Step Up Create

September 28, 2021
E04 – The Joy of Creativity
The Step Up Create Podcast
The Step Up Create Podcast
E04 - The Joy of Creativity

Show Notes

This week we chat with Naila Qalqili, Art Therapist and Coach, Joy and Kindness Expert, Director of the Laughter Therapy School of Barcelona.

We talk about the pleasure of losing yourself in creativity, giving yourself permission to be wrong and the importance of making room for joy.

We explore what laughter therapy is and how it can help people to connect with their inner child and get to know themselves better. We also look at how to incorporate play in our lives, even at the hardest times and how saying yes to joy can even help in the most extreme situations.   

Naila’s website is Facebook @escuelarisoterapiabarcelona

If you’d like to sign up to our Free 5 Day Find Your Stories Challenge at

Find our website at Follow us on Instagram @step_up_create Follow us on Facebook @stepupcreate 

Follow my art at an on Instagram at @katieannice

Original music written and performed by Jonathan D. Mellor licensed to Step Up Create S.L.

Hi everybody and welcome back. First of all I wanted to say a big thank you to all of you who listened liked shared followed whatever the podcast, last week we had an amazing response, I was so happy to see the downloads going up little by little at first and then and then going really well. So thank you for that and thank you for being here now because that means you must have listened to something you thought was slightly interesting to be back. Well, maybe. Anyway, today we’re going to be interviewing my good friend Naila Qalqili and she’s going to be talking more about creativity and joy, and how we can incorporate more joy and happiness into our lives, even when we’re going through more difficult things in life. 

So just before we hear the interview with Naila, I wanted to let you know about my find your stories challenge, which I’ve got running next week it’s a free challenge, five days where you’ll find and hone five of your own personal stories for use in presentations in motivating others, and in telling people more about who you are and why they should work with you, so there’s not really a good reason why not to try and find your stories. You can find out more about it on the website, and I’ll also include it in the show notes. For now, let’s get on with the show.


Hi everybody, welcome. And on this week’s podcast, we have a very special guest, my good friend, Niala Qalqili, who is an art therapist, Coach, a play joy and kindness expert, director of the laughter therapy school of Barcelona. Welcome Naila,



I thank you so much for having me. I feel so honoured.



Well, I’m very honoured that you’re my first guest on this podcast that is talking a little bit about how to live your creative life and I know you and I have gone through quite a lot of training together we did transdisciplinary art therapy, and we did just out therapy together so it’s five years of basically seeing each other cry. And apart from that you have a really interesting background, and have had a really interesting life so far. So I would just like to talk a little bit about creativity, your take on creativity, how you incorporate that into your life, and maybe we can start by the really basic question of what is creativity for you.



I think that creativity is so many things at the same time, that it’s really hard to kind of synthesise it in one sentence or even one small paragraph. I’ll do my best. I think that creativity for me is when it’s something very magical, let’s say paradoxical. When your body, and emotions and mind kind of align all together in a state of harmony, and you start to be connected with your imagination with your curiosity, I think it’s a state of play, it’s when you are with your mind, your body and your emotions in a state of play. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are playing, you can be actually at work for me, the state of plays when you enjoy the challenge. It’s the pleasure of just enjoying the process of doing something. When you enter in a kind of bubble of timelessness of being in the presence of entering in a kind of extraordinary bubble where you. You’re the only one who exists in whatever it is that you have at your hands right then, and at the same time, it’s entering in a world of uncertainty and willingness to take a risk and to give yourself the permission to be wrong, and whatever comes out of that.



I love that I love the idea of it being a mixture of this almost childlike approach is play. And also, again, a little bit like a child, being able to overcome the risks or the potential risks and just get on and do it.



Definitely, because maybe you can be pushed to creativity from let’s say, fear, or anger or, but when you are actually connected to this kind of source of creation, you’re enjoy in the hope that something beautiful is going to come out of this. And you never know what the result is is just that you’re hoping for something or you’re not even thinking many times you’re not even thinking about the result, you’re just enjoying the process of whatever it is you’re doing a little bit like we’re doing now.



You work a lot with laughter therapy, I have to admit that I don’t know as much as I should about this. How much is that about helping adults to reconnect with their child.



It has everything to do with connecting with the child that every single person has in them, and also to connect with this source of allowing myself to play, because I think, unfortunately, as adults, we tend to lose this capacity of connecting to play, and through laughter therapy because we kind of provoke, laughter, fake it till you make it situations, which is fine because the right hemisphere of the brain starts functioning, and it’s the same part of the brain that’s connected to creativity. And the most of the laughter therapy sessions are actually just people playing games enjoying games where they don’t have to think about the result, where they’re only enjoying the process and laughter just comes out in a spontaneous way and it connects them to this kind of childlike and curious part.



