20 sec. Hugs are Better Hugs (or, It’s Your Oxytocin)

Happy Hug Day (61) You can create a deep connection with a long hug. Of course. You know that. What you might not know? The amount of time matters. We're not talking about the half-second hug-cum-chest-bump.  Or the 5 second clench-to-coax. No, indeed! Apparently, a loving embrace held for 20 seconds taps our sweet spot. The folks at The Shift Network say that 20 seconds is the "magic" length needed to release oxytocin in the body.

News organizations from the BBC to USA Today have reported on the University of North Carolina's discovery that a longer hug reduced cortisol (stress hormone) and increased oxytocin in the couples studied. Oxytocin is the "bonding hormone" the inspires the feeling of meaningful connection with others. This happy hormone is also linked to reducing blood pressure and the risk of heart disease. With whoever you are close to, try staying close longer with a 20 second hug. You may feel the difference. 

 

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Sources:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/4131508.stm

http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2003-03-09-hug-usat_x.htm

http://theshiftnetwork.com/tsn/main

How many chuckles = a chinup? (No joke!)

Laugh-with-abandon_14-things-adults-can-learn-from-children Growing evidence confirms suspicions that laughter is not only fun, but good for us!  WebMD reports that laughter and moderate exercise share a host of healthful effects. According to Dr. Lee Berk's research, appetite hormones behave the same way after a good giggle as they do after a few workout reps. In science-speak: leptin goes down and grehlin goes up. Berk's volunteers watched stressful videos and hilarious videos (in no particular order) while their hormones were monitored. The results show comedy may be good for more than a chuckle.

Berk hopes his findings can assist patients who have lost their appetite. The elderly, handicapped, depressed and ill might benefit from repetitive laughter research. Overachievers may well enjoy a chortle during exercise for added benefit. Though a small study, Berk's work joins other science in supporting laughter as good medicine. More conclusive work may cause this writer to re-evaluate the association between 'cackles' and 'evil'. What can't hurt may heal!

Wanna come try laughter yoga with me?

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The original study

Laughter Yogis and Japanese Hypertension Research

Man-laughing Once again, scientist have found that laughter can lower blood pressure and prevent hypertension. Well, they at least observed an 'association' between the two. The exciting part of the study, is that the Japanese researchers  brought in a bunch of laughter yogis to instigate the laughing under investigation. They worked with music therapists as well, and found that the groups participating in laughing and music not only lowered their blood pressure, but were more likely to be motivated to exercise. 

Though the study requires more scrutiny, one Dr. John Ciccone, a preventive cardiologist at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in West Orange, N.J. proposed that relaxation techniques such as laughter yoga and music therapy are "not outside the mainstream anymore… I think a lot of what was considered alternative is no longer alternative."  Here I come General Hospital.  

Laughter + IVF = Babies

ClownLaughter yoga, it's not quite…

So a study of a couple hundred women undergoing IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) near Tel Aviv found that women entertained by professional Israeli clowns right after embryos were transferred to their wombs had more success in giving birth than those with no Israeli clowns.

The study, published in Fertility and Sterility, found that 36 percent of women with Israeli clowns became pregnant, as compared with the 20 percent of clown-free embryo transfer procedure.   Not surprisingly, women conceiving the conventional way were found to have a much lower success rate with Israeli clowns in their room at the time of conception.  I'm just saying… 

Leader of the study, Dr. Friedler said he got the idea for the study because laughter is a "natural anti-stress mechanism."

Friedler, who is based at Assaf Harofeh Medical Centre in Zrifin, Israel, said,"Patients suffering from infertility undergoing IVF are incredibly stressed. So I thought that this intervention could be beneficial for them at the crucial moments after embryo transfer."

Friedler added that if studies at other centres back up his findings, fertility clinics elsewhere might try it too.  I'm just hoping I'm fertile enough to keep the clowns out of my own uterine activities.  Do you think clowns that speak Hebrew are funnier than French or English ones?

Is your laugh genuine or strategic?

Did you know we've been laughing for 7 million years?

The Quarter Review of Biology recently published a study on laughter.  There are two kinds.  (Of course, Osho wrote about four kinds, so science is still lagging behind on this front…)

Thee first kind of laughter is a) spontaneous and b) stimulus-driven.  The study says that just because someone is laughing with you, doesn’t mean that it is spontaneous or stimulus-driven, which is the natural kind of laugh that mirrors ape play, which arose around seven million years ago.

