seconds when we reach the top.
Do what I do and say what I say.
Ready? Off we go.
I have much respect for my humor colleagues, but being funny is a skillset that unfortunately I don’t have. What I have found instead is that pro-actively choosing to laugh is a much easier, sustainable and reliable approach to laughter.
Anybody can do it anytime anywhere. It works throughout people’s lifespan and – with minor adaptations – even regardless of their cognitive abilities.
There is something important I need to add here, and that is that in the world of energy medicine it is not what you do that’s important but what’s behind. Putting a happy mask on and faking or forcing your laughter doesn’t really work, and it’s a very different experience from embracing however it is you are feeling, and still choosing or allowing to express the best of who you are or want to be.
The beauty of this particular approach is that you don’t have to feel good to benefit from it.
Choosing to laugh is really about choosing to live.
Please put your hands on your thighs, inhale as you lift your arms up, and affirm “Yes!” as you exhale.
And again. [Repeat]
One last time as you make eye contact with someone near you. [Repeat]
Everybody knows that laughing feels good. The knowledge that laughter is good medicine has been part of conventional wisdom for over 3,000 years. I’m referring here to Proverb 17:22 “A merry heart does good like a medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.”
Allow me to translate in 21st century language: When you feel good, you naturally tend to think good, see good, speak good, do good and that’s measurable. Everything expands, flows better and works better.
Likewise, when you feel bad, you naturally tend to think bad, see bad, speak bad and do bad. Everything contracts, the natural flow of life is broken and we find ourselves in a state of stress, which – for the record – is a silent killer that’s just too expensive to be ignored.
Sometimes all we need is to shake things up a little bit.
Please do what I do and say what I say.[Body pat laughter exercise]
Now please cover your eyes with one hand.
What do you see?
The answer is of course not much.
Now please put your hand about 2 feet away and look again. What do you see now?
Some will still only see fingers but if you look long enough you’ll notice that you can see a lot more.
Please put your hand down.
The hand in this exercise is symbolic for the challenges we face in life. The solution is not to chop our hand off when it’s blocking our view and that seems evident, but it’s the same thing with unpleasant emotions. The issue is not with what we feel, but rather with the size of the box in which we force our emotions to live.
All we really have to do is create distance, and laughter does just that because it’s about the outbreath, letting go. One of its many healing benefits is that it breaks the cycle of negativity and forces a shift in perspective.
Laughter has many shapes, and smiling is one of them. It’s an easy way to confuse your brain and get it to naturally produce feel-good hormones.
But don’t just smile with your mouth. Real smiles engage the eyes too.
Bring your index fingers to your thumbs, place them by the corner of your mouth, and then stretch your entire face upward as you inhale.
And again. [Repeat]
There are 2 important things to understand here.
(1) Thoughts are electro-chemical, and chemistry is always tied to very specific behaviors. When you change the behavior, you change the chemistry and quickly enough you change the thoughts.
(2) The mind-body connection actually mostly flows in the other direction: it’s about 80% body to brain, and 20% brain to body.
My point is that when it comes to changing our emotions doing is far easier and more impactful than thinking. This is the ancient wisdom of acting as if.
Here is one last exercise. Please close your eyes, take a deep breath and go back in time to a happy moment where you felt safe, surrounded by people you loved and who loved you, and where you all laughed. It could be today, this week, this year or at any point in your life. When you have it, I invite to gently laugh now as if you were back then. Ready? Go![15 seconds of laughter]
Please open your eyes.
It’s time to check-in again, see what’s happening inside of you, and re-assess yourself on that scale from 1 to 10.
Has anything changed?
If your number has gone up – meaning you now feel a bit better – then I’ve made my point. Laughter works if you work it, and the results are just amazing. It can’t heal or solve anything, but it can help to heal and dissolve everything.
I’d like to thank you for participating with me, and in particular for making TED history today by giving me a standing ovation before you even heard my talk. [pause]
And on a deeper note, [pause] the laughter, the joy, the love we seek is not outside, it’s inside.
It’s always been there waiting for us and it always will.
I’m not saying that looking past the clouds that are often blocking it from view is easy.
All I am saying is that it’s very much worth it.