Yeah, I remember there was a time when I was having a really hard time with, with one of my sons when, when he was a baby, and I’ve managed to sign up to doing improvisational theatre, and there was this one exercise where we were just telling a story in the dark, we were doing like a radio play. And it was so funny, we just we were all just lying on the floor laughing our heads off. And when I got back from that I was like wow, that was an amazing piece of therapy that I just went through and it wasn’t therapy, it was called something else that that sort of just made me think about that moment of joy, like you said, it’s it’s connecting with that joy,



what you just said, is something that we actually do in laughter therapy sessions at the end, we tried to finish the session with a part where people just lie down on the floor with their eyes closed, we turn off the lights as much as possible. And it’s just we invite them to give themselves permission, because I think in many ways, in society today, we just don’t give ourselves the permission to let go the permission to just do something not thinking of the why the where the what, you know, it’s just letting go, and that is the kind of joy that you can feel in laughter therapy whether it says, long training or just a single session. And this is a place where you can really start creating from that fills you with the feeling of abundance, the feeling of, of gratitude, the feeling of openness to the world, which is I think why children are happier than adults because they do it more.



And how do you think that we could incorporate this more into business because I work a lot with business people, and what I see there, and I know that you’ve worked a lot in business as well, is that there’s this sort of tendency to try and be very serious and that’s kind of what’s expected, and yet it seems to make sense for there to be some pockets of this kind of therapy which would allow people to open up and be more creative.



I work a lot with companies, and sometimes they don’t like the word therapy. So they prefer to be called a team building, or sessions of emotional intelligence, the essence stays the same. And you’d be surprised how quickly they can connect like so many times we start a workshop and everyone is in ties and really looking very proper and very serious and all of that, but I think it’s putting them in context. The introduction is always very important. And just also explaining it from a scientific point of view, so that they understand that this is not something new. It’s not something superficial, let’s say, even Socrates, were talking about 1000s of years ago, and he said that, be joyful so that you can be serious, and so many other philosophers, scientists, they actually understood the importance of joy from a very long time ago. So I think if we, when we start talking with people who find it hard to accept the idea of just pure joy. For the sake of joy. We can explain to them how important it is for their day to day work that it’s something practical, that they can incorporate in their everyday life, and that they will be more productive when they do so, then they accept it more.



It’s interesting, our how tired we are to this idea of productivity, and how everything, whether in business or in life, really, it’s very much kind of how productive Am I being, is this going to give me some kind of return on investment. And of course you can’t measure return on investment on joy or living a better life.



Yeah, you’re absolutely right. I think that, for example, one of the ways that I explain what we do is that I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, the use of the three R’s, there’s, we’re always thinking about results we want results. And I say, any company has resources, whether it’s the human resources, whether it’s their technical resources. And I can’t help will be resources, but in order to change the results which everybody wants. I can change the third R which is the relationships. So when we come in, trying to change the way the dynamic of the relationship. In a place to get different results. And that’s where joy comes in and that’s where clay comes in and that’s where creativity comes in, It changes our relationships with ourselves and with our team.



For me, that also connects with this idea of humanising business and therefore humanising society in every step that we can do, every little one of us who is trying to make changes in this area from whatever area we’re doing is, is really important it is, let’s go back to you a little bit. What how do you incorporate creativity in your life, so I can see that you’re doing a lot of helping others, you’ve got the school of laughter therapy. I know you have individual clients as well. And so you’re doing a lot of helping other people what how do you incorporate it in your life for yourself.



I’ve done it throughout my whole life. It’s just been a journey of creativity all the time by reinventing myself. Because at some point I was a teacher then I was a translator I translated several books and then I was correspondent for News Channel TV channel. And then I was a diplomat. So, all of them are very different career options let’s



say somewhere along the line you got a PhD.



Yes I did. And it was in political science and it wasn’t in art therapy like I have a master’s in art therapy but it’s kind of it’s reinventing myself and always trying to do things that I enjoy. Because if I don’t enjoy it, it becomes a burden. Now, sometimes if there’s something that I really need to do. I just try to change it in a way so that it becomes joyful to me. Let’s say if I’m washing the dishes. I just tried to put on some music and dance while I’m washing the dishes, if I have to do something very technological which, as you already know I’m not that like I do not enjoy very much, I try to just lower my expectations, in the sense of like, I’m going to enjoy it before doing any kind of workshop for others, where I want them to enjoy my first objective is for me to enjoy it because then it will be an experience of pleasure for others.



