So today is red nose day, a day of comic relief whereby people are doing something funny for money, having fun, doing challenging stuff and raising cash and awareness for worthwhile causes around the world.

I think it is a marvellous way to raise money; by using humour.

To be honest, I have not been able to embrace the red nose day event as fully as I’d like as I have a full 9 days solid training to undertake as of tomorrow. Several of my colleagues here keep telling me that I am going to be knackered, and that it is a long week for me, but I disagree. I love running my courses, I choos to do this work, I love my subject of hypnotherapy and hypnosis and what makes it all so utterly enjoyable… Is the fun I have on the courses.

One of the cornerstones of my hypnotherapy training courses is teaching my budding hypnotherapists that it is OK to have fun, when they are in hypnotherapy training and when they start practicing full-time as a hypnotherapist… Yes indeed, even in hypnotherapy sessions with clients.

Soap operas seem to promote ‘serious issues’, especially Eastenders! Our media is heavily punctuated with seriousness… Being serious seems to be proliferating our existence, then grows into fear, and what with all this recession scaremongering, national cuts here in the UK, natural disasters, wars happening that dominate our news and media… Sheeez!

There is a section during the hypnotherapy training diploma that I entitle ‘How to be Happy’.

Hmmm… It is my way of showing my students how to work therapeutically with a variety of people displaying depressive symptoms, and thought it a better title to that section of the day than ‘Dealing with Depression’, which so many of the hypnotherapy trainings I have been on did, and never inspired me for the learning ahead…

I must say, on the hypnotherapy diploma course, we laugh a great deal. We really do have fun — I insist upon it! I want to explain why I find it so important… Firstly, it creates a great learning environment, we learn more when we are happy and laughing… There is good stuff happening in our heads when we smile and laugh.

This is probably another reason that red nose day is such a success here in the UK, people are so open and receptive when they laugh and smile.

My childhood and younger years were punctuated heavily with Blackadder, Red Dwarf, the Young Ones, George Carlin, Eddy Murphy, Eddie Izzard, Bill Hicks as well as the Two Ronnies, Harry Enfield, Ben Elton, South Park and many others. I still watch comedy most days every week… Heck, I spend lots of my day working with people diagnosed as being depressed, ill, fed-up, anxious, limited in some way, etc, etc. I think laughter is a crucial tonic, an antidote to all that, helping to keep me in a good place. So when you are studying away or engaged upon your hypnotherapy training let me ask you a very important question…

How much do you really laugh?

Not that polite titter you do in response to certain things, I am talking about a full-hearted, belly bursting, proper laugh.

Some people find laughter a serious business! I can remember watching stage hypnotist and hypnosis trainer Paul McKenna running a hypnosis training seminar and anchoring laughter and giggles into someone on stage, and he was pretending to be a ‘Gestapo’-like character and kept saying to the guy, “You vill not laff! Zis iz seee-ree-uss!” I know, you had to be there, but it took apart the notion of laughter being a serious business, the guy on stage was in fits of giggles and it had me rolling about the place…

Getting fun and laughter out of some folk is like blood out of a stone… Apparently, the average adult laughs 15 times a day; the average child, more than 400 times. Fair enough, kids are learning their way through feelings and emotions and could be giggling wildly one moment and screaming in anger the next, however, you get my point, don’t you?

The reason I am writing about this today, I think it is important for anyone that is a hypnotherapist or training to be one, to know that it is well documented that developing and maintaining a sense of humour helps prevent and lift clinical depression because laughing produces ‘feel good chemicals’ and even subdues physical pain. Humour helps us look at aspects of our lives from a different perspective. A well-developed sense of humour attracts other people to us socially and wide social networks are also preventative and palliative as far as depression and related disorders are concerned.

Heck, if you need any more convincing of this notion, then watch Robin Williams starring in the film ‘Patch Adams’, which articulates the point very well indeed… An unconventional doctor who actually encouraged his patients to laugh and be mischievous in the face of more conventional serious healthcare of the time.

We all need to cultivate humour not just to lead happier lives but to encourage flexibility of thought.

Of course, people with a sense of humour can develop depressions; some of my favourite comedians apparently suffered from depression — Frankie Howerd, Kenneth Williams (and Benny Hill — though I am not going to say he was really a favourite of mine)… Though I did watch more than just Carry On films as a child developing a sense of humour!

You can see it though, can’t you? That is, one of the first symptoms of depression setting in can often be losing one’s sense of humour — heck, helping that person find it again could well be just the remedy!

Humour can provide us with seriously important and valid perspectives; goodness, my Mum used to always say, “Never a truer word is spoken in jest…” I used to frown at her saying that, until I actually listened to the jokes my friends used to make about each other in the pub at weekends when I was younger and I started to realise!

Have you really laughed today; even inwardly? Have you found the humour in what is going on?

When I was at school, I often found myself sat in the front of the headmaster being told off for being naughty… School did not stimulate me, I needed more than just verbatim regurgitation of information as my school curriculum mainly comprised of… Yet whenever I was there perplexing the headmaster (I think it irritated him that I got good grades) and he was shouting away, I’d find something ridiculous, I’d find something funny and I’d start giggling.. “Eason, stop this insolence!” came the roar… You know what happens when you bottle up giggles, they want to burst out of your skin, they increase and amplify and everything becomes hilarious… Man, that is a glorious sensation.

Even today, the same happens if I have to sit quietly being serious with my solicitor, bank manager or accountant. They must think I am strange for giggling so much.

When we take things seriously, when we make life such a serious business, I think it can become far less flexible. It becomes staid and stagnant and joy finds it hard to exist in such a place. The same is true within hypnotherapy training and actually being a hypnotherapist — or a therapist of any kind.

Many think it wrong or unprofessional to have fun in therapy, some may even think it too intimate to share laughter. Done in the right manner, with the correct boundaries, laughter helps advance hypnotherapy in my experience.

In places where human rights are not respected in the way we may be accustomed to, comedians are often seen as a threat. Why? Because humour can illuminate truths, break through the constraints of narrow thinking, and puncture self-importance. Humour shows we are not afraid.

Surely these days, we are all increasingly aware of the mental and physical health benefits of regular laughter. Many studies illustrate that genuine laughter  reduces stress hormones, relieves pain, relaxes us and produces endorphins and serotonin. Laughing regularly can ward off depression and help you sleep better and generally enjoy life more. We even call people who make us laugh ‘a real tonic’ following interaction with them.

Right now, if you force a smile onto your face three times in a row, you can even feel the small shot of serotonin you just fired into your body from your brain as it associates that within you…

Enjoy red nose day, and if you are in another country, enjoy laughing today, and I’ll be laughing aplenty in my upcoming diploma course for the next 9 days… Which of course may well mean that my blog posts are sporadic and have less depth for the next week or so, I am sure you’ll manage to get by…