Laughing at Halloween Is A Treat

We all face stress every day of our lives. Much of that stress is caused by sources beyond our control so it doesn’t help to stress over that stress.

During this scary fun time of year, we can disguise ourselves for just a bit. Step out of our usual roles to become someone or something else, like a witch or a superhero or a princess or a pirate.  Halloween gives us an excuse to leave our everyday selves behind and explore new personalities and possibilities.

I encourage you to be creative; use your imagination; have fun and LAUGH!   Everything is made better with the treat of laughter.

Watch this short video message from me and learn how you can put more ha ha ha into your Ha-ppy Halloween!

Laughter Lifts Us When We ‘Fall’

The vibrancy of autumn in northeast PA can be done no justice by words. It must be seen. The color of fall leaves on a warm, sunny afternoon make a box of Crayola’s seem pale.  Add to that picture pumpkins, gourds, mums and every spice of the seasonal palate, and you suddenly feel warmth.  But fall also brings change. The lazy days of summer are soon forgotten while the often snowy and frigid days of winter loom on the horizon.  For some of us, that means a change in mood.  With less daylight, some folks start to feel a type of seasonal depression. With less daylight it’s important to keep your life lighter with more laughter.  Let me help with this video reminder from Laugh to Live!

Glad They Didn’t Serve Tomatoes

A Missed Call I Wanted to Return

Last week I received a phone call out of the blue. I saw this person’s name pop up on my phone after coming out of the shower. I knew him for years but not very well and I couldn’t imagine why I was getting a call at 8AM. After listening to his message I was pleasantly surprised to hear that he wanted to hire me to perform/speak to a group of seniors who were ending a week-long scholar program at a local university. The even better part was I had already presented programs at this university on about eight other occasions so I knew the concept of paying speakers for their time and talents was familiar to them. I also always enjoyed their vivacious audiences that had included hundreds of nuns, students, alumni and seniors. But for some reason, I was extra nervous on Friday. I will chalk that up to all of the anxiety that I am feeling lately in my personal and professional life for various reasons – all things that I am working to better manage.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

When I arrived Friday night the campus looked beautiful in the bright sun of late afternoon and smelled of freshly cut grass. I walked into the building where the dinner was being held and I saw just a few servers for the evening’s event, a few students and one or two seniors milling around. I did not see my contact so I sat down and wrote some notes about what jokes I would do and what laughter yoga exercises would follow. I am always a bit more cautious and concerned about jokes for seniors but I probably shouldn’t be because I tend to do very well with mature audiences who always give me smiles and rave reviews. When my contact did not appear and no other representative from the college approached me, I chose a table where I would sit for the dinner being served before my presentation. I introduced myself to the couple seated there as being the presenter for the evening. In a loud voice, the woman who we will call ‘Sue’ to protect her identity, asked “Oh, are you the comedian?” At that question my shoulders dropped a little as well as my head. I don’t do straight up comedy performances much anymore and I prefer not to be billed as a comedian. I do tell jokes or humorous stories, as I prefer to call them, before I talk about the value that humor and laughter add to our lives and before asking the audience to stand for interactive laughter yoga exercises but I’m not doing a full stand-up act.  I am a writer and an observant person who pays attention to details. I love words and I think they need to be used and interpreted correctly (keep in mind that I say correctly through the eyes of Jeannine, as in: correct grammar, accurate facts, descriptions and information being shared, proper details, etc). I am in the minority perhaps. While it is true that people will interpret as they want to and they will latch on to what they want to, it does make a difference how a message is communicated to determine how it is understood. When people hear that there is going to be a “comedian” after dinner, they prepare mentally to sit back, relax and be entertained. Because I want to engage them intellectually with information about research and anecdotes and I want them to participate physically, it is important to prepare them for what is expected. So I worried that they may not be into my program.