The second, “dark side of laughter” kind of laugh is strategic and sometimes can be cruel. "One type of laughter arises spontaneously from the perception of a certain class of events, while the other is used strategically in interaction to influence others or modulate one's own physiology," said Gervais, who is a researcher in the Evolutionary Studies Program at Binghamton University in New York.  Here's where I read the article.

In laughter yoga, I aim for my laughter to always be the first kind of laughter.  But I don't think this study gets at the whole picture.  Laughter needs to be practiced to become part of one's life if it's been missing for a long time.  That's why in laughter yoga, we encourage one another to laugh, through exercises designed to create that spontaneous first kind of laughter.  Don't feel discouraged if it takes time to remember how to laugh spontaneously.  It's still a practice for me.  I'm even starting to laugh at standup comedy again after years of training myself to slap the table with a straight face and say in a deadpan tone, "That's funny."  But it takes practice.

So come practice.  Come take a laughter yoga class with me.  Or come see a standup comedy show!

-Alicia

Creativity Workshop Starts January in Oakland!

Six to One : Six Weeks to Complete One Creative Project

Are you ready to kick your creative work into high gear?  

Starting in January, and meeting for six weeks, the Six to One course will challenge and hold you to complete your chosen creative goal.  Each week, we'll meet, set intentions, check in about our work, and set about the task of completing a creative goal.  We'll also have guest co-leaders teach a new skill each week that will empower you to get closer to your goal.  

Life is short:  If you've had a creative project on the back burner–or the front burner–for months or years and needed that special combination of kick-in-the-butt and holding-the-hand to really get it done, this is your chance.  Life is short and it's time to live it up!  

Small Group, Special Attention:  With eight participants, you will divide into four pairs.  Your partner for the course will be your daily action partner (you'll let each other know at the beginning of the day what you plan to do and at the end of the day what you did do.)  We'll also have a mid-week phone call to check in about your progress each week so that you don't have any chance to slip through the cracks.  

The Syllabus:  

The evening meetings will be approximately three hours; the first hour will be for checking in, and a new guest co-leader each week will join us for two hours and lead us in the following skills.  

Week One:  Visioning, clarifying and setting intentions for your project.  We'll get really clear on what your project is, get a timeline worksheet to break the work into manageable sized tasks, and then give each participant the attention of the group.

Guest co-leader and I "circle" the group regarding desire and fulfillment and letting the deep heart lead.

Week Two:  Writing and the unconscious, opening the channel to creativity.

Guest co-leader and I lead the group to unblock the heart and the pen and help you "blow out the pipes" to get the creative juices flowing.  We'll write until we get blisters on our fingers.  Well, almost.  And this will be a practice you can take into the next five weeks to increase the speed and reduce the censorship of your creative flow.

Week Three:  Making your dreams sing, using your voice.

Guest co-leader and I lead a voice session that will allow you to purify, align and express your intentions, and make them manifest through sound.  As you speak your dreams, you reify them.

Week Four:  Embodiment and aliveness.  Your life is a performance.  We are working from the subtle levels to the gross, from inside out in this course.  This is the process of manifestation.  This is not airy-fairy stuff, it's just plain creation.

Guest co-leader and I will take you from thought to word to speech to body, and awakening your whole being.

Week Five:  Support, self-care, and stepping into a bigger you.  One reason we don't step into a bigger Self in our lives is that staying small keeps us "safe".

Guest co-leader and I lead you in learning the essential skills of self-care and boundary setting that allow for a sense of safety and security which ultimately allow you to take your wings and fly. 

Week Six:  Celebration and integration.  If you have ever found yourself caught in a never-ending cycle of doing without rest and appreciation for the hard work you've done, you may not have learned how to enjoy yourself properly.  

Guest co-leader and I offer a celebration and integration of music and party (!) where you will learn to truly celebrate your accomplishments and allow yourself to receive the benefits of your work.  Authentic joy and celebration builds in such way that it pervades every area of our lives and warms the hearts of all those we come in contact with.

It's not where you are that matters.  It's how far you've come.

Early bird signup: now until December 11 for only $195.  After December 11, the course is $295.  

