Two months ago I invited four of my clients to accept a challenge.
I handpicked them because I knew they would go along with my request and what I asked each of them to do was to take time for laughter.
I have been reading a lot about something called Laughter Yoga. This is a practice developed by an Indian physician named Madan Kataria and essentially involves voluntary prolonged laughter.
And so in a modified form, I asked these four ladies to do something a little bit similar. What I asked them to do was to commit to taking five minutes out of every three hour block of their waking day and spend that entire time staring into a mirror and laughing. If possible, to laugh out loud but, if not possible, to just laugh as much as they can.
My sexist reason for selecting four women is because I know of no men who carry compacts around in their purses and having access to a mirror was a prerequisite to success in this highly scientific experiment.
They were not asked to do anything different in their lives other than to stand by their commitment to taking these five minutes and to laugh as deeply and heartily as possible while staring into the mirror.
I met with each of them after one month and frankly their stories amazed me. Each spoke of the feelings of silliness in doing this, at least for the first few days. Once that awkwardness passed, those feelings were replaced by feelings of increased energy and overall well-being.
They all said that by the end of the second week their general demeanour was lighter – meaning they felt less stressed, more positive and certainly happier in their everyday presence than they ordinarily would have been.
I asked them to extend the activity for one more month and this time to add just one little extra piece into their practice.
In addition to laughing for five minutes every three hours, they were asked to add an additional two minutes to their regimen and to use those two minutes to simply repeat, as enthusiastically as possible, to themselves these two sentences: I love myself unconditionally, I feel wonderful, happy and positive at all times.
We met this week to review and it was like four brand-new people came into my office. I know this sounds overly simplistic and it’s hard to believe that doing things as simple as I’ve just described could have so profound an effect and yet each of them presented a person very different from the one I began with two months ago.
In these two months not much has changed in their lives and yet so much as changed in their very core.
Each of these four ladies is dealing with some very difficult life challenges and those challenges had not diminished over these past two months.
What has changed is their very perspective around life and the repeated five minute laughter sessions helped each of them come to experience for themselves something that we have passionately discussed in these blogs many times over the past few years; the only meaning of each and every experience in our lives is the meaning we (choose to) give it.
Not only were they less troubled by their challenges but, by feeling so much better within themselves, they became aware of the many more choices available to them in addressing these matters and, of course, more choices leads to better solutions.
Not for a moment am I suggesting that the answer to all life’s problem lies in a few minutes of laughter. I am suggesting that that laughter helps us feel good and when we feel good our perspective changes.
And perspective is really all we have, isn’t it?