It’s Not the Piano That’s Out of Tune

As more seniors arrived and sat near me, I began to feel comfortable…that was until they ganged up on the poor piano man.  Sue had already commented once to her husband that the piano sounded like it needed to be tuned and they both shared their bad reviews of his playing with one another. Then as dinner went on, another woman, let’s call her Candi, responded to her friend’s question of “What song is he playing?” with “I don’t know but whatever it is, he stinks.” This was the confirmation that Sue needed. She now had her  ammunition to go ask another woman who had been helping with details of the conference all week to make the piano player stop playing. This other woman explained that it would be offensive to ask the piano man to stop playing but she would ask him to play softer to make Sue happy.  All the while an older woman seated to my right, had been commenting about how lovely the songs sounded, but she had a much more subtle presence at the dinner than Sue. As I sat there listening to them trash the piano player who was fine for my layman’s ears, fear rose up from my toes. I thought to myself “I’m glad there are no tomatoes around or they just might throw them.” I worried that they might look for a hook or get up and leave if they didn’t think I was funny.  I was roused from my daydream in which Sue was literally tossing me to the curb by Sue’s soothing statement of “I hope the others don’t mind that you’re not doing all comedy.”  I had thought the same thing but didn’t need Sue commenting on it as well. I told her that hopefully they would use humor to manage their disappointment since that was the point of my program.  Then, more reassurance came from Candi, “YOU are the comedian?” asked with such a degree of surprise that I wondered if I should be the one taking the microphone or if perhaps, Sue might be better suited for the gig. I foolishly began to explain that while I was going to tell some humorous stories, there was more to the program that would require audience participation. Then Candi persisted with “You mean we’re not gonna laugh?”  To that I wanted to answer, “Dear God, I hope you do,” but instead I said, “Yes, you will laugh, not to worry.”

And Now for Something Completely Different

A young, meek college student who had just explained the details of the survey that had been passed out and that the movie being shown after my program was going to be “Wild,” – a movie that Sue told us at dinner she had no interest in seeing – gave me an introduction like none I’ve received before. In her defense, she is inexperienced and was not given proper information or notice. She basically said, “You’re going to have a comedy and laughter program by Jeannine and she’s here with us tonight.” Then she walked away from the mic and all eyes – and bright cafeteria lights – were on me. I started off a little slowly and felt particularly nervous wondering what my table mates from dinner were going to think of me but then I kicked it into high gear and started getting laughs. I even saw Sue and her husband smile and laugh (controlled laughs) a few times. Candi looked like she might have preferred the piano player but that was okay with me because her friend to her right was beaming. Her eyes were laughing.

When it came time to do laughter yoga exercises, all but about four people stood to join me. And among those participating, all but a handful looked like they were into the practice and really enjoying it.  After my program I felt relieved, happy and less stressed. There is something to that feeling of satisfaction, knowing that you succeeded with an audience but there is also the fact that laughter really does work. It makes us feel good. That’s my message. And I am proof that I feel better after laughing and helping others to laugh.

I felt elated to hear comments like “That was just amazing how you got all those people up on their feet laughing because they… well some of them… are kind of glum.” And another woman added that she could not believe I got her husband to participate. More positive comments followed that made me feel very proud and pleased with my ability to be a conduit for laughter and a positive message. I didn’t see Candi after my presentation and Sue and her husband talked to one another while I gathered my belongings, but I know the truth. I saw them smiling. I saw them participating. And I saw them having such a good time that I don’t think they would have thrown tomatoes even if they had them. I’m not so sure about the poor piano man but he’ll have other gigs to play again. Friday night I was happy they were letting me sing my tune and happily singing along with me: Ho ho ho. Ha ha ha. Hee hee hee.

Laughter Yoga: No Mat Required

When people hear the word ‘yoga,’ they typically think of poses that require flexibility that are performed on a mat.  Of course there is the spiritual side of the practice as well as the physical fitness side that people understand. But when I tell people that I lead ‘laughter yoga,’ there is a misunderstanding. I can’t imagine trying to laugh while in the downward dog position, yet people think that laughter yoga is a combination of yoga poses and laughing. That is simply not the case.  Let me show you in this short video what laughter yoga really is.

Life has its challenges. Even with the best attitude, we sometimes feel overwhelmed and need to laugh more. Rather than waiting to hear a joke or watching a funny video online, we can also choose to laugh, just like we choose to go for a walk when we want fresh air and exercise. So give laughter yoga a try. Invite friends, family and co-workers and let the contagious laughter erupt!

With Humor Fueling Our Steps, Let’s Trail Together

Trails are simple in nature but can lead to a robust lifetime of benefits for the community in the form of healthier residents, booming businesses and renewed pride. Here in northeastern Pennsylvania, we are fortunate to have The Lackawanna River Heritage Trail (LRHT), which is part of a 70-mile multi-purpose trail system that follows the Lackawanna River. The trails have grown in popularity with residents and that’s great! We have a place to exercise, enjoy nature and come together. As with any passageway that gets congested, we all need to follow some rules for safety and a good experience.  Consider these tips to get the most from your trail experience while letting others do the same.

 

• Group Think – Everybody’s Doing It: Having friends to walk with is helpful. They can keep you accountable. Just knowing that you’re supposed to meet for a walk helps to motivate you. And…it’s fun. You chit chat while you walk and time passes quickly. You don’t even realize you’re exercising. But, even if you feel like you’re joined at the hip with your friends, there are times when you need to separate … like walking on a trail. There’s simply not enough space for people to walk four or five-across when someone is running, walking or biking toward you. Be polite and tighten up to let the oncoming exerciser pass without having to run through foliage.

