The Well

Laugh Out Loud

by Andrew Shaw on Aug.28, 2010, under Recent Posts

When’s the last time you laughed really hard?  I’m talking the uninhibited, laugh-out-loud, knee-slapping, eyes-watering, gasping-for-air, laughing.  I had a couple instances this past week where I just got rolling, once at home with a group of friends and the other today with several coworkers.  And boy did it feel great!  It felt like my whole body was smiling and laughing.  During these spells of laughter, and for quite awhile afterwards, I felt such a lightness, a sense of enjoyment and happiness.

Research has been showing what we already know, laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, depression, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor energizes, lightens your burdens, connects you to others, and makes you feel joyful and alive.

Laughter is a natural, innate part of life. Infants begin smiling during the first weeks of life and laugh out loud within months of being born.  If you’ve drifted away from your childlike playfulness, if it has been awhile since you’ve really let go into unbridled laughter, or if you’ve misplaced your smile, here are some ideas to get you back on the laughing track.

Begin by setting aside special times to seek out humor and laughter, just as you might with working out, and build from there. Eventually, you may be able to incorporate humor and laughter into your daily life.

  • Smile. Smiling is the beginning of laughter. Like laughter, it’s contagious.  When you look at someone or see something even mildly pleasing, practice smiling.  Practice smiling for no reason at all many times during the day and see how it affects your mood.  It’s hard to feel down or grumpy when you’ve got a smile on your face.
  • Count your blessings. The simple act of considering the good things in your life will distance you from negative thoughts that are a barrier to humor and laughter. When in a state of sadness, we have further to travel to get to humor and laughter.
  • Spend time with fun, playful people. These are people who laugh easily–both at themselves and at life’s absurdities–and who routinely find the humor in everyday events. Their playful point of view and laughter are contagious.
  • Create opportunities to laugh. Watch a funny movie or TV show. Go to a comedy club. Read the funny pages. Seek out funny people. Share a good joke or a funny story. Host game night with friends. Go to a “laughter yoga” class. Spend time with children. Do something silly. Make time for fun, light-hearted activities.


Happy Laughing.  Be Well.

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Grounded In Nature

by Andrew Shaw on Aug.13, 2010, under Recent Posts

A Deep Well

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be.” — Anne Frank.

I mentioned yesterday that I recently returned from traveling in the Pacific Northwest.  What beautiful country!  So many trees.  So much green.  Fresh air and open space.  For someone who has lived in L.A. most of his life, it was a wonderfully different environment to experience.  During the few weeks we spent in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, we were outdoors most of the time.  There’s no doubt, you just feel better immersed in, and connected to, nature. 

Don’t take only my word for it.  Researchers in the British Medical Journalfound that contact with nature improves health and wellbeing.  People who regularly get outdoors and into nature report subjective health benefits, reduced stress, improvements in their quality of life, and a deeper sense of being a part of something greater.  Another study has shown that when you spend more time out in nature, you feel more alive.  Published in a recent issue of the Journal of Environmental Psychology, the study shows that getting out and communing with nature is better for feeling rejuvenated than reaching for the urban cup of coffee. “Nature is fuel for the soul,” says Richard Ryan, lead author and a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester. It is important for both mental and physical health. “Research has shown that people with a greater sense of vitality don’t just have more energy for things they want to do, they are also more resilient to physical illnesses. One of the pathways to health may be to spend more time in natural settings” says Ryan.  Not only is nature good for your health and wellbeing, it makes you a kinder, gentler, more selfless person as well.   Studies, published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, found that immersion in nature brings individuals closer to others and fosters altruism along with feelings of interconnectedness.

Intuitively, we already know these things to be true.  But if it has been some time since you’ve really been out in nature, try it yourself as your own experiment.  Go outdoors this weekend.  Find a place in nature that allows you to disconnect from the hectic pace and the city buzz.  Be amongst the trees, the mountains, the water, the sky.  Let yourself be surrounded and feel in-touch with the natural world for awhile.  Be present, awaken your senses and absorb it fully.  And remember to notice how you feel during and afterwards. 

Be Well

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Return From Hiatus

by Andrew Shaw on Aug.12, 2010, under Recent Posts

Recently back from travels through the Pacific Northwest, I’m excited to return here to blogging on The WeeklyWell.  I hope all is well with you, and to any regular readers, thanks for your patience during this break.  It’s hard to believe this project of writing about wellness started a year ago.  I look forward to another year of sharing thoughts, ideas, tips and techniques for cultivating health and happiness.  I hope you will visit often, find it helpful, and share it with others who may also be interested. 

More words to follow!

Be Well

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Rest & Relax

by Andrew Shaw on Jul.07, 2010, under Recent Posts

Time for rest and relaxation is essential for our physical, mental and spiritual health.  As we enter the heat of summer, I hope you will find some time to refresh and rejuvenate.  Get away.  Check out.  If a longer break isn’t possible right now, give yourself a mini-vacation… find something small that would replenish your mind, body and/or spirit.  Leave your cell phone at home, go to the park with a good book, lie on the grass and give yourself permission to be lazy all day.  

