The Benefits of Laughter.

The Benefits of Laughter.

When we laugh we instantly feel uplifted, helping to reduce stress and improve low mood. Laughter can also help improve long-term physical wellness too, including our immune system, nervous system, cardiovascular system and brain function to name a few. When we laugh muscle tension starts to release and we immediately feel more relaxed.

It’s amazing really – as the body doesn’t recognise the difference between real and fake laughter, even a fake laugh can have a great impact. Scientists have also found that laughter isn’t always about humour but about relationships, as a natural communication tool that enhances our relationships with the people around us.

Here are several ways you could incorporate more laughter in your daily routine:

Watch something that makes you smile or laugh.

This could be your favourite comedy or short comical clips from YouTube or Social Media. Looking through happy photos and videos of fun memories with family and friends can also do the trick. Share these with friends and family to spread the joy.

Listen to a comedy podcast.

There are a number of comedy podcasts available to chose from – find one that suits your humour and listen along when carrying out your daily activities or whilst taking time out to relax.

Call a friend.

Pick up the phone to your most positive, upbeat friend and share some funny stories from the day.

Try a laughter yoga exercise.

This may feel a little strange at first but also great fun. One example to try with friends or family is ‘Remote Control Laughter’ – it’s a great one to try with the kids! Choose someone in your group to have the the ‘remote control’. When they press ON everyone must laugh and when they switch OFF everyone must stop. Try playing with ‘volume’ too!

During lockdown, ActivCare launched an online Level 1 Seated Laughter Yoga course to train care professionals to become leaders in Seated Laughter Yoga. To celebrate the launch we ran a competition to win a free place on the course by sending a video if residents laughing.

The winners were picked at random but the entries were phenomenal, a lot of contagious loather was spread across the ActivCare team that day.

If you would like to find out more about the Level 1 Seated Laughter Yoga training visit https://www.activcarecourse.com or email natalie@activcarecoaching.com.

Dealing with overwhelm in uncertain times.

Dealing with overwhelm in uncertain times.

Overwhelm happens when we start to believe a stressor such as COVID-19, is too great for us to manage. It can manifest itself through our thoughts including worry or helplessness for example,  or through an intense emotion such as anxiety or irritability.

I have put together six steps to help manage overwhelm;

1. Accept how you are feeling.

Rather than fighting feelings or emotions begin by accepting them. At a time when there is uncertainty and so much unfamiliarity it’s likely that many people can relate. Try speaking with friends and colleagues to start building a support network. 

2. Remember this too shall pass. 

It’s important to try and take control of your thoughts. Unhelpful and unreasonable thoughts are likely to spark negative emotions. Pay close attention to what your thoughts are telling you and begin to create new ones that are more positive and helpful. Remind yourself, this period will pass. 

3. Be present.

Worrying about what may or may not happen in the future will consume time and is likely to be unhelpful. Instead, try being present in the moment, do things you enjoy, practice gratitude and schedule time for productive future planning where necessary. 

4. Remember you are not alone.

With social events cancelled, social distancing put in place and many of us working from home, the sudden change can be a shock to the system. Remember social wellbeing is essential. Find new ways to continue interacting such as reconnecting with old friends on social media, having video calls with loved ones and regular conference calls with colleagues.  

5. Make a plan.

Many people will be experiencing some change to their normal routine. It’s important to find a ‘new’ routine that helps you to be as productive as possible, whilst also quelling overwhelm. When you’re not working, remember to engage in activities that you enjoy such as listening to music or being creative. Perhaps there’s something that you’ve been wanting to do for a while but have struggled to find the time, such as writing a book or a blog.

6. Give back where you can.

Giving back to those less fortunate can offer a new perspective, create a sense of purpose and be incredibly rewarding. There are many charities desperately seeking support for those most vulnerable. If you’re not in a position to donate funds, consider donating time.

The Power of Gratitude

The Power of Gratitude

Gratitude helps shift your focus from what you feel is missing in your life, to appreciating what is already present. Ghandi summed this up perfectly in the following quote: 

“I was sad because I had no shoes and then I saw a man with no feet” Mahatma Ghandi.

Psychologists, Michael McCollough of Southern Methodist University and Robert Emmons of the University of California carried out an experiment on gratitude and its impact on well-being. Within the study hundreds of people were split into three groups and asked to write about their daily experiences. Group one wrote down things they were grateful for that day such as family and waking up on a morning. Group two wrote down things that had bothered them such as finances depleting fast and a friend not appreciating a kind gesture. Group three wrote about any experiences from the day. 

The results of the study indicated that practicing daily gratitude resulted in greater energy, optimism and life satisfaction. The group that practiced gratitude were also 25% happier than those that had not. 