•Not A Place for Free-range Dogs or Kids: I do not currently have a pet and I am not a parent, but I am affected by the way pet owners and parents manage their charges. Please take no offense. I am not putting children in the same category as Chihuahuas. Those yappy dogs are much more obnoxious than children and much fussier about the sweaters they’ll wear. I’m kidding. Dogs will wear whatever sweater you put over their little heads. Seriously, children and dogs are equally delightful but in obviously different ways. And both can get in the way if they are not being supervised. Even if your child is the most well-behaved on the planet, and even if your dog is the calmest, most obedient pet on Earth, you are the adult humans in charge of both. Children are carefree, as they should be. That means they tend to run, bike and play as kids do – all over the place. When I’m out for a run or bike ride, I am prepared to stop as needed, but… my planned exercise is better when I don’t have to zigzag, stop short or brake so hard that I fly over my handlebars. Please exercise control over your children and your pets, which need to be on a leash – the pets that is.  Your cooperation and courtesy is appreciated.

•When Poop Happens, Clean it Up: It seems ridiculous that this would have to be said and yet my Berber carpet knows all too well that some people ignored the first memo about what to do when poop happens. These are folks like my careless, inconsiderate neighbor who lets her dog roam and conduct business on my property and other free-range pet owners who leave organic “gifts” along our trails. I don’t care if your dog is small enough to fit inside your Coach purse. If it poops, you clean it up. Unless you were nabbed and forced to take your dog for a walk by some odd healthy lifestyle kidnapper, you know when you are taking your dog for a walk, so plan accordingly. Carry a plastic bag with you. Remember that you are not the only one using the trail. My Berber carpet expects to be walked all over, but doesn’t like $hitty days any more than you do.

•Do Your Creepin At Home: The word leer is only appealing if it’s spelled lear and has jet after it. No woman feels comfortable with a man standing  along a trail oggling at her in her shorts and sports bra. I can tell you that I don’t take it as a compliment to see your tongue wagging while I’m trying to catch my breath on a run. And I don’t believe you are at the trail for a workout in your jeans, brown socks and polyester shirt. If it’s lap jollies you’re after, watch porn on your laptop like most other red-blooded American men.

•That’s Not An Angel Getting Its Wings – I have a bell on my bike. I like it because of its nostalgic feel and I get to save my voice for my business presentations. But when I use that bell, it’s not to communicate that an angel has gotten its wings as said in the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life,” it’s my way of indicating that I’m behind you so stay alert. I usually add something like “on your left,” but I find that can add a new level of confusion for people who forget which is their left and their right. Those folks tend to scurry in all directions like cockroaches when the light’s turned on. Just keep in mind that you’re not alone on the trails so stay aware of your surroundings.

•The Eyes on the Back of My Head – I am not a grade-school teacher or a mom so eyes have not grown on the back of my head. That means that I cannot see behind me. Please be courteous and let me and other runners know when you are approaching. Say something like “excuse me,” “coming your way,” or how about something flattering like “looking good.” If you are a person of few words, simply cough or clear your throat loudly. Last week a man in his 50s whizzed by my left shoulder and had me spinning like a top.

Forgive me if I seem to be lecturing. I do have that “Bad dog…” tone when I write and talk some times. In my defense,  I studied under some of the best lecturers around – the Sisters of the IHM – as a grade school and high school student in Catholic schools.  Now, please follow these rules on the trail or you just might see me out there running with a ruler in my hand.

Love and Laughter Are the Couple to Admire

In the public relations class I’ve been teaching, we’ve talked about doing what’s called a SWOT analysis on businesses/organizations so you understand their Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats before formulating a message or messages to an audience. We also talked about how it can be beneficial for us as individuals to do a SWOT analysis on ourselves – in preparation for a job interview, before making big life decisions and just to do some self-reflection. I can tell you with absolute confidence that I am a procrastinator. I am someone who loves to write but who hasn’t written a blog in several weeks. I’m hoping that my strength of good writing will entice you to read on about why we should pair love and laughter this month … and every day really.

February is chock full of celebrations and fun characters,  from Phil, the beloved groundhog who “predicts” our weather, to cupid who spreads the spirit and message of love from one person to another. Wait that sounded almost creepy, like a virus.  Let me try again. February is about celebrating love – the love we have for those who are special to us and the love we have for ourselves by taking healthy actions to keep our hearts strong and healthy. That’s right, in addition to celebrating Valentine’s Day, February also recognizes National Heart Month. While it’s important to be concerned about heart health – and health overall – every day, it is nice to have a month in which we wear red to raise awareness and remind people of things like the fact that heart disease kills more women than breast cancer, than lung cancer and other diseases. No, it’s not a competition. But it is important to be educated on the facts and to be informed so we know how we can live healthier and how we can help the ones we love lead healthier lives. That’s what February celebrates.