It’s interesting, it reminds me what you were just saying reminds me of how I get my son to do things he doesn’t want to do, you know, just try and make it into a game, put some music on challenge him put a timer on see how many dishes you could wash him in 10 minutes, make a game out of it. Exactly. So it sounds like you’re incorporating a lot of play into your everyday life as well as this joy. Play as a route to joy.



Yes, I think the two are interconnected, because for it to be a game, it has to be fun, otherwise it becomes an exercise it becomes something that we have to do so for it to be a game per se, it has to be fun. And so trying to make life into a whole big game, I think that’s, that’s what works nice



life is the game I like it. Yes, it’s kind of connected to that idea of life as a work of art, if you could connect those two together life as a work of art, and a game.



I think that for me, art is also a game, it’s about the ice for example when we do workshops, especially with really serious teams that they always feel the pressure of the result, I have to do it properly. I have to do I have to be amazing. I added there’s always a sense of competition. So we kind of try to lower it and go into more into cooperation rather than competition. And also, just by putting the word play. Before anything, it kind of turns off all the pressure of the result. Example, if we’re going to play, to draw. We’re not just going to draw, we’re not going to paint. We’re going to play a game of painting, we’re going to play a game of dancing, we’re going to play a game of writing, also because so many people hear the pressure when they have to write something and they’re like, oh my god I can’t do it. So just putting the word play, before anything else makes it what I don’t know, enjoyable, I think.



So I think maybe some people listening might be thinking, Okay, it’s all very well when you’re talking about just normal things like washing the dishes. But what if you’re in a really difficult situation in your life and you need to sort of get through that, How do you get through that and I know that you have been in more difficult situations than maybe we’re talking about here now. How would you advise someone or what what thoughts do you have on on this on. On approaching life as a game, even when life is making things really difficult for you.



Yeah, that’s true. I like, I’m originally Palestinian, and I was born in Syria and I grew up as a child in Lebanon during civil war and war with Israel. And so we start so many days, weeks or months in underground basically in bunkers hiding from, from the war, I think maybe this is what helps me now in my everyday life because as children, we used to play for example with my mom by making shadows because there wouldn’t be so many times there wouldn’t be any electricity. So we just make play with the shadows on the wall, or we play games and we tell jokes so that, you know, just with our laughter so we wouldn’t be listening to the sounds of the bombs falling all the time. So you can say that I come from a part of the world where there’s so much anger so much fear, and so much sadness that from personal experience, I can, I really know the importance of joy, and the importance of connecting to joy, and it’s not about saying no to the other emotions, it’s just saying, and I can be joyful. So, yes, I have been through tough times, and also even when I was studying, whether it was art therapy or laughter therapy, I was going through several losses like processes of loss in my life, I lost my brother, my arm, and so it’s just about accepting that this is happening, it’s not about turning your, your back to it, pretending that it’s not there, it’s learning how to live with what with what you have and give yourself the permission for me the word, and is something, it’s that it seems like such a small sound, but it’s very very important and it’s very empowering because we usually think of life, it’s either white or black. I’m either sad or joyful I’m either angry or I’m. And it’s not like that. It can be both. I can be sad, and allow myself to be happy, and in some moments to create spaces where I allow myself to play to have fun to dance, to sing, whatever it is that brings me joy. Without forgetting the whole situation that I’m in, whether it’s a job or a family situation, or anything else really.



This is really making me connect with four years ago when, when my brother died at the same time as, as me having my first child, and I’d never really given much thought to the idea that you could be extremely joyful and extremely sad at the same time, and that that was okay. You didn’t need to feel guilty about being happy. Or the other way around. And I think that was a real learning for me and just being able to be conscious, like you say of okay this is happening, I’ve got this going on, and I’ve got this going on or I’ve got this going on and I need to create this this pocket of of happiness for myself, and that’s okay that’s a little gift that I give to myself in order to get through this, I feel like sometimes we spend a lot of time thinking okay, society expects me or something expects me to be 100%. Sad and carry this huge weight around and yes you are carrying that weight, but that doesn’t mean you can’t.