In this project-based course, you get the support of:

-Special attention with a small group

-Community building with fellow artists and creators

-Eighteen (18) hours of class time

-A daily action partner to check in with

-A midweek conference call with the group to keep the momentum high

-Email access to Alicia for questions

Osho Speaks about Laughter (part 6 of 6)

“There is a Cosmic laughter which comes into being when the whole joke of this Cosmos is understood. That is of the highest. And only a Buddha can laugh like that. These three monks must have been three Buddhas. But if you can laugh the second type of laughter, that is also worth trying. Avoid the first. Don’t laugh at anyone’s expense. That is ugly and violent. If you want to laugh, then laugh at yourself.

That’s why Mulla Nasruddin, in all his jokes and stories, always proves himself the stupid one, never anybody else. He always laughs at himself and allows you to laugh at him. He never puts anybody else in the situation of being foolish. Sufis say that Mulla Nasrudin is the wise fool. Learn at least that much – the second laughter.

If you can learn the second, then the third will not be far ahead. Soon you will reach the third. But leave the first type. That laughter is degrading. But almost ninety-nine percent of your laughter is of the first type. Much courage is needed to laugh at oneself. Much confidence is needed to laugh at oneself. 

For the spiritual seeker, even laughter should become a part of Sadhana. Remember to avoid the first type of laughter. Remember to laugh the second. And remember to reach the third.”

Thank you, Osho.  Om.

Osho Speaks about Laughter (part 5)

[Finishing the story from the last blog] "So for the first time, the two monks spoke and said, ’We are laughing because this man has won. We were always wondering as to who would die first and this man has defeated us. We are laughing at our defeat and his victory. Also he lived with us for many years and we laughed together and we enjoyed each other’s togetherness, presence. There can be no better way of giving him the last send off. We can only laugh.

But the whole village was sad. And when the dead monk's body was put on the funeral pyre, then the village realized that the remaining two monks were not the only ones who were joking, the third who was dead was also laughing. He had asked his companions not to change his clothes. It was conventional that when a man died they changed his dress and gave a bath to the body. So the third monk had said, 'Don’t give me a bath because I have never been unclean. So much laughter has been in my life that no impurity can accumulate, can come to me. I have not gathered any dust.

Laughter is always young and fresh. So don’t give me a bath and don’t change my clothes.' 

"So just to respect his wishes, they did not change his clothes. And when the body was put to fire, suddenly they became aware that he had hidden some Chinese fire-works under his clothes and they had started going off. So the whole village laughed and the other two monks said: You rascal, you are dead, but you have defeated us once again. Your laughter is the last.'"

The last post on Osho tomorrow.

Osho Speaks about Laughter (part 4)

"The second type of laughter is when you laugh at yourself. This is worth achieving. This is cultured. And this man is valuable who can laugh at himself. He has risen above vulgarity. He has risen above lowly instincts – hatred, aggression, violence.

And the third is the last – the highest. This is not about anybody – neither the other nor oneself. The third is just Cosmic. You laugh at the whole situation as it is. The whole situation, as it is, is absurd – no purpose in the future, no beginning in the beginning. The whole situation of Existence is such that if you can see the Whole – such a great infinite vastness moving toward no fixed purpose, no goal – laughter will arise. So much is going on without leading anywhere; nobody is there in the past to create it; nobody is there in the end to finish it. 

Such is whole Cosmos – moving so beautifully, so systematically, so rationally. If you can see this whole Cosmos, then a laughter is inevitable. 

[A story] "I have heard about three monks. No names are mentioned, because they never disclosed their names to anybody. They never answered anything. In China, they are simply known as the three laughing monks.

And they did only one thing: they would enter a village, stand in the market place and start laughing. They would laugh with their whole being and suddenly people would become aware. Then others would also get the infection and a crowd would gather. The whole crowd would start laughing just because of them. What was happening? The whole town would get involved. Then they would move to another town. "They were loved very much. That was their only sermon, their only message; that laugh. And they would not teach; they would simply create a situation.

Then it happened that they became famous all over the country. Three laughing monks. All of China loved them, respected them. Nobody had ever preached in such a way that life must be just a laughter and nothing else. They were not laughing at anyone in particular. They were simply laughing as if they had understood the Cosmic joke. And they spread so much joy all over China without using a single word. People would ask for their names, but they would simply laugh. So that became their name – the three laughing monks.

Then they grew old. And while staying in one village. one of the three monks died. The whole village became very much expectant because they thought that when one of them had died, the other two would surely weep. This must be worth seeing because no one had ever seen these people weeping. The whole village gathered. But the two monks were standing beside the corpse of the third and laughing – such a belly laugh. So the villagers asked them to explain this."

Come back tomorrow for the end of Osho's story!