One thing you can do for your heart, is to laugh. Research shows that people who laugh are less likely to have a heart attack (yes there are always other factors like family history, etc., but a laugh is good for this organ) and that laughter helps our heart perform better. Dr. Michael Miller of the University of Maryland did this important research. To read all the details click here.

Over the years, laughter has been the subject of much research and the findings are great. We don’t need a prescription from our doctor. We don’t need to worry about side effects like loose stools, fatigue or loss of appetite.  You may suffer from wet undies if you are one of those laughers with a sensitive bladder, but otherwise, it’s a safe activity and healthy resource.

I’d like to close this blog with a tribute to my uncle Bob Johnson who died two weeks ago today. He was buried last Monday. He had an illness that was associated with his heart but I know he doesn’t want us to think of him in terms of his illness or a “bad heart.” He lived nearly 87 years of a wonderful, happy life. And his heart was one of the best you’d ever want to encounter. He would always greet me with his infectious smile, bright blue eyes and a warm greeting like “Hey darlin…” He was my opponent in our ongoing verbal chess match of politics where there were only winners because of the time we spent together and the enriching encounter we shared. I believe it was laughter and his great attitude that contributed to the full life that he lived.

Always smiling, blue eyes always twinkling... he was my political discussion and wine buddy!

Always smiling, blue eyes always twinkling… he was my political discussion and wine buddy!

I had the honor of writing the story of his life in his obituary that I share here.

Many of you didn’t know my Uncle Bob but I know that you each have an Uncle Bob (or Tom, or Saul, or Sam or Aunt Sue or Aunt Kathy or Nana Maria or Grandpa Rick or… ) in your life who embodies joy and laughter. Whether they are with you here physically on Earth or are here in spirit, celebrate them with some laughter.  Honor your love for them and do a kind act for your heart and those around you who share in the laughs!  Laugh to Live …. happier, healthier and in the moment!

Laughing Nuns Generate Catholic Flashback to Plaid & Patent Leather

For a long time now I’ve been telling people that I’m either an introverted extrovert or an extroverted introvert because I can get up in front of hundreds of people to talk about the power of laughter and humor and I can perform stand-up or improv comedy. But when I’m at a business mixer by myself it’s a real challenge to approach a stranger and introduce myself. And if I’m in an audience I will never raise my hand to volunteer or ask a question.  After taking an online quiz -and we know how accurate those are – I have determined to my satisfaction that I am an introvert.

When I was in kindergarten I had some serious social anxiety. It got to the point where my kindergarten teacher called in the big guns. She had the first-grade teacher, Sister Ann Marie, speak to me in the presence of my mother. I won’t forget sitting on the curb in Holy Rosary School’s driveway as Sister told me, “We don’t take cry babies in first grade you know.” If I was a child today hearing that message, my mom could post on Facebook that I was bullied. I’m not so sure I think that it was that serious but it was kind of harsh. But it worked. I entered first grade and I was a champion. I no longer cried. When I donned my plaid jumper and patent leather shoes (alternated with saddle shoes) I became the good Stepford Child. “Yes sister.” “No sister.”  “The answer is …” I was even the kid that was asked to stand in front of the class to keep the peace, so to speak, when sister had to step out into the hall. It didn’t make me popular with the other kids but it did put me in Sister’s favor and I still had lots of friends so I was fine.

Fast forward about 35 years and put me in front of an audience of nearly 400 nuns. That was the scene about two weeks ago when I spoke at a conference for sisters gathered for two days at Misericordia University. I was there to share my message about the power and value of laughter and humor and to lead them in some laughter yoga. Now I had presented to conferences for Sisters there twice before but it had been about three years or more and for some reason I felt extra nervous this time. I felt unprepared and just didn’t have a great feeling in my stomach. I think part of that had to do with some personal things on my mind but I can usually separate that from my business.

When I saw the huge dining hall where the nuns had just eaten I got more nervous because I wondered if all the Sisters would be able to see me and if I would engage them enough.  I heard a few of the women talking in the lobby and one asked “So what’s next? The laughter lady..what’s that about?” And the other woman said, “I have no idea.” At first that made me worry but then I thought, “Hmm, if they don’t know what to expect then I can’t really fail to meet their expectations, right?”

