Happy Doc Student Podcast

#23 Laugh to Feel Good with Christine Alexander

April 14, 2021 Heather Frederick, PhD Episode 23
Happy Doc Student Podcast
#23 Laugh to Feel Good with Christine Alexander
Chapters
Happy Doc Student Podcast
#23 Laugh to Feel Good with Christine Alexander
Apr 14, 2021 Episode 23
Heather Frederick, PhD

Humor is often one of the first things to go when you are in a doctoral program. 

In this episode you will exercise your funny bone and learn games you can play (with or without your friends and family) that will get you laughing.

Bonus: These same games actually make you a better human being!

Christine Alexander is a founding member of Florida Studio Theaters Improv Troupe, and her TV appearances include SNN News, Channel 10, and she's a frequent co-host for the Suncoast View on ABC 7. She's also appeared in numerous publications like the Herald Tribune, Scene Magazine and Style Magazine to name just a few. Christine has harnessed the power of laughter through two decades of professional improvisational stage comedy, corporate team building, and comedy wellness programs that she's now delivering all over the world.

She lives by the motto "If it feels good to laugh, then laugh, to feel good". 

Why Laugh?

  • Laughter benefits you both physically, mentally, and emotionally (just google Norman Cousins and laughter yoga).
  • Laughter is an excellent stress reducer.
  • You do not have to be funny to exercise your funny bone!
  • Humor is a great way to calm that Monkey Mind so you can be more present.
  • Humor practices help you TRUST yourself and be less judgmental (who couldn’t use more of that these days?)
  • If nothing seems funny - just laugh anyway (your body won't know the difference)

Games

1.     Last Word, First Word: Listen and wait until the last word and use it as the first word in your sentence. 

2.     Last Letter, First Letter: Listen and wait until the last word, look at the last letter of that last word and use it as your first letter in my sentence. I think. I really enjoyed watching you go through that. Get stuck? Start making the shape of the letter and let whatever comes – come!

3.     Questions Only - only ask each other questions.

4.     Restricted Word Game - Each person gets a number under 20. Example: The first person gets three, the next person gets five, and maybe the third person gets 12. Each time you speak, you only have three words or you only have five words or you only have 12 words and you have to get everything out in those three, five or 12 words. 

5.     Red Ball - Say “red ball” to someone; you can’t throw the ball until they say “red ball” back. 

6.     1 to 50  - A group of people all close their eyes and count together to 50. Each taking a turn to say the next number. And if two say the next number at the same time, then you have to start all over.

 “If it feels good to laugh, then laugh to feel good. And if it feels good to cry, then cry to feel good.” Christine Alexander 

Connect with Christine
Facebook
: https://www.facebook.com/laughinglunches/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/christinesaidso
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/christinealexander/
Website: https://laughtofeelgood.com/
Games Document: https://laughtofeelgood.com/news/f/improv-games-for-all-ages

Recommended Resources: https://www.expandyourhappy.com

Support this free content and buy Heather a yummy green teahttps://www.buymeacoffee.com/expandyourhappy

 

Show Notes Transcript

Humor is often one of the first things to go when you are in a doctoral program. 

In this episode you will exercise your funny bone and learn games you can play (with or without your friends and family) that will get you laughing.

Bonus: These same games actually make you a better human being!

Christine Alexander is a founding member of Florida Studio Theaters Improv Troupe, and her TV appearances include SNN News, Channel 10, and she's a frequent co-host for the Suncoast View on ABC 7. She's also appeared in numerous publications like the Herald Tribune, Scene Magazine and Style Magazine to name just a few. Christine has harnessed the power of laughter through two decades of professional improvisational stage comedy, corporate team building, and comedy wellness programs that she's now delivering all over the world.

She lives by the motto "If it feels good to laugh, then laugh, to feel good". 

Why Laugh?

  • Laughter benefits you both physically, mentally, and emotionally (just google Norman Cousins and laughter yoga).
  • Laughter is an excellent stress reducer.
  • You do not have to be funny to exercise your funny bone!
  • Humor is a great way to calm that Monkey Mind so you can be more present.
  • Humor practices help you TRUST yourself and be less judgmental (who couldn’t use more of that these days?)
  • If nothing seems funny - just laugh anyway (your body won't know the difference)

Games

1.     Last Word, First Word: Listen and wait until the last word and use it as the first word in your sentence. 

2.     Last Letter, First Letter: Listen and wait until the last word, look at the last letter of that last word and use it as your first letter in my sentence. I think. I really enjoyed watching you go through that. Get stuck? Start making the shape of the letter and let whatever comes – come!

