I grew up in the north of England. My heritage is a mixture from India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. I remember being one of the few families with an Asian background residing in our town and had a sheltered life. I have five siblings and at a very young age I assumed a motherly role, helping babysit them to support my mum. I later realised that my father had mental health issues, but at the time it was not talked about, and it affected my confidence in my younger years. In 1989 I moved to London to pursue my studies in science, where I gained confidence from the joy I found in communicating and working with others and the enjoyment I had living in the capital. I found my playful nature and embraced it. Now I use it to support others in bringing their natural playfulness to the surface in a safe way… with laughter.
What prompted your interest in well-being?
Early in my working life, I found that if I used a few minutes a day to carry out certain habits, I had more energy and could get more done! I was studying full-time at university and had three part-time jobs to support myself. These certain habits, essentially self-care, allowed me to cope with changing circumstances and keep my mind and body strong. I shared these techniques when I was regularly asked how I was able to get so much done with a smile. As with so many people, my life has not been easy, but keeping up with self-care supports my well-being, keeps my life in balance, and helps me ride through rough storms with enough energy to keep going. Self-care is essential. By taking care of yourself, your body, and your mental health, you not only feel better, but also perform better in the long run and are more able to help others.
Please share your career journey with us.
After completing a science degree in 1993, I worked as a development scientist in the city of Oxford, England. I then found my passion in training professionals and working with groups. I spent eight years as a global trainer and taught medical software to medical professionals in over 44 locations worldwide. In 2005, I slipped and fell on a London street and hurt my coccyx (lower back). Craniosacral therapy became an important part of my life and supported my health. I qualified as a craniosacral therapist in 2008, and later added EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) and stress management training to my skillset, alongside cognitive coaching.
I also worked as a part-time carer for people with dementia and have supported individuals experiencing health challenges. I continue to support individuals and teams worldwide by using my top strengths: kindness, fairness, gratitude, creativity, teamwork, excellence, leadership and last but not least, humour!
What’s been your greatest challenge you had to overcome?
In the winter of 2015, in the space of exactly one week, my young nephew passed away unexpectedly, my young son suffered a concussion on a school trip, and I was informed that I was going to lose my job (my sole source of income) through redundancy. I was living as a single mother with two young children (one with regular medical needs) in temporary accommodation. After I put my children to bed, I sought a way to feel lighter and manage my overwhelming emotions. I watched some comedy clips but they didn’t help my frantic thoughts. It felt like too much work to decipher the humour, and the taped laughter sounded jarring to my anxious, tired mind. Then I searched the internet and came across clips of a very young baby’s gurgling and chortling. It was a magical, life-changing moment. My whole body began to relax as I smiled at the baby’s beautiful natural laughter. I replayed the video, then played more similar ones. It was astonishing how much better I felt just from smiling and laughing. My mental tension lifted and I felt less stressed and more relaxed.
This is how laughter found me and led me to become a professional Laughter Well-being facilitator. Essentially, laughing more supported my mental health during a difficult personal time.
What does well-being mean to you?
To me, well-being is about a strong connection to yourself and others.
When you connect deeply to yourself, you feel supported, guided, and at peace. Like any relationship, the one we have with ourself requires time and commitment to build. You can start by checking in with yourself regularly and asking yourself a simple question: “How do I feel right now?” Note your response. Tune into your body and notice what it’s telling you. Another good question is: “What do I need right now?” Are you in need of rest or support?
Likewise, when we have strong relationships with others, it supports us to build a sense of belonging and self-worth. This aids us in sharing positive experiences, provides emotional support, and allows us to support others. Good relationships are important for your mental well-being.
What simple tips can you share with us to maintain optimum health?
I highly recommend laughter! Laughing is a natural method to aid your health, no matter what circumstances and challenges may surround you. It is not a method to ignore and push away negative feelings, but an additional resource that provides a respite and aids your well-being. All the current science shows that to get maximum health benefits from laughter, we need to laugh longer, ideally 15–20 minutes… hence the name of my book: Laugh More. But actually, any amount of laughter supports your well-being! Even smiling promotes good health and has heaps of proven benefits. Children naturally laugh a lot but adults usually don’t, because life can get in the way and we tend to play less. In my book, I share simple straightforward solutions to prolong your laughter so you can feel better.