After being introduced I had some technical difficulties with the lavalier mic but fortunately the handheld mic was given to me within a minute or two. I had my index cards and some other papers on the table near me – I tend to use these as a safety net although I rarely ever look at them during a presentation – but I got comfortable early in the presentation and just talked. I started off okay and when I saw the smiling faces of the Sisters and received the warm response from so many of them, something happened that rarely happens.  I relaxed enough to speak from the heart confidently and comfortably. The core of my message is always about the same: laughter is powerful and we need to use it more because it’s good for us. Scientists tell us that and real people validate how good we feel after laughing. And my laughter yoga exercises are usually about the same. But the part of the presentation around that, where I want to engage them and keep their interest with some humorous stories that are about my experiences, changes. This time it felt spot on because the Sisters were connecting and loving it… and I felt truly at ease, in my element.  I told them about my kindergarten order to lose the cry baby thing and they all seemed to go “oh….” with disapproval. I told them how I don’t really attend church these days and added, “I can’t help it, with so many nuns staring at me, I feel the need to unburden myself.”  And they laughed loudly. My personal favorite moment was when I said I earned a Masters of Communication Arts from Marywood University in Scranton and they politely and playfully booed. I laughed and told them I didn’t realize there was this “east coast versus west coast thing” going on between the orders of Sisters at Misericordia and Marywood. I wasn’t sure if they would get the reference but they laughed.

The Sisters were all good sports about getting on their feet and laughing with me and doing chants of “ho ho ho, ha ha ha and hee hee hee.” Many participants came up to me after the presentation to tell me how much they enjoyed it and how important it is to laugh, saying that the work I’m doing is important and necessary.  I felt more than relief. I felt pleased and proud. I felt like these Sisters were my peeps! When I got home I almost slipped into my plaid skirt but decided to just dress myself in the memories of a good evening of laughs and fellowship shared!

Laugh in the Workplace for Serious Results

April is National Humor Month. It’s the ideal time for businesses and other organizations to put their proverbial foot in the humor waters to decrease stress of employees, potentially increase profits and unite to make great things happen!

When I worked at Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania, I tried to have a sense of humor about my job, if for no other reason than to help myself get through tough times, but I often helped ease the tension of others when I could get them to laugh too.  Sometimes the emails that flooded my Inbox would make me wonder if I worked at a health care company or was back in junior high. Let’s say that there was a lot of time wasted on communicating about ‘what ifs,’ “Oh no, the sky is falling,” and tales of who said what and whose job it was to do what should have been done.  I’m sure that many companies lose time on ineffective email communications and meetings that accomplish little, especially when you have managers who do not understand how to manage effectively and know even less about what it means to lead. When you consider that organizations waste time -and money- doing things that are camouflaged as important, it raises the question – at least in my mind – why not at least consider adding humor and laughter to the workplace? You might think that’s a waste of time or inappropriate but it can be just the opposite. Rather than employees bickering or having petty disputes, they could be bonding, getting closer while blowing off steam through laughter.

I didn’t leave my day job in health care marketing four years ago because my business was making a ton of money at the time, but I did leave because I believe that I can help to improve people’s lives and help organizations better succeed when they realize the potential that humor and laughter have. Through my business, Laugh to Live, LLC, I promote laughter and humor for wellness, stress relief and to help people feel empowered over their stressful situations rather than letting their stress make them feel powerless and overwhelmed.

If you’re sitting there saying, “Our business has more important and more urgent things to consider than laughter,” please indulge me for a few minutes and read why you should Make Work Life A Laughing Matter.

Q: The American Institute of Stress estimates that stress costs U.S. corporations over $300 billion annually. In addition, employers may be held liable if they do not offer programs designed to reduce stress in the workplace. It’s obvious that stress is a serious problem, so how can laughter help?

A: Research continues to show the value of laughter for health and wellness, especially when it comes to stress management. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter helps:
•Activate and relieve the stress response. A good laugh increases heart rate and blood pressure in the manner that exercise does. The result? A good, relaxed feeling and healthy blood flow.
•Soothe tension. Laughter can stimulate circulation and aid muscle
relaxation; both help reduce some physical symptoms of stress.
•Improve the immune system. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical
reactions that can impact your body by increasing stress and decreasing your immunity. In contrast, positive thoughts help fight stress and potentially more serious illness.
•Relieve pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers.
•Increase personal satisfaction. Laughter can make it easier to cope
with difficult situations.
Q: Employees need to take their jobs seriously, so why should employers encourage humor and laughter at the workplace and what are some easy ideas?