3.     Questions Only - only ask each other questions.

4.     Restricted Word Game - Each person gets a number under 20. Example: The first person gets three, the next person gets five, and maybe the third person gets 12. Each time you speak, you only have three words or you only have five words or you only have 12 words and you have to get everything out in those three, five or 12 words. 

5.     Red Ball - Say “red ball” to someone; you can’t throw the ball until they say “red ball” back. 

6.     1 to 50  - A group of people all close their eyes and count together to 50. Each taking a turn to say the next number. And if two say the next number at the same time, then you have to start all over.

 “If it feels good to laugh, then laugh to feel good. And if it feels good to cry, then cry to feel good.” Christine Alexander 

Connect with Christine
Facebook
: https://www.facebook.com/laughinglunches/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/christinesaidso
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/christinealexander/
Website: https://laughtofeelgood.com/
Games Document: https://laughtofeelgood.com/news/f/improv-games-for-all-ages

Recommended Resources: https://www.expandyourhappy.com

Support this free content and buy Heather a yummy green teahttps://www.buymeacoffee.com/expandyourhappy

 

Christine Alexander: [00:00:00] It is imperative that we find people to laugh with.

Heather Frederick: [00:00:10] You're listening to the Happy Doc Student Podcast, a Podcast dedicated to providing clarity to the often mysterious doctoral process. Do you feel like you're losing your mind? Let me and my guests show you how to put more joy in your journey. And graduate with your sanity, health and relationships intact.

I'm your host, Dr. Heather Frederick. And this is episode 23. And in this episode, I invite you to kick back, relax, have some fun and get ready to laugh. When I was making a list of some of the first guests that I wanted to be on my podcast. I knew I wanted someone to talk about the importance of humor, but I didn't know who that would be.

So I got on my computer, started Google searching and I came across Christine Alexander's bio, which read in part: her favorite days are the ones where she provides a safe space to care receivers, and caregivers of cancer and Parkinson's treatments, where a good laugh can often help to cope with stress. She's been told "for that hour I didn't think about cancer at all". And that feeling is why she offers these classes free of charge for these participants. And I'll tell you, my eyes started to well up, but I continued to read: in her free time, christine enjoys stocking celebrities on social media, late night snacking and laughing loudly in awkward situations!

And I thought, Oh please, Oh please let her say yes to being on my show. I can't wait for this conversation today. But before we dig in, let me tell you just a bit more about Christine's impressive background. She is a founding member of Florida Studio Theaters Improv Troupe, and her TV appearances include SNN News, Channel 10, and she's a frequent co-host for the Suncoast View on ABC 7..

She's also appeared in numerous publications like the Herald Tribune, Scene Magazine and Style Magazine to name just a few. Christine has harnessed the power of laughter through two decades of professional improvisational stage comedy, corporate team building, and comedy wellness programs that she's now delivering all over the world.

She lives by the motto "if it feels good to laugh than laugh, to feel good". Christine, I'm so excited to have you on today's show. 

Christine Alexander: [00:02:30] Oh, my goodness, Heather. Thank you for having me. I love that you found me out of all the people on the internet.

Heather Frederick: [00:02:37] It was me. It was, it was you you're meant to be here today. So I'm curious, Christine, how does one make a career out of laughter?

And did you always know you were funny? 

Christine Alexander: [00:02:48] That's a good question. In fact, in high school, I remember people always telling me, like, you're so funny, you should be an actor. And I was like, okay. So I didn't plan on going to college. I actually was at my baccalaureate and somebody said, where are you going to college?

And I was like, I don't know yet. And she's like, we're graduating in two days. How do you not know? And then I got a gig. What, I guess, that's what you call it in high school. I got a part in a play and I went to a Christian high school and it was called the gift of the I. So it was very religious. Well, I asked my director

 if I could play it as a kleptomaniac. I just had this one little role where I came in the door and I wanted to steal the scarf off the wall before the girl I was playing with turned around. And this one time I did it, I just barely got the scarf in my purse before she turned around and the entire audience laughed so loudly.

