D. Step Two: Show

Understand the reason for step 2

It is common for new instructors to want to start their classes without giving any explanations. However, this is not recommended for several reasons:

  • Participants may not be fully willing or prepared to participate. It’s not always the case. This can result in awkward moments that could have been avoided.
  • The class may have participants who are faster, slower, louder, quieter, etc. A quick start may not be the most efficient way to handle this diversity.
  • A safe and comfortable atmosphere has not yet been established. This can impact participant engagement in the exercises.
  • The instructor has not yet asserted their leadership and may risk the class being taken over or derailed by disruptive individuals.
  • Clear boundaries and guidelines for the class have not been set, making it easier for distractions and disruptions to occur.

To ensure a successful class, it’s important to take the time to establish a safe atmosphere, assert leadership, and set clear boundaries. Here is how it works:

How step 2 is structured

Essentially, you have three jobs to do:

1. Explain 2: Demo & Practice 3. Remove obstacles
Sub-step 4 (brief explanation of how the class is structured) is designed to boost the group’s trust in the facilitator by showing all that there is a clear and easy-to-follow process to guide them throughout the session. The four types of exercises in sub-steps 5-8 serve as opportunities for the facilitator to establish and reinforce their leadership by having participants listen to and follow their instructions. These exercises also help identify the energy level of participants and those unwilling to participate without explicitly addressing them. Finally, sub-step 9 provides a gentle way to motivate or respectfully excuse any troublemakers that may have been identified.


Tip: For in-person meetings, arrange participants in a circular formation. To keep things dynamic, ask them to step to the left or right after each sub-step, so they are not standing in the same spot for more than a minute.

What To Say


4. Briefly explain how the class is going to work
For example: This is going to work like a plane trip. Imagine that you just boarded, and we’ve left the gate. I’ll give you some brief instructions before we take off; then, we will take off and quickly get into a rhythm and cruising altitude. At some point, we’ll start our descent, and you will notice this by the shift in dynamic to more introspective activities. Then we’ll land, do some easy-spoken activities, and finally wrap up. Let’s start with a quick demo of the four types of exercises that we are going to use now.

Next, briefly explain, demo, and practice with all:


5. How the brain integration exercises work
I define brain integration exercises as simple ways to stimulate the sensory-motor integration process, which governs how our senses receive and process information. Exercises in this category help reorganize the central nervous system, the hub of our thoughts, emotions, and movement control. They are designed to promote healthy cognitive functioning, emotional stability, and the ability to participate responsibly.

Always start your classes with the Clap + Yeah! exercise. Here is why:

  • It’s a clear auditory cue with a different vibration to that of laughter that makes it clear to all participants that it is time to move on to something else.
  • It’s a smooth way to establish leadership from the start and maintain it throughout the session in a friendly fashion.
  • It’s an easy way to teach participants to listen to the facilitator and one another and do the same thing simultaneously, which in turn helps to promote an awareness of belonging, of having a place, of being “good enough.”
  • It saves your voice because you never have to yell to be heard. Clapping has a different tonality than voice and is much easier to hear than someone yelling when everybody is laughing heartily.
  • It triggers acupressure points in the hands, helps to move blood and energy in the body, and helps build a positive energy and group dynamic. (Read more).

Another such exercise I often demo right after the Clap + Yeah! at the beginning of step 2 is the Ho Ho, Ha-Ha-Ha rhythm and chant because it’s the foundation for many subsequent exercises.

For example: First, we’ll practice various exercises that help to integrate both hemispheres of our brain and make us pay attention to what’s happening here and now. Here is an example: Do what I do and say what I say. We’re going to enthusiastically clap as we say, “Yeah! Ready? Go! Excellent! If you hear me clap like this (clap + yeah!), then please do the same with me. OK? Great. Here is another rhythm we will play with in various ways. This particular exercise is very important because all the activities we will practice together are relatively short (about 20 to 40 seconds each). I will use this one as a cue when it’s time to let you know that we have to move on. It works like this: Beat the following 1-2, 1-2-3 rhythm with your hands as you chant in synchronicity, “Ho, Ho, Ha-Ha-Ha. [Clap + yeah! to regain control]

Important: Acting in synchronicity with others is a point of commitment. You will see or hear instantly if any people resist in your group because they either won’t participate at all or will do so with resistance. There could be many reasons, but finding it out is not your job, so don’t ask. As far as you are concerned, it’s only a sign that there is a scratched vinyl record in their head playing the same track endlessly. You will easily and smoothly deal with it at the end of step 2. Patience.

6. How the breathing exercises work
Breathing exercises play an important role in Laughter Wellness and are repeated after every brain integration exercise.