A: Humor can be risky business but funny business can mean a bigger bottom line. Karyn Buxman, RN, MSN, CSP, CPAE runs a program called “When Funny Means Money: Humor as a Serious Business Strategy” to show businesses how profitable humor and play can be. Google offers employees game rooms with foosball, ping pong and pool tables where they can take breaks as needed and Google has landed on a number of “best companies to work for” lists for a number of years.
•Start a “Laughter” or “Reasons to Smile” Board. Dedicate a bulletin board for employees to post cartoons, funny pictures (think cats wearing sunglasses or dogs in dresses to keep it non-offensive), positive quotes. Get creative; celebrate “Throwback Thursday” by inviting employees to bring in pictures from college, high school, grade school, or preschool if they dare.
•Encourage laughter breaks. Some Indian companies are encouraging their employees to replace their coffee and cigarette breaks with 10 to 15-minute laughter yoga breaks. While laughter yoga was introduced in India by Dr. Madan Kataria, it has become a stress-relieving activity in over 62 countries, including states across America. Just find a conference room with thick walls or head out to the parking lot where employees can inhale and exhale, chant ho ho ha ha ha, and laugh! That’s what laughter yoga is all about.

Q: Besides managing stress, what else can laughter and humor do to improve the workplace and potentially your bottom line?
A: For companies who are interested in making a bigger commitment and investment, there are workshops and training programs that use comedy techniques to help employees flex their creative/brainstorming muscles, bond with fellow employees and learn to adapt to changes more easily, in addition to having fun.
•Steve Cody, co-founder of the New York-based public relations firm Peppercomm realized so many benefits from the stand-up comedy class he took that he pitched the idea of having all Peppercomm employees go through stand-up training to his senior management team. At first his idea was met with resistance, but soon Cody’s colleagues saw the potential benefits. Cody said the program “really comes in handy for companies that are having morale issues, departments that aren’t working together very well, or they’re in a post-merger/acquisition situation where there are two different cultures that are trying to get along.”
Read complete article here.

•Improvisation is known as a comedy art form but its basic concept of “Yes, and…”which is about accepting and supporting what someone else (or life) gives you, is valuable for every facet of life. In an interview with CNN, Robert Kulhan, an adjunct assistant professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and CEO of Business Improvisations said, “Improvisation isn’t about comedy, it’s about reacting — being focused and present in the moment at a very high level.” As well as teaching people to react and adapt, he said improvisation can teach creativity, innovation, communication, teamwork and leadership.
Read complete article here.
If you’re ready to enjoy the rippling effects that laughter and humor can have on your employees/at your workplace or organization, contact Jeannine for more ideas, articles and useful resources.

Using Humor Month to Reignite My Pilot Light

To say that it’s been a long winter makes about as much sense as saying “It’s been a long day” or ” Wow, the summer went by so quickly.” Time is time. It doesn’t change, ever. But our perspective can make a day feel like a week and a season, like winter, feel like an eternity … if it seems unpleasant to us and we want it to pass. And that’s how this past winter has been for me.  It seemed a bit too long, a bit too snowy (although snow is a faint, fluffy memory since it hasn’t snowed much in the past four weeks or so), a bit too cold, a bit too gray and not a bit inspiring.  I spent too much time on my couch. Too much time enveloped by negative, obsessive thinking. And too little time thinking positive, hopeful thoughts and being productive. As I said to a friend earlier this week, I feel like my pilot light went out this winter. And I need to reignite it, fast!

No need to worry. Spring IS here. We will have three or four consecutive days over 45 degrees very soon. I just know it. And so what if we don’t?  We cannot control the weather and the forecasters can rarely predict it correctly so let’s not focus too much on that.  It’s the promise and hope of spring that has already begun to awaken something in me. And more importantly, in just a few days, we begin the start of National Humor Month. And that celebrates something that we CAN control … how much we recognize and use humor in our lives. I’m not just talking about playing pranks using whoopee cushions or plastic vomit to get a few laughs on April Fool’s Day.  National Humor Month celebrates the amazing tool that is humor!  I mentioned before that a day can feel like a week and a season can feel like an eternity based on our perspective. Well when we use humor in our lives, we can gain a different perspective … one that is usually lighter and happier. It helps us to put a pin in our worries and live in a joyful, happy moment or if we’re lucky … a few moments, a day, a week.

I am hopeful during this month that celebrates humor and ushers in thoughts of tulips and green everywhere, I will reignite my pilot light so that I can really get cooking. For me, that means feeling content and joyful for myself again – something that seems to have frozen over this winter – and then putting that positive, bright vibe out to the masses so that others can get lit.  (Let me explain: I hope to share a light feeling so that others feel lit up with happiness, joy and levity. Wild Turkey and Jameson can get people lit but that’s not exactly what I mean. Although I am Irish and German so I’m not opposed to getting lit … just don’t drive, text or Facebook while under the influence.)