The positive effects of laughing longer also spill into other areas of your life, such as healthy communication, improved social connections and even happier aging! My wish is that everybody can laugh more, whatever their life situation, so they feel better. You deserve to feel better and access more health. A big part of being human is our need for social connection, and laughter is a universal language. Laughing more is a good way to generate connection with others, plus more joy and well-being in your life.
Secondly, I strongly prescribe scheduled rest. Essentially, the body heals and re-generates when it’s at rest. I am a huge proponent of naps. I even schedule relaxation breaks throughout the day, some as short as 8 minutes. Seek out methods to help you sleep well. When you are awake, there are many demands on your body and your brain. Sleep deprivation can send your system into overdrive, causing it to release greater amounts of stress hormones such as adrenaline and making the heart work harder. When you sleep, your body and mind can focus on restorative tasks and get a healthy break. Sleep also causes the body to release hormones that can slow breathing and relax muscles, all leading to better health.
What prompted you to write your book Laugh More and Soar in Your Health, Career and Relationships?
As I shared earlier, laughter found me and supported my mental health during a difficult personal time. This led me to become a professional Laughter Well-being facilitator. My work with individuals, communities, charities and workplaces gave me insights on how powerful laughter is. I was privy to compelling personal stories that were shared with me by people from all walks of life, and I knew I needed to bring laughter more to the forefront, to help others. This determination led me to write and publish my book on laughter.
My son receives regular blood transfusions due to his ongoing health needs. A lot of my writing for the book took place in the hospital during regular scheduled visits. My gratitude for all the good in my life, and the support and services we received, aided my writing. I have so much appreciation for the nursing and medical staff who cheered me on and listened to my book updates.
In October 2019, I spent some volunteer time with a group of full-time carers who support their spouses and/or adult children with additional needs. Their spirit and humanity shone as they spoke of exhaustion, love and the sheer effort to keep going and live each day as it came. I provided respite through laughter well-being, laughter group exercises (seated, without joke-telling) and calm relaxation in between. When you are laughing, you are in the moment. There is zero stress, only shared joy. There were tears, there were smiles; there was laughter and connection. Personally, I feel that it was one of the highlights of my work. I still work as a carer for a few hours each week, but these peoples’ stories, their resilience, sheer energy and determination took my breath away. Their care work was full-time and many had cared for decades. They loved the laughter session and how much better they felt. They eagerly asked me for more resources, and how they could continue lengthening their laughter so they could access the benefits at home. I told them I had started writing a book. The carers told me to get a move on, so they could get a copy and continue to laugh more! My promise to them gave me the push to complete my book and even record the audiobook, now available on Audible.
What are you currently involved in?
I am passionate about well-being for ALL. I often say that I am “globally active” to indicate that alongside international clients, my work encompasses all people and all groups: individuals, workplaces, communities and charities. I aim to support everyone, because being well leads to working well and leading well. I teach you to access self-care techniques that you can readily use at home, in bed or at your work desk, to decrease stress and power up your health, productivity and focus. You can access better health and avoid and reduce stress through small adjustments in your working day. Some of these adjustments have particular resonance in the current changing climate.
At the moment I am writing my second book, on the topic of communication. This project is close to my heart, because it weaves through and connects to my well-being work. For many people, the anxiety caused by the thought of public speaking stops them from contributing fully and expressing their ideas, in their working life and beyond. I teach them how to de-stress and manage public speaking so they can access relaxation from the beginning to the end of the presentation. I also regularly see how stress reduces communication at work and in personal relationships. Stressed individuals may become easily frustrated or withdraw from loving and working partnerships and teams. When a person is feeling stressed, it can be difficult for them to choose the appropriate words and express them in a kind, supportive way. This contributes to misunderstandings, creates conflict and impacts well-being. I facilitate a communication process with groups that creates a safe supportive space for all to share equally, and it’s suitable for any group that has a common goal.
I look forward to sharing my book when it’s published later in 2021, to expand your well-being through healthy communication!
Sam Rehan is a wellbeing trainer and motivational speaker, born and based in the UK but globally active. Her book Laugh More and Soar in your Health, Career and Relationships was born from the results of her wellbeing and laughter yoga work.