When you practice gratitude regularly you tap into neuroplasticity which strengthens positive new brain cell connections. Why not try implementing gratitude into your daily routine?

Keeping a gratitude journal is one method – each day writing a list of three to five things you are grateful for. The best way to do this is to think about the smaller things in life – waking up to the sun shining, a smile from a stranger or quickly finding a parking space. Over the next 21 days try to write down or think about three things you are grateful for and see what benefits you experience.

Volunteering and its Amazing Benefits

Volunteering and its Amazing Benefits

With busy lives, it can be hard to find time to volunteer. However, the impact of Volunteering and its amazing benefits are enormous to you and your community.

The right role can help you to:
-Reduce stress
-Find friends
-Connect with the community
-Learn new skills
-Advance your career.

Volunteering offers vital help to worthwhile causes, but the benefits can be even greater for you. Even simple ways to help others can improve your health and happiness.

Volunteering connects you to others

While some people are naturally outgoing, others may have a hard time meeting new people. Volunteering gives the opportunity to develop your social skills as you meet other people with similar interests. Once you start, it’s easier to branch out and make friends.

Volunteering is good for your mind and body

Volunteering reduces stress, anger and anxiety. Nothing relieves stress better than a meaningful connection to another person. Working with animals has also been shown to improve mood and reduce stress and anxiety.

Volunteering helps you stay physically healthy. Studies have found that those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate than those who do not. Volunteering can also lessen symptoms of chronic pain and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Volunteering increases self-confidence. Doing good for others provides a natural sense of accomplishment. The better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of your life.

Volunteering can advance your career

If you’re considering a new career, volunteering can help you get experience in your area of interest and meet people in the field. Volunteering gives you the opportunity to practice skills such as teamwork, communication, problem solving and project planning.

Just because volunteer work is unpaid, it does not mean that the skills you learn are basic. Many volunteering opportunities provide extensive training. For example, you may become an experienced counselor volunteering in a health centre or gain extensive knowledge of history while volunteering in a museum.

Volunteering brings fun and fulfillment to your life

Volunteering is a fun and easy way to explore your interests and passions. It can be meaningful and interesting and an energising escape from your routine.

Many people volunteer in fields which overlap with their hobbies. For example, if you have a desk job but wish to spend more time outdoors, you may volunteer and help plant a community garden or walk dogs for an animal shelter.

Making Positive Steps to Manage Stress

Making Positive Steps to Manage Stress

Stress Awareness Month and has been held every year since 1992 and has become increasingly prominent over the years, as reports show that the number of people struggling with stress has continued to rise. During this awareness period, health care professionals and experts aim to increase public awareness about both the causes and cures for our modern stress epidemic.’ http://stressawarenessmonth.com

Stress is not only affecting daily lives, but it has a huge impact in the workplace too as HSE states;

526,000 workers suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2016/17.

12.5 million working days lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety.

In addition, presenteeism is also on the rise, leaving employees unmotivated, tired or stressed at work. This naturally affects productivity resulting in additional costs for employers.

The question on everyones lips is what can we do about it?

It’s important to remember that everyone is individual and stress is unique to each person. A situation that feels stressful to one person, may be motivating to someone else. Similarly, the ways in which we deal with stress also differs. It is a necessity to learn how deal with your own level of stress effectively and in a healthy manner. Sometimes our automatic responses aren’t the healthiest and you should bear this in mind. Negative behaviours as a result of stress can include smoking, drinking in excess, compulsive spending and emotional eating.

Making positive steps to manage stress:

Understand Triggers

When you’re feeling stressed it’s important to understand what the route cause could be. Try keeping a diary over a set period of time to identify any situations that cause you most stress. Understanding how you respond is also important, so jot down your thoughts and feelings, as well as any other key information you remember about the people and circumstances.

Develop Healthy Responses

As previously discussed, there are a number of common responses that can have a negative effective on stress and can potentially lead to health problems. Activities such as Yoga can help combat stress, with many other forms of sports and fitness activities also proving beneficial. Sleep also plays a vital part of an effective stress management. Healthy sleep patterns can be enhanced by turning off your electrical devices on an evening, and limiting caffeine intake.

Take Time Out to Recharge 

In a challenging 24 hour world with pressure apparent in most professions, it is essential to establish and effective work-life balance. Try setting yourself work-life boundaries, such as turning off your mobile after a set time and setting aside parts of your week for focused family time. By doing so you can reduce work-life conflicts. This practice will also help you to be in the present moment, either at work or at home. Ensure that you take those well deserved holiday days and switch off from work, so that on your return you are re-energised and left feeling relaxed.