They range from gentle mindful stretching, focusing on range of motion, strength training, balance and equilibrium, relaxation, guided visualizations, etc. They are designed to bring conscious awareness to our actions and feelings, reduce stress, rumination and emotional reactivity while promoting focus, cognitive flexibility, relationship satisfaction, and more.

The basic idea behind the breathing exercise is to tie your mind into present-moment awareness by doing something with full awareness (i.e., synchronize the breath with sound or movement).

Teaching tips:

  • Insist on the importance of smiling while breathing. It gives access to a whole extra level of benefits. Having your participants express themselves and see happy facial expressions on others starts a mirror neuron response which helps boost everybody’s morale and enjoyment.
  • Softly breathing through the nose is best, and breathing in any way that keeps you alive is perfectly fine. If you are thinking about how to do this exercise correctly, you are overthinking. Get out of your head. Just do what feels right for you.

We’ll review on the next page all the breathing exercises you’ve practiced so far in these first two Laughter Wellness practices. Here is an example for now:

Breathing exercises help to:

  • Bring conscious awareness to what we are doing and feeling, and reduce stress, rumination, and emotional reactivity, while promoting focus, cognitive flexibility, relationship satisfaction, and more.
  • Keep people grounded and aware of the impact the laughter has on them. This is important because being fully aware of the present moment, and calmly acknowledging and accepting our feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations gives rise to action. Actions that are repeated and rewarded become habits, and habits that are deeply satisfying become a way of life.
  • Regulate the energies of a session. If participants laugh a lot, then enforcing slow and deep breathing in between each laughter exercise adds a strong element of relaxation and helps them laugh even more without straining themselves. If, on the contrary, they are hard to engage and do not laugh much, then you can minimize the relaxation element by having everybody laugh on the exhale of each of your chosen breathing exercises.
  • Open the door for a gentle physical and mental workout by allowing for light stretches and hand-eye coordination movements.

7. How the positive reinforcements work
Positive reinforcements are simple exercises comprised of a mix of physical behaviors, vocal activities, key words and gestures, and more – practiced alone, with a partner, with a team, or as a group – that make people feel good about themselves… They are designed to promote healthy behaviors and coping mechanisms.

Having people repeatedly engage in positive, empowering, and life-affirming anything with enthusiasm is an important part of the process towards mental reprogramming from NMA to PMA (Negative to Positive Mental Attitude.) It helps boost self-confidence levels.

We’ll review on the next page all the positive reinforcements you’ve practiced so far in these first two Laughter Wellness practices. Here is an example for now:


8. How the invitations to play exercises work
This category is not called laughter exercises but invitations to play because something much bigger is behind it. Laughing is not the goal. Loosening up, playing, and feeling better and more connected is.

It is made of various exercises, techniques, and games – seated, standing, with or without sounds or movements, from simple to more elaborate, done as solo practice, with a partner, a team, or as a group – that make people smile and laugh. It’s important to note that the Laughter Wellness focus is specifically on the “vertical” approach to laughter, wich is laughing with: Fostering a sense of inclusion, flow, and gratitude for life, fellowship, happiness, and well-being, celebrating life and sharing the best of ourselves, focusing and moving toward what we want rather than away from what we don’t want. We hold true that play is vital for the enjoyment of life as well as overall well-being at any age.

We only use intentional laughter exercises in step 2 because they are an easy and fast way to “prime the pump”, so to speak, and prepare the way for spontaneous laughter.

For example: And last we will laugh, just because we can, and it’s really good for us. We could tell jokes to each other, but this is not what we’re going to do. Here is an example of this type of laughter is going to work. This particular exercise is called the body wake-up laughter. It’s a call and response when one leads one step at a time, and the other(s) repeat. A laughs as s/he gently claps once saying Ha! B (or the whole group) repeats A continues and slaps their left forearm twice saying Ha! Ha! B (or the entire group) repeats A now says “All together!” as s/he laughs while gently slapping their body up the left arm, across the chest, and down the right arm. A concludes that first round with applause. A now repeats the same sequence but goes from right to left and B (or the whole group) follows as before. Next, A can go down the front of the body (1 clap in the hands, 2 gently slap on the face or chest, then all the way down to the legs), then down the back.

Teaching tip:

  • Keep each bout of laughter short at the beginning of your classes, but not too short either. Intentional laughter exercises should last no less than 20 seconds, and typically up to but no more than 40-60 seconds. (The bigger your group, the longer they will comfortably last.)
  • The less you talk to explain, the better. Give a basic idea and let your participants run with it. Allow them the freedom to express their own creativity. My personal go-to technique, as you have already seen, is to simply say “do what I do, say what I say.”
Did you notice how each exercise gets delivered? It’s typically a 3-step process:

  1. Tell: Give it a name
  2. Show: Give a short demo of what it could look like
  3. Do: This is the most important step, which is a clear sign that it’s time for all to practice together, e.g., “Ready, set, go!” Once said, there is no going back and stopping the group to give further instructions. If you want to engage in variations, you’ll need to clap again to regain the attention of the group.
Did you also notice how many times each exercise was repeated?