And I knew that laughter was for me. And that moment, I had taken my first drug of laughter. And then I knew I needed to be on stage from that moment on. So yeah, I think it's like my, what do you call it? My racket. 

Heather Frederick: [00:04:01] It's your calling. 

Christine Alexander: [00:04:03] My calling.

Heather Frederick: [00:04:04] And what a cool one, because I know when I laugh, I do feel good. And I think when you're in a program like a doctoral program, or even right now with everything that's going on in the world, it feels like some days I ask myself, when was the last time that I laughed?

Christine Alexander: [00:04:21] Yes. 

Heather Frederick: [00:04:22] And, and sometimes I can't even remember the last time I had a good belly laugh. 

Christine Alexander: [00:04:27] I can tell you because of COVID, we've moved our workshops to zoom, and there are muscles behind my ears that when I go on Friday, when we start laughing that these little muscles behind my ears start aching, and I realize that they're my laughter muscles and they haven't been worked out

like they used to be worked out. So I get what you mean.

Heather Frederick: [00:04:52] So we've got this laughter muscle that is, I think, just an important part of the human experience. On your website, you talk about some of the benefits to laughter. 

Christine Alexander: [00:05:03] Absolutely. I mean, like you said earlier, the lady that was my first workshop delivering for people who had cancer and she came up and said for that hour, I didn't think about cancer at all.

And that was so eye opening. I felt like I received my doctorate at that moment. You know, I felt like I cured her for an hour. And I have ladies and gentlemen tell me constantly "thank you for doing this workshop. I don't have anybody else to laugh with. I look forward to this every week". And just recently I had food poisoning for two weeks and I couldn't do it.

I had other people cover for me, but I was, that was the only thing I could think of was who was going to cover my class. Cause it's so it's so beautiful to see their faces each week so happy and  excited to laugh with each other. 

Heather Frederick: [00:05:56] And there's more and more research coming out about the positive benefits, both physically and emotionally, the things that are going on in your body.

I remember being in graduate school and my partner sharing with me an article by Norman Cousins. And I don't know if you're familiar with this article, but I believe it came out in the late 70s where he claimed that laughter cured this incurable disease that he had. And he would ask the nurses, could they play old movies that made them laugh and would they read him jokes. His story, it actually got published in a medical journal and people started paying attention to what happens in the body when we are letting go and laughing.

But I think some people think well, but I'm just not a funny person. Do you have to be funny to find laughter?

Christine Alexander: [00:06:44] That's the best part. Let me tell you how I got into improv. So in 2001, I'm like an adult by this point and I have a friend who's telling me, please go get an acting job, do something you're driving me crazy.

So I finally look up in the newspaper. It said acting class, no scripts required. And I thought. That's I would, I would love that because I don't memorize anything. So that would be great. So when I went there for those two hours, I had the same exact experience that the lady did. The little voice in my head

that's constantly telling me to sit down, shut up, don't do all those things. She was quiet. She didn't say anything. She was so quiet. And I was playing and being silly with all of these adults. And I was like, what is this here? As soon as those two hours were over, that voice came rushing back. But for those two hours, I was free of criticism and judgment.

Even with the people that I was with. That was the most important thing about improv is that we respect each other. Oh my gosh. It's imperative that we find people to laugh with. 

Heather Frederick: [00:07:57] When I hear your story, I think, Oh my gosh. That would actually give me anxiety, Christine, to like, be with a bunch of people on a stage.

Christine Alexander: [00:08:07] So you did ask, you asked why do you have to be my point on that whole thing was no, you don't have to be funny. In fact, if you look at the comedy legends, Dick and Tommy Smothers, you know, there's a straight man and the crazy man. So if you look at the straight man, he's still hilarious, right? So, it's about how you perform, not what you say.

Okay. In fact, I went to the magnet theater in New York a few years ago and study there. It was so cool. It was like three weeks of, you know, intense studying. And they taught me that it's not what you say, it's how you say it. And so that's where the funny. Lies. Okay. So even though you don't think you're being funny, we think you're being funny.

