Monday 11 March 2013

The Story of a Laughter Workshop

This week's post is slightly different from the past many weeks' blogposts because I would like to share with you the workshop I ran last week with The Regency Training Foundation and Headway.

It was really touching and brought back memories from my own family and our stories.

NB With reference data protection and contractual terms I cannot mention personal details, this is also the reason the photos are blurred except for my own picture being in focus.

I hope you will enjoy reading even if it is somewhat longer than the usual blog. I will be back with a lot of the usual 'Lotte-sense' next week...

Laughter with Headway

Working with adults with head or brain injury, physical or sensory disability suffered through accident, haemorrhage or stroke at Headway was an inspiring event and it is fair to say that it was a wonderful day spent in great company.

Over the autumn of 2012 Patricia O’Malley of The Regency Training Foundation had put all her energy into obtaining funding for the 6-week programme for re-building confidence in the community.

With a passion for helping vulnerable people in the community she dug into the paperwork and it paid off – the funding was awarded and the team working with Patricia and The Regency Training Foundation was excited about the opportunity that had opened through winning the bid.

Planning started and in February 2013 the programme kicked off with nine participants who had all been through the motion of losing part or even most of their mobility. Events such as strokes and other activity altering illnesses had affected their lives but instead of staying at home they wanted something special from life, they all wanted to engage with their peers and their communities.

The six week course of confidence building, communication, time management, anger management, stress and anxiety busting and laughter therapy was an opportunity to learn skills to bring them back in action and take their lives back.

Laughter Therapy – this is where I come into the picture...

On 5th March I ventured up to Bedford with Patricia, with butterflies in my stomach, excitement as I was about to meet the group who Patricia and other consultants had worked and connected with for four weeks already, and I was also slightly concerned that a three hour laughter session could prove to be a challenge that was one hour too long.

But was I wrong?!?! I could not have imagined the group even if I had tried based on any information – there was no hard work, grumpiness, introverted attitudes or the likes – there was a group of people who wanted something special – not just from the laughter session but from the whole programme, and they had already started their journey!

How to kick off the laughter session?

My head was spinning, I have run many laughter workshops but it was important to do this one well because I was not the only business involved and there was more at stake than my own reputation. Added to this pressure which I set up myself of course, was the fact that the press would be around in the afternoon to interview a few of the participants as well as Patricia in her role as Founder and Project Manager of The Regency Training Foundation.

Concerns seemed so pitiful, though, when people’s lives are on the line and all there is, truly is the contribution and the life changing experience you can provide at facilitator. I was halfway expecting cynical and bitter faces – who would never expect or even accept that their lives have changed so dramatically and may never ever be as they were before the brain injury. Again I’m pleased I was only halfway expecting it because these attitudes only exist if you expect them fully and if you don’t then you have a world of opportunity and wonderful faces that may break into smiles any minute.

Starting the day with an introduction to highlight the fact that we don’t need a reason to laugh and that we can in fact laugh at anything, we are not our names or addresses even though we use these labels to identify with – we can laugh at ourselves and it doesn’t even hurt. ‘My name is Lotte – hahahaha – and I live in St. Albans – hahahaha’, a short version of the traditional Laughter Yoga Training introduction went down well and there were lots of laughs and giggles, a few heads shaking and a bit of suppressed laughter, all very good, very good yeah!

The one-hour morning session was full of talk, background, reasons, benefits, with lots of little chuckles, breaths, laughs and happy sighs interspersed to ensure people didn’t nod off. It was fun and lively and it seemed to be at the right pace.

Laughter Kirtan – call and response exercise before lunch... now, where do I start and finish?!?! What great fun! Why does it work? It works, not just because it is fun but because it makes people listen, respond, exercise their faces, laugh, clap, use their brain but not in a thinking way. We finished the day with a messed up Laughter Kirtan exercise where I couldn’t quite keep it together with a straight smiling face but did it matter? Not the least, laughter was readily available on everyone’s lips by then. 

There is no doubt one of my favourite Laughter Yoga exercises is Mental Flossing as it is a great way to clear the three misconceptions of laughter, i.e. we have to be happy, have a reason, and have a sense of humour to laugh – none of it is true when you know Laughter Yoga, and Mental Floss Laughter clears those thoughts beautifully. 

They must have thought I was mad...but it was great fun. 

What worked was laughter exercises and more laughter exercises – we did all the great foundation exercises, rude-noise-laughter-cream, slurpy-hot-soup, naughty-milkshake-splash, and lots more. 

People love playing, laughing and having a good time no matter where they are in their lives. Singing, laughing, clapping, playing, grounding – all of it worked and the three hours went by in what seemed a fraction of the time. Amazing what you can achieve when you are having fun. 

I received fantastic feedback but the best of it was all the smiling faces, the chatting, the laughs, the bye-bye, and the lives changed with a laugh – nothing can outweigh the feeling of having made a difference. 

The group was lovely and amazing, and I love working with people who get it just as much as people who may not get it at first – because who knows what happens when they get to think of it!


grobdlug said...

Hello Lotte!

So nice to read this... Even reading about your day with this very special session makes me feel good and brings me in a good mood!

Keep up the good work!


PS! Such a pity the Ravenholm day you planned a few years back didn't get off, as I had really looked forward to seeing you again after all these years.

Unknown said...

Lotte- what a brilliant experience and foundation for future. Well done. xxxNick