  • For brain integration and breathing exercises it’s about 3 rounds (2 is too short, and 4 starts to get too much).
  • For positive reinforcements and laughter exercises it’s up to you, and let it be at least 20 seconds!

Watch any of the demo exercises videos above in sub-steps 4-8 again to see this in action.


9. Briefly explain the three key reminders
Take a moment to reflect about what has happened so far. First you introduced yourself, then you did an icebreaker followed by a self-assessment. Then you explained how the class would work, followed by a demo of the four category of exercises that will be used.

At no point have you engaged in conversation with your participants. If you’ve seen some resistance (e.g., someone is either not participating at all, or half-heartedly), now is the time to address and iron it out. The last thing you want is have someone who doesn’t want to be there or is not able to listen to your words stay in your class.

The purpose of mentioning now the Laughter Wellness three key reminders is to:

  1. Remind all of important guidelines that will benefit them;
  2. Create a rational context for anybody who happens to be stuck in their head for whatever reason;
  3.  Set the rules of engagement. This is how the class is going to work, not some other way.

Just before we start, there are three important guidelines to follow. Here they are:

1. Connect

What to say: Make a lot of eye contact! Connect with and express the best of you. See the best in others.

Why: The invitation goes beyond “just” making eye contact because we are not machines. It’s not what we do that’s important, but the energies behind it. You want to train people from the very beginning of your programs on the importance of focusing on the light rather than the darkness, on what works rather than what doesn’t, on what we have rather than what we don’t have, on love rather than fear. Connect with and express the best of you. See the best in others.

Tips:

  • People’s self-esteem and feelings of healthy social integration will be significantly boosted if you invite them to make eye contact at close range. A friendly and authentic eye contact encourages people out of their shells, fosters feelings of trust, and makes them feel more connected with one another and better about themselves.

2. Engage

What to say: Please follow along, do as suggested, and don’t talk. We will debrief at the end, and everyone will have a chance to share, but right now, we want to silence our minds as much as possible. Thank you.

About no talking:

  • Humor is wonderful, and it is best kept for after the end of your sessions. Here you want to be in your body and simply experience, not be in your head and judge.
  • You don’t have to be 100% rigid with this. It’s rare, but occasionally you will come across people who have humor in their blood and are naturally funny. They’ll make the slightest sound or say the most common thing, and somehow, it will make everybody around them laugh. This key reminder is not relevant for them because you simply can’t not be who you are, and these (rare) people just won’t be able to hear you or understand what it is you are saying. It is very relevant, however, to anybody trying to be funny to attract attention because that mechanism is completely unnecessary.
  • This reminder is the only one you must mention to everybody joining your session that arrives late. If you don’t, there is a strong chance they will not understand what’s happening and try to fit in the best way they know, which is by attempting to be funny themselves in an attempt to make others laugh. This will be an undesirable distraction, both for them and for everybody else.

3. Enjoy

What to say: Be gentle, take it easy, avoid force, no extremes, and enjoy everything you do. Nothing should be painful and even less uncomfortable. No new pain! There is nothing you have to do. Make everything work for you. Respect your body and what it can or cannot do today.

If you have identified resistance in one or more of your participants: Today I invite you to a different kind of experience. What I am offering may not make sense right now and that’s OK. But if you are open to genuinely feeling better I guarantee it’s what’s going to happen within the next [duration of your program]. Now if some of you feel uncomfortable and want to opt out I fully respect it. If that’s you please stay where you are and have a seat. You are very welcome to join us if and when you are ready.

Why: Why be an advocate of fear-psychology? I prefer to focus on what can be done and how rather than what can’t be done and why. This being said, yes, to “follow your heart,” but don’t forget to take your brain with you. Laughing is not a substitute for medical consultation for physical, mental, and psychological illnesses. Laughter is universally well tolerated, but caution is advised in patients with certain concerning health conditions. When in doubt, do not engage in this or any other exercise program and consult with your doctor to make sure laughter is appropriate for you.

Teaching tips:

  • Do NOT take ownership of other people’s problems. If someone asks you, “I have ABC health problem, can I join your class?” your answer should always be, “I don’t know. If you are in doubt, please do not participate until you get your doctor’s approval.
  • If they still choose to participate, you may want to lead a very gentle class with everybody on a chair. Prevention is better than cure. It is your responsibility as the instructor to make sure everybody is safe. Here is what to do when you are concerned about the physical abilities of one or more of your participants: