Written by Alison Bell
I have just returned from a very special experience, a week long retreat with the fabulous Kim Morrison of Twenty8 Essentials and 11 other wonderful souls. The retreat was set in Byron Bay and was aptly named the Sensory Retreat. I learnt so many incredible things about self care, self love, rituals in daily life, aromas, oils and varying personality types, but most importantly I learnt to laugh.
Most of us have forgotten how to laugh whole heartedly, unashamedly and continuously. I'm not talking about just for a moment, I'm talking about multiple times a day, every day, for a whole week! Remember that completely uninhibited laughter you had as a kid? That's the one I'm talking about. The one where you feel delirious and aren't even sure what you are laughing about anymore.
The tag line for the retreat was to "check out so we can check in". Each and every one of the
participants had a different interpretation of what that would mean. For me this meant a detox, quiet time, education, stillness, nature, meditation, relaxation and the occasional laugh that our "playful" Kim is guaranteed to provide. The surroundings were blissful and looked more than capable of providing this down time I was seeking. Everything about our location, The Byron at Byron, emitted luxury, nature and seclusion. Little did I know that these were not to be the things that would provide the "retreat" the universe had in mind for me. While I did get stillness in nature it was certainly not at the forefront of this experience. What I actually got was so very much more.
I am unsure at which point our retreat turned from being serious to playful, but I think it may have been on day two when we were lucky enough to have Marcus Pearce pop in for a morning presentation. It is fair to say we took his message from "The Exceptional Life Blueprint" to heart. We quickly rearranged our priorities in life - work out what you love to do and do you do what you love. Clearly this group all loved laughing and letting go of strict boundaries around food, body and mind. And boy did we let go of them for the remaining days! We indulged in the finest of whole fresh organic foods, appreciated organic and biodynamic fermented grapes, home made organic ginger beers, and embellished everything life threw at us with heart-felt laughter.
I soon learnt that meditation and mindfulness (which do not come easily to me) are not the only ways to release stress. Laugh instead! Laughter has been proven to considerably lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, from our bodies. A deep-rooted belly laugh is one of the best feelings in the world! It will bring people together forming bonds and connections. What better way to get to know people than to share a joke, especially the kind that no one else can quite understand unless they were there. They are the kinds of jokes that stay with you forever and cement friendships.
A little laughter can go a long way. When you laugh there are fifteen facial muscles that contract. Not to mention the fun ab workout! When you laugh, the muscles in your abdomen will contract and expand in exactly the same way as when you do an ab workout. It has been proven that one minute of laughter is the same workout as 10 minutes on a rowing machine!!!! I know which one I find more fun!!!!! Laughter is also a huge cardio workout. It gets your heart pumping, makes you short of breath and burns similar calories to a moderate walk or mild jog. Is this not the best way to exercise? Imagine the possibilities of combining exercise with laughter!
Laughter releases endorphins, which are the body's natural pain killers. Have you ever noticed that a good chuckle can take the pain away? There is science behind that, it's not all just a mind over matter and mental distraction.
Laughter can increase your overall sense of wellbeing, implanting a positive outlook on life. It is contagious. Seeing a smile and returning it changes the chemicals in the brain, giving you a natural high. I implore you to find out what makes you laugh and include it in your daily routine for improvements in mind, body and spirit.
So from this retreat I learnt to live life to the fullest and love the people that are around me. To share and be open with others, to expose oneself and be vulnerable, which in turn allows authenticity. To let go of perfectionism, to reveal shame and most importantly to laugh. Laugh at yourself, with others and at nothing in particular. I did not connect with myself by retreating from the world and others, I connected with myself by authentically connecting with others and allowing the fun in.
You need to lose yourself, to find yourself. And I did just that on this retreat, through laughter.
Happy healthy guts,