A Deep Well

Beginning tomorrow, I’ll be heading out on the road and traveling for a few weeks.  I won’t have access to a computer during this time, so The WeeklyWell will be on Holiday until late July.

See you soon and Be Well

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What You Expect Is What You Get

by Andrew Shaw on Jun.27, 2010, under Recent Posts

Say you wake up today feeling off.  You start your day in a bad mood.  You say to yourself, “it’s going to be a terrible day.”  Then, you proceed to miss the bus because you are upset and grumbling about all the negative possibilities for the day.  You arrive late to work, and in your haste, you spill coffee all over your new shirt.  Now you’re really in a foul mood.  You’re feeling more and more angry.  Your thoughts and words are negative, which fuel nasty responses from co-workers.  As the day gets worse, you return home, with a short fuse and a bad attitude, to inpatient children and an unmade dinner.  You react to the situation by taking your frustration out on your family which leads to an argument with your spouse.   A terrible day indeed.

But, what would have happened had you started your day differently?  What if you had taken a moment to breathe, to express gratitude for being alive, and said to yourself, “it’s going to be a good day.”   Armed with a positive attitude, you might miss the bus, but then get a ride from a friend, which is full of laughter and good conversation.   Even if a co-worker seems nasty, you don’t personalize it, and you find a way to negotiate the situation to come to a resolution. If the children are fighting at home, you interpret it as a call for your help and an opportunity to use your parenting skills.  An uncooked dinner means a chance to be creative, and have fun, in the kitchen.  You smile, turn on some music and see dinner as a great time to come together as a family at the end of your day. 

Have you heard of the phrase, a “self-fulfilling prophecy”?  The world is what you think it is. You create your own personal experience of reality through your beliefs, expectations, attitudes, desires, fears, judgments, feelings and consistent thoughts and actions.  The self-fulfilling prophecy is a thought or statement that alters actions and therefore comes true.  A person stating “I’m going to have a lousy day,” might alter his/her actions, even subtly, so that such a prediction is actually fulfilled by his/her very behavior and actions.  

While one’s attitude cannot necessarily influence the larger things, such as the weather or the possibility of an earthquake, one’s attitude can influence the smaller things, like the way we respond to an event in our life, or the way we relate to other people and their responses to us.  Additionally, interpretations of things like “good” and “bad” tend to be weighted heavily by one’s expectations.  If we expect the worse, we’ll tend to experience the worse.  This may be due to only looking for the negative or interpreting events merely from this perspective. 

Understanding the power of expectation and attitude, and the self-fulfilling prophecy, are helpful in dealing with problems like anxiety, depression, or chronic pain.  Studies have shown that perception and prediction of an illness’ course tends to influence experience of the illness.  And Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, for example, focuses on learning to alter thoughts and perception in order to change problem cycles or negative patterns.  By becoming aware of your thoughts, assumptions, expectations, attitudes, etc., and by integrating a positive mindset, there’s a very good chance you’ll feel happier and experience more of the positive in your life.

Be Well

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Independent Happiness

by Andrew Shaw on Jun.18, 2010, under Recent Posts

I read an article recently on happiness by Dr. Serge Kahili King.  He said that he realized that his unhappiness was related to things that had happened in the world that he was unhappy about — things that he didn’t like and that he didn’t feel he could do anything about.  Upon realizing this, he wondered why he had to be so unhappy about so many things over which he had absoluetly no control.  He commented, “I was amazed to find out how much my happiness depended on so many little things like temperature, sunshine, food preparation, news, voice tones, whether machines worked the way I wanted them to or not, bills, bank account levels, the availability of things, whether other people were happy or not, and on and on and on” (King, Who Owns Your Happiness?).

Like King describes, we tend to make our happiness dependent on events or outcomes outside our control or dependent on the behavior of other people and, in effect, we make these the owners of our happiness.  If there’s traffic, then we’re less happy.  If the car breaks down, then we’re less happy.  If the boss makes a decision we don’t like, then we’re less happy.  The weather determines our happiness.  The news determines our happiness.  The economy determines our happiness.  What someone says, or doesn’t say, determines our level of happiness.  How can we take back, and be the rulers of, our own happiness?       

Ask Yourself the Question: Is There Anything I Can Do?
Some things in life are beyond our ability to control.  We must first realize this, then accept it.  For example, if I recently had a job interview, perhaps I am worrying about how well I was received and how I presented myself. But since the interview has already been conducted, there is nothing more I can do now that will change the outcome.  It is done.  It is out of my hands.  Why worry?  Will worrying change anything?  Or another example, if you’re like me, you get upset sitting in traffic.  I am frustrated and angry because the cars in front of me won’t go faster.  I curse the other drivers and become more and more agitated.  Is my yelling going to change the reality of traffic?  Is it going to make the cars move any faster?  I am making my level of happiness dependent on something that is completely out of my control. 

If there’s nothing more you can do, let it be.  Accept it for what it is.  Focus on the things you can control.  Focus on doing those things, which are within your own power, that lead to greater happiness.  

Be Well

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