Exactly, exactly. And I think that this is what actually helps us come out of the, the sadness, or the difficult situation that we’re, that we’re in, because we need to give any situation it’s time. And at the same time give ourselves the permission, I think to just don’t let ourselves, do what we actually need because as you said, of society of what people will say and, and we end up living, other people’s lives and not our own. And every time we say yes to others. We might be saying no to ourselves, and it’s okay to say yes to myself, and not to others, again without feeling guilty,



it takes a while to get there though right I mean, that’s not what we were taught in school or or in the early years of working we’re taught No, you’ve got to just suck it up, get the work done, move forward, don’t think too much about what you want or what’s going on with you, be productive, I guess, and what you’re saying here is that it’s actually about finding the resources within yourself to be conscious of what’s going on with you. Accept it, and be able to have this dark and light, and all the greys in between, and just go yeah you know what that is how it is. Yes,



Yes yes and yes.



If you are going to give some advice to someone who is sort of starting out, what would you say to them about keeping creativity in their life or getting more of it in their life,



enjoy yourself. Anything that you actually enjoy doing, do it. It’s your right. I think it’s your right and it’s your responsibility. Everything that I consider my right is also my responsibility to give to the world. If I want the world to be creative and to allow me to be creative. I also have to allow others to be creative and just go with the flow, and it’s okay it’s an uncertain life. And it’s okay to live with that ambiguity, Because this is how we create. And just be more kind to yourself. This is, it’s okay to make mistakes, and that’s how we learn. It’s the more mistakes because actually the history of human experience of science is the history of human mistakes. So just allowing ourselves to make these mistakes and to take the risks in order to get there. The journey is worthwhile.



So you’ve talked a lot about your, your personal life how you incorporate creativity into that we’ve talked a little bit about how you have that in your professional life, but I know that you’ve got some specific courses that you offer that have to do with incorporating joy in people’s lives. Perhaps you could tell us a little bit more about the course.



We actually have course that’s starting on October 23 It’s a nine month course, just once, like one weekend a month. It’s called connecting with your heart. And it’s based on how to connect through joy through tenderness and kindness, creativity and art with your essence, with the ability to adapt to new situations, which I think right now is really important, it’s something that works on a personal level, just for people who want to have fun, get to know themselves better and go to a place that’s kind of deep within them in an easy kind, let’s say a way, and it also works very well for professionals from hospitals, professionals and companies, HR professionals may be therapists who need tools that have to do with play with the team building, because it’s a course that’s based on laughter therapy and team building and it’s nine months, because we think that in order to be born again. As a new human, you need nine months to do so



well that does kind of bring up this idea that this is not something you can fix in a day if anyone’s listening thinking, I wish I could play more. You can start playing more and start playing more today. But it’s everything’s a process isn’t it so it does take some time to make a difference. And it sounds like that course would be really good for, for pretty much anyone who wants to get to know themselves a bit better and have fun doing exactly,



that’s exactly. And if you want to become a master of anything you need to practice. If you want, like, big muscles, you need to go to the gym and do something about it they’re not just going to appear. If you want to be spiritual, you need to meditate, pray do something that has to do with that. And it’s the same with joy. If you want to be in live a happy life, you actually need to practice happiness and get to know yourself in happy situations, and do it more and more and more, and then with time, your happiness muscles kind of just appear,



talking about happiness muscles, what’s the one exercise that you think that our listeners could perhaps incorporate today just to help them develop that, that openness to happiness.



There’s a tradition that the Incas, in South America do when they wake up in the morning, they just go, they kind of giggle a little giggle, in the morning, which seems so simple so small, but it works. And even if you did, do it during the day, and you just giggle a little bit, give a small laugh, your brain doesn’t know the difference, it you will be making endorphins and serotonin, just by doing that, and smile at someone on the streets smile at someone who’s sitting next to you on the bus, it’s a way to connect so quickly, with someone else and you’re giving someone else, a present and to yourself at the same time, you don’t lose anything, it’s a win win situation, just with a smile, and we still don’t know what happens when we smile We feel better about ourselves even babies when they’re still in their mother’s womb, they do it, So, it must be something that’s necessary for everyone, and it works.



So there we have two tips so this is a challenge for listeners, wake up and have a little giggle to yourself or when you find the moment in the day have a little giggle to yourself and smile at least one person, even if you don’t feel like it so I think we’re talking about proper smiles, just so grim is,



no, no, not a grimace. It’s an actual smile and we have so many opportunities during the day, whether we’re in a supermarket, whether it’s a colleague at work, whether it’s a mom walking a baby or, or a dog on the street, there’s so many opportunities for us to smile, so use them.



Okay, great, Naila, thank you so much for being on the podcast today Yes, and I will hopefully invite you back soon. I wish you all the best with this, with the course that you’re running, and I’m sure you will get loads of people who want to get more joy in their lives who doesn’t want more joy in their life. I think we all do, even if we’ve already feel joyful. So thank you very much for that. And we will see you soon. Thank you so much. Thank you.


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