What I look forward to in the coming month specifically to help me reignite my light is:

•Teaching an 8-week improv class at The Vintage Theater in Scranton. I’m excited about sharing this art form with other like-minded, creative, imaginative people. I look forward to introducing them to improv games and techniques that will have them laughing and helping others to laugh, but more importantly the techniques will teach them to be more comfortable thinking on their feet; listening to others’ ideas; accepting others’ ideas; building something as a team; and being free to think, act and explore their creativity from toe to head.

•Warmer weather that will make it more comfortable and fun to run outdoors with more smiles and less clothing. It has not been easy or fun training for the Scranton Half Marathon that I will run on April 6. Although I ran my first full marathon in October, it feels like all of that training has been erased with a few months of hibernation.

•Flowers. I especially like the smell of lilacs because they remind me of childhood when I would take flowers from our lilac bush, put them in a cup in front of my Blessed Mother statue to pay tribute to her during the month of May (it’s a Catholic thing that is about showing honor and respect to the Virgin Mary, Jesus’ mom).

• Birds chirping outside my window. Although it’s sure to mean the return of my nemesis, the pesky squirrel, I will  break out the ladder to start my routine of filling the “squirrel-proof” bird feeder (yeah right, they treat it like it’s a jungle gym and they’re rehearsing for Squirrels’ Cirque du Soleil the way they swing on it, reaching inside the feeder with their dirty little paws). I love hearing and seeing all of the birds gathering in the tree that’s easy to view from the window in my kitchen, TV room and office upstairs.

•Possibilities. I have two comedy shows scheduled in April and May. I have speaking engagements scheduled for April, May, June, July and August and I’m excited about other prospects that came about recently and that I know will increase as I get cooking by getting out networking more,  making calls and planning meetings. What my winter lacked, I am hopeful my spring and summer will make up for two or three-fold.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

I have this nasty habit of writing about myself when all of the tips I read from professional speakers and writers is that people don’t care about me. You don’t want to hear about me. You want to read something that helps YOU. That makes YOUR LIFE better.  I can only hope that my writing is at least entertaining enough to make you laugh and/or think. But wait, there’s more!

HOW CAN YOU ADD HUMOR TO YOUR LIFE TO MAKE YOUR LIGHT SHINE BRIGHTER?

1. Take opportunities to turn crap into comedic material. When you spill coffee on your blouse and have no time to change, laugh it off. Tell people that you’re a fashion designer in training and you’ve just created a new way to dye your blouse that’s aromatic and eco-friendly. When you step in crap from your neighbor’s dog who seems really fond of your front yard, laugh it off (this one might be tougher). Just think, you can always make a care package for your neighbor to get your point across. Or, when you circle the shopping center parking lot for 15 minutes before finding your car, don’t freak out, laugh it off.  Consider walking in circles looking for your car part of your new exercise program. Just think of the calories you’ve already burned. None of these situations described are life and death so breathe in, breathe out and laugh.

2. Take a break before you break. Whether it’s a tense situation at work, at home or in the check-out line of the grocery store, we all have our breaking point (it’s not the same for everyone, thankfully, but it’s there). Before you lose your cool and say or do something out of character or you get your emotions spiraling into a negative ball of ick, breathe in, breathe out and laugh. Do you see a pattern here (there’s a lot of that in comedy by the way)? Humor can help you feel better and it can also remind you that you are not powerless to the stressful situation you are in. Use humor to gain control and power over the stress and negativity. Show it who’s boss! You will not have a crappy night. You will remain calm. You will feel happy*.   *Don’t misunderstand my advice. If your boss is being unfair to you, going to the ladies room or outside for fresh air and a good laugh will not make things better for the long haul. You will need to think about how to fix that problem or move on to another job where you will be more respected. But … humor can help you get through a particular situation, help you keep your composure and maintain the strength you need to find a long-term solution.

3. Forget Hammer Time. Schedule Humor Time. It may sound silly to actually schedule time to laugh but it shouldn’t You plan everything else. Your kids’ appointments, soccer game, football practice. Doctors’ appointments. PTA meetings.  Laughter and humor are important for your well-being. Stress leads to chronic illness. It’s important you have a way to cope with stress that is a healthy one. I prescribe more humor and laughter! So plan a night of funny movies or playing fun board games or charades with your friends and/or family. If you’re crying from laughing by the end of the night, you’re all winners!

Change doesn’t happen overnight. This has been a mantra of mine during my relationship over the past year. I tend to forget that as adults we don’t change easily or quickly, or sometimes ever, but I’m hopeful. And you should be hopeful too…as well as hopeless, as in hopelessly devoted to huuuuu-mor.

Lift Your Heart with Laughter

There are face lifts, butt lifts and boob lifts. And they all require an expensive surgery and a fair amount of recovery time while wrapped in bandages. What I propose is of much greater value. Seriously.  A heart lift, compliments of laughter!