Heather Frederick: [00:08:59] So maybe one tip would be to set the intention, like, Hey, I'm going to be a little less serious today and I'm going to keep my eyes open for something that's humorous.

Christine Alexander: [00:09:08] I love that you did that, that you gave yourself permission to be okay with what's going to happen. I'm going to be outside my box a little bit and it's okay.

I'm going to look for humor. That's beautiful. I'm going to give you a game that I play. It's a great listening game where, you know how, when you're in a conversation with somebody and you have something to say, and you're just waiting for that person to close their lips, so you can start talking because we already know what we're going to say?

Well, in order to slow that down, I play last letter, first letter. So I'm going to listen to every single word you say and wait until the last word and look at the last letter of that last word and use it as my first letter in my sentence. This makes sure that I hear every single word that you're saying.

You can practice it by saying the last word, if you want. Do you want to try it? 

Heather Frederick: [00:10:06] Yeah. Okay.

Christine Alexander: [00:10:07] Okay. So we'll do a once upon a time story. Okay. Once upon a time, there was a big grizzly bear. 

Heather Frederick: [00:10:19] Bear with me here, Christine. I'm really trying to hang in there. 

Christine Alexander: [00:10:24] There you go, Heather, you just did it. That's the best.

Heather Frederick: [00:10:29] That would be a fun game to play around the dinner table.

Christine Alexander: [00:10:34] It is. And then, you know, I'd like to do the word one first because you get used to it and then you have to do the letter one the next time. You know, like round two, little harder. Because you really have to listen then, because your mind fills in what you're going to say, you know?

So let's try, let's try it with the letters. 

Heather Frederick: [00:10:52] Okay. 

Christine Alexander: [00:10:52] Heather, the teacher called me and said that you were being loud in class today. 

Heather Frederick: [00:11:00] You know, that's interesting. Let me think about my day and see where that might be coming from. 

Christine Alexander: [00:11:07] My, my, my, do I hear sarcasm in your voice?

Heather Frederick: [00:11:12] And what we have here, listeners is a whole lot of dead airspace while I am trying to figure out what the heck to say.

Earlier in the day. I might've said that that was true, but right now I'm going to say no? That was hard, Christine!

Christine Alexander: [00:11:28] You did so well, tell me how it was. 

Heather Frederick: [00:11:31] You know what it's, it was hard to not crack a smile because I was cracking myself up. It immediately took me out of being this analytical, linear thinker.

And allowed me to just kind of play. And I think that that's one thing that maybe we start to lose as we get older? We see children laughing all the time and it's almost as if at some point someone told us if you're laughing, you must not be taking life seriously. 

Christine Alexander: [00:12:00] Yes. Yeah. It's just like, if you're laying on the couch, you "don't have anything to do?"

You know? It's like I am resting. That's what I'm doing. Wow. I thought you did really great. And so that does also kind of balance what I was saying about being funny. You know? You were naturally funny without even trying. So I want to go back to the last letter, cause your eyes are still mesmerized about that game,

I think. I really enjoyed watching you go through that. 

Heather Frederick: [00:12:34] You know, it felt like it was a cognitive exercise in creativity. I don't normally really think of myself as a creative person, but it felt like it was giving me a chance to, like you said, kind of go outside the box, maybe be a little silly. Think about what was it that I really wanted to say.

And this idea of stopping the monkey mind that we all, well, maybe all of us don't have. I certainly have a monkey mind, but what a great way when someone's talking about something, especially something that could be triggering. If you are a student and your committee member, or your professor was saying something and you can immediately feel yourself, kind of reacting, maybe you're feeling attacked or misunderstood to say I'm going to play that game with myself and use that last letter.

Now here's the question I have for you though. Do you tell the other person you're doing it? 

Christine Alexander: [00:13:24] You don't have to no way, you know, I mean, unless you want to play around the dinner table, but if you're in a real serious, because conversation that you want to pay attention to, I wouldn't tell the person and guess what if you get there and you're like, the last word was surprise and you start with the letter S

instead of E, nobody's going to know it's okay. It's just a way to slow, like you said, your monkey brain down. It's slowing my voice from coming out too quickly.

Heather Frederick: [00:13:55] It feels  like when we do that is when maybe that's when we see these opportunities for things that we can view maybe in a more humorous way. It kind of lightens you up.

Christine Alexander: [00:14:07] Yeah. And you know, there is a beautiful moment where I think your, your letter was E and you were like, I cannot think of one word that starts with E. You know? There's this moment of blank. And I always suggest to start making the mouth shape of the letter you're about to say, and it just, something comes out.

The other thing that we're going to learn is that you're going to trust yourself. So your brain was going okay. And you're thinking of all these words and you're going, not that one, not that one, not that one. Not good enough. Not good enough. Not funny enough, but what we do in improv is we go, Oh, this came up elephant.

And I said, elephant, and see what happens. You know, we just trust and go.

Heather Frederick: [00:14:52] Trust and go. I love that. I'm curious. When you work with people, how do you get them to laugh? What are some of the techniques that you use? 

Christine Alexander: [00:15:02] Well, we play games like the one that I just played with you, the last letter, first letter. I play another game called Questions Only where we only ask each other questions.

It's hilarious. Do you want to try it? 

Heather Frederick: [00:15:13] Okay 

Christine Alexander: [00:15:15] Heather, where were you last night? 

Heather Frederick: [00:15:18] Where were you this morning? 

Christine Alexander: [00:15:20] Are you surprised I wasn't here? 

Heather Frederick: [00:15:25] Are you wondering where I was last night? 

Christine Alexander: [00:15:28] Have you been lying to me? 

Heather Frederick: [00:15:31] Why do you ask so many questions? 

Christine Alexander: [00:15:33] Where were you last night? 

Heather Frederick: [00:15:36] Where are you right now? 

Christine Alexander: [00:15:39] See, you did it fantastically.

A lot of people fall into the habit of answering the question. And then you can't ask a question because you're answering the question. But what you did was you told a story with me. We both were trying to figure out where you were last night and we stayed with that. You see what I'm saying? 

Heather Frederick: [00:16:01] Yeah. Everything that you've suggested so far, I just keep going back to my dinner table with teenagers, where we don't have a lot to say these days. You know what happened at school today? Well, I logged in, I did an assignment, right? There's less and less to talk about and this idea that you can build community, build relationship, and absolutely get some chuckles out along the way.

That's doing all these amazing things inside our body. Stress is at an all time high for everyone right now, not just this audience. I almost think of it as like a little secret weapon in your pocket. You can either be playing it by yourself and no one needs to know, or you can get other people involved and have a good chuckle.

Christine Alexander: [00:16:46] It's so true. 

Heather Frederick: [00:16:48] It's really cool. 

Christine Alexander: [00:16:49] Yeah. I do love them. I'll tell you one more The Restricted Word Game. So if you're at the dinner table and you have, you know, three people there, each person gets a number under 20. The first person gets three, the next person gets five, and maybe the third person gets 12.

Okay. So each time you speak, you only have three words or you only have five words or you only have 12 words and you have to get everything out in those three, five or 12 words. It's hilarious. 

Heather Frederick: [00:17:23] These are such great tips and tricks. And I think you've actually, you've got a document on your website that people can download and print out, maybe put on the kitchen table, or this might be a fun ice breaker at a team meeting.

For those of you looking for that. 

Christine Alexander: [00:17:39] I actually do that. I realized that the games that we play in order to be successful in front of a paying audience are really good for team building. Support, respect, listening to each other, having less judgment of each other. There's one game called Red Ball that we play where I say, this is my little red ball.

And I say to you, Heather red ball, and I can't throw you the red ball until you say to me, red ball. And you, you say I'm going take it. So Heather red ball. 

Heather Frederick: [00:18:10] Red ball.

Christine Alexander: [00:18:11] And now I can throw it. And now you, you say that to me.

Heather Frederick: [00:18:15] Red ball, Christine.

Christine Alexander: [00:18:16] Red ball. And then you throw it to me. Right. But what we see sometimes is in business, if I'm the boss and you're possibly my secretary, right.

I might come in like this and go red ball, and just throw it in your face and keep walking. 

Heather Frederick: [00:18:30] Interesting. 

Christine Alexander: [00:18:31] I didn't ask you if you were ready for my red ball at all, did I? These games show how to be a respectable human. The traits of a good improviser ended up being the traits of a good human. 

Heather Frederick: [00:18:44] So, what I'm putting together here is if I learn tools to calm my monkey mind and be more present, I'm going to find more laughter.

Christine Alexander: [00:18:55] Yes. Yes. I think that, especially when you get with some friends who are also willing to let go of the monkey mind and just play and be silly. When I start my workshops, I start with the commitment to provide a very safe and courageous place for people to have fun and play in. And if at any time someone is not having fun or they don't feel courageous, they can just say, I don't want to play this one. It's okay. And that commitment has proven to me that humans are capable of being in a space with other humans and not being judged and not judging themselves. Not judging myself and not judging other people. It's a practice. It's taken 20 years for me to be like, Hey, that's what they did.

It's all right. You know, it's a really wonderful place to feel included and supported and funny, even if you don't feel funny. 

Heather Frederick: [00:19:58] You know what Christine, when you were talking, I was just getting chills because  it feels like lately with the world, there's so much judgment.  We have almost gotten in this loop of judging, judging, judging. Instead of being inclusive and caring about creating this safe space. You know, and I think you really hit onto something that maybe we don't laugh as much as we used to because we don't feel as safe to express ourselves.

Christine Alexander: [00:20:24] It's true. There's one game we play that's on the list that you'll be downloading. It's called 1 to 50 where we have a group of people and we all close our eyes and we count together to 50. So we each take a turn and say the next number. And if two of us say the next number at the same time, then we have to start all over.

When we play this game, I noticed that people try to go fast. So they go one, two, three.  But what that does is that lets me know how much time I have to get my word in. So if I then say four. That allows you to know that we have space to continue. Right? So  all these games just kind of smack you back into reality and go, Oh, I need to be nicer..

Heather Frederick: [00:21:17] And let myself laugh. 

Christine Alexander: [00:21:19] And let myself laugh. Yes, please laugh. Look up Yoga laughter. They talk about simulated laughter. Opposed to like, laughter that, you know, I laughed at a joke. You can just go ha, ha, ha, ha, ha and your body thinks that you're laughing. Look it up. 

Heather Frederick: [00:21:35] So fake it til you make it.

Christine Alexander: [00:21:37] Fake it till you make it.

 Christine, 

Heather Frederick: [00:21:40] you have so many great tips. Now, where can the listeners find this document? 

Christine Alexander: [00:21:45] Laugh to feel good.com. 

Heather Frederick: [00:21:47] If you have any issues, just look in the show notes because we'll direct you there as well. And can people follow you on Instagram or other social media? . 

Christine Alexander: [00:21:55] Yes. I'm at Christine Alexander on Instagram and most other stuff.

It's either Christina Alexander improv or improv christina Alexander just those three words together. You'll find me. I do personal workshops too. So there's like 45 minutes. We just zoom together and do silly games and laugh. 

Heather Frederick: [00:22:18] So if you're feeling stuck and like it's been a while since you've laughed, look up Christine, because I can tell you I had a great time,

interacting with you just connecting with you today. And I feel lighter. I feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. So thank you for that gift. What about some final words of wisdom or an inspirational quote? What do you want to leave with the audience today? 

Christine Alexander: [00:22:41] I would like you to know that if it feels good to laugh, then laugh to feel good.

And if it feels good to cry, then cry to feel good. 

Heather Frederick: [00:22:53] Christine. Thank you so much for being here today and reminding us about the importance of feeling good. 

Christine Alexander: [00:23:00] Thank you for having me, Heather,

Heather Frederick: [00:23:07] If you love listening to the Happy Doc Student Podcast, would you mind supporting me? The best way you can do this is by sharing your favorite episodes with a friend or two, or heck maybe three. All episodes are available on most podcast directories, my YouTube channel, and my website.

To make it easy, I'll pop these links in the show notes below. Now, if you really want to show me some love, then visit my website: ExpandYourHappy.Com where you can buy me a yummy green tea and check out the resources I recommend. Until next time, here's to more joy in your journey. Oh, Hey, one more thing. I do need to remind you that the information, opinions and recommendations presented in this podcast are for general information only.