February is American Heart Month. Yes, I’m aware that there are just a few days left in the month but since the message about a healthy heart and how laughter can help is relevant all year long, I don’t feel too terrible about my procrastination to write this blog. Besides, you’ve probably seen your fair share of signs of red all month long so let’s close the month out seeing pink in our cheeks as we get laughing!

Dr. Michael Miller at the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine has researched the value of laughter and a healthy sense of humor for heart health and his findings give us reasons to love laughing. “Using laughter-provoking movies to gauge the effect of emotions on cardiovascular health, researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore have shown for the first time that laughter is linked to healthy function of blood vessels.”*

Let’s take that one step further and there’s more good news. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, “Laughter, along with an active sense of humor, may help protect you against a heart attack,” according to the study by cardiologists. “The study, which is the first to indicate that laughter may help prevent heart disease, was presented at the American Heart Association’s 73rd Scientific Sessions in New Orleans. The researchers found that people with heart disease were 40 percent less likely to laugh in a variety of situations compared to people of the same age without heart disease.”**

Okay so now that I’ve quoted the experts, let me tell you from the mouth of a lay person, laughter is good stuff! I can’t tell you that it helps to keep my ticker healthy because I don’t know that with medical or scientific certainty, but I can tell you that I laugh a lot and I have a good heart. I also run so I’m sure that helps keep my heart healthy too. My diet could use some cleaning up so I won’t even pull that into the conversation. The bottom line is that laughter is fun and it does make us feel good. That much I DO know.

One of the services I offer through my business, Laugh to Live, is laughter yoga at interactive workshops and conferences. When I lead a laughter yoga session, I see the smiles on people’s faces and I see their shoulders drop. Their bodies just relax and they tell me how good they fell after the session. I know how relaxed I feel after leading a session of laughter exercises. And when I do stand-up comedy and people laugh after hearing my jokes, I feel even better. That laughter is connected to humor that they must process in their minds and then laugh so it’s less of a practice (as laughter yoga is) and more of a response. And I like that so I feel especially happy. (By the same token, when I tell jokes and no one laughs I feel disappointed but that’s the beauty of a sense of humor, it varies from person to person and audience to audience so I am working on not taking it personally. But this blog isn’t about my fragile ego so I apologize for getting off track.)

One of the many great things about laughter is that you don’t need special equipment or attire to do it. You don’t need to buy anything to just laugh. And laughter triggers are everywhere. What are these triggers you might ask? Here are a few:

Funny friends who share comical stories or even knock-knock jokes (avoid the Debbie Downers and Frownie Freds who only want to tell you about the biggest pothole that knocked their tires out of alignment or the snow storm bringing record amounts; unless they lighten up they’ll drain the life out of you after a while).

Sitcoms and movies that you can watch when you have time. With Netflix, Redbox, Youtube, and DVD rentals at your local library, you should have no excuse not to watch the occasional comedy. I own every episode of “Seinfeld” and watch it in reruns too because it’s guaranteed laughs for me. There are a number of other funny shows and movies out there. Find what you like and press “Play.”

Youtube sensations seem to make people chuckle. I can’t say that I totally understand how a cat grabbing a dog’s tail is worthy of 1 million views but maybe I’m just bitter because I haven’t topped 500 views on any of my stand-up comedy videos yet. (Did I mention that I’m a human being who must think to create that material? Eh, maybe I’ll just rescue a cat and set up a nanny cam to record it all day.)

Life is a wonderful opportunity for laughter. Sit and sip coffee somewhere. Listen in on people’s conversations. Watch through the window as people scamper back and forth through their busy lives. I’m not saying to mock or be mean. Just observe for a bit. Soak it up. Life is full of chances to laugh. And what’s even better than watching others, is to laugh at yourself. Instead of cursing that coffee spill on your pants or rip in your jacket from getting stuck on a door handle, accept that it’s one little tear in life and you are the one in control of finding it funny or infuriating.

Laughter yoga is still not a household word but it should be. Started in the mid 1990s by medical doctor Madan Kataria in India, it is the simple practice of choosing to laugh. Don’t wait to hear a joke or watch a video, breathe in deeply and let out a haaaaa, hoooo and a heeeee. Clap your hands. Chant ho ho ha ha ha. LAUGH because you CAN! Because you choose to breathe in life and exhale with laughs.

I’m sure you can think of many other triggers to get your laughing started: your children, blowing bubbles, reading comic books, etc.  As long as you’re not making fun of others, go ahead and laugh, loudly! Your heart will thank you by pumping stronger and giving you another day to repeat that exercise.

Laugh. Lift your heart. And if you still feel the need to lift your face, butt or boobs, that’s your business. I’m sure the experience will give you more material to laugh about!