Happiness Expert, Psychiatrist, Author and Speaker, Dr. Caroline Manuel Offers Hope to Those are stressed, depressed or anxious
Dr. Caroline Manuel has successfully used traditional and complimentary methods to improving mental health while helping audiences all over the world manifest better quality lives.
She specializes in combining innovative neuroscience and medical research with forgotten happiness enhancers such as play, laughter, charity, yoga and gratitude to help teach people the art of happy living.
As an internationally recognized medical doctor, psychiatrist, therapist, author, and speaker Dr. Manuel has appeared as a guest on “Meet The Experts With Arielle Ford,” which aired on CBS, NBC, ABC and FOX. Dr. Manuel’s techniques and writings are also featured on her virtual platform, www.thelaughingmonk.com, which offers readers inspiring ways to transform personal troubles and stress into a more vital, joyful life experience.
As a mental health expert, Dr. Caroline believes that happiness is a basic human right and encourages audiences to achieve balance through positive psychology. In her practice she has worked with patients on healing emotional trauma, transforming mental illness, and building strong relationships.
Born in Southern India, Dr. Manuel was the second of five daughters and was encouraged by her mother to become a doctor. “My paternal grandmother worried about having five granddaughters and told my mother that she would not leave any inheritance to girls. So, my mother encouraged all of us to study and choose solid careers to support ourselves,” said Dr. Manuel.
Medicine ended up being a perfect fit for Dr. Manuel as she possessed an innate understanding of the body and an affinity for helping people. Dr. Manuel began her medical training in India and completed her postgraduate psychiatric training in Texas, USA before moving to Melbourne, Australia to practice psychiatry.
Dr. Manuel became interested in both positive psychology and personal development and how they affected treatment for mental illness. She began to expand her experience with complimentary treatments such as Neurolinguistic Programming, Mindfulness, Acceptance, Commitment Therapy and other self-empowerment techniques.
Dr. Manuel’s own path has not been an easy one. Following her graduation from medical school, Dr. Manuel’s father passed away suddenly in a car accident. “My father dying was the hardest part of my life and it started a sequence of unfortunate events. I didn’t really grieve the loss of my father. At that point I just worked all the time and I was financially stressed, balancing late night studying with being a mother of young two children, in a new country,” explained Dr. Manuel.
It was this experience of loneliness and overwhelm that inspired Dr. Manuel to create The Laughing Monk Cafe, a virtual meeting space for readers to exchange their own stories of reshaping both their inner and outer worlds. The site welcomes tales that chart peoples’ paths from woe to triumph, and will even include savory recipes to spice the mind and juice the body. “People have enormous potential, and they do best in a stimulating environment. It is undeniable that a blend of traditional medical treatments and alternative approaches such as yoga and dance, exercise, mindfulness, and laughter help counter anxiety, depression, ADHD and Bipolar illness,” says Dr. Manuel.
The Laughing Monk Cafe is a place where people are able to mingle and share their experiences about overcoming adversity and finding redemption. The cafe welcomes posts in the form of songs, jokes, quotes and recipes that lift the mind or spirit. “Our goal is to encourage total health,” says Dr. Manuel.
Drawing from a vast array of resources including her own personal experience of grief and depression caused by the premature death of her father and other unfortunate events in her life, Dr. Manuel came to
design a platform for personal well being in the form of seminars, books, workbooks, targeted discussions and DVDs to help raise awareness of the mind and its ailments.
“I wanted to create and combine programs to make something fun, playful and powerful—not just technical or jargon-oriented,” explained Dr. Manuel. She began to target areas that are the most difficult for patients, becoming an expert in the psychology of emotional empowerment, conquering fear and treatment of anxiety, changing depressive thoughts and behaviors and helping others cross bridges to embrace a better quality of life.
One of Dr. Manuel’s specialties is bridging neuroscience and positive psychology. “Brain imaging helps us understand the mind and the brain’s capacity for new neural networks to grow and install new helpful programs in place of the unhelpful strategies,” explained Dr. Manuel.
In her practice, Dr. Manuel explains to patients that disused neural networks in the brain actually become weaker over time and that the brain has the potential to make new connections no matter how depressed or ill patients are. Through practice, Dr. Manuel shows patients how their brain can work differently to lessen anxiety and stress levels.
The mindfulness techniques that Dr. Manuel teaches actually stimulate the parts of the brain that combat depression. The study also revealed that mindfulness participants possessed more antibodies, which increase their ability to fight cancer, other illnesses, and maintain a healthy immune system.
Dr. Manuel cautions that changes can be slow, but extremely worthwhile. “I have developed strategies to practice mindfulness and some of our other techniques. I explain to audiences and patients that change is like a bamboo seed. It spends many months under ground being nourished and preparing, where one cannot see any obvious growth. Then all of the sudden it shoots up into a beautiful bamboo plant,” explained Dr. Manuel.
Dr. Manuel is working on the upcoming book, The Laughing Monk. It is an innovative work of fiction that blends fantasy and fact, designed to help readers learn ways to overcome adversity.
Dr. Manuel said, “I have been working on the book for the past two years. I wanted to create a richly textured story because I believe that metaphor is a very powerful way for people to understand their own stress and thinking. The characters in the book struggle with all kinds of issues, and readers can use these to see into themselves.” The story takes place in India and combines both Eastern and Western philosophies to spin a tale of personal redemption and growth.
To accompany the launch of The Laughing Monk, Dr. Manuel is planning the world’s largest curry meal for the homeless across Australia and the USA. “The delicious curry meal for the homeless will increase awareness and donations to charities like Salvation Army and Beyond Blue who are doing so much to improve quality of life for marginalized and underprivileged, especially the homeless and mentally unwell people,” said Dr. Manuel.
“Charity and contribution play a significant role in creating authentic happiness,” says Dr. Manuel, mentioning how research points increasingly to how the benefits of giving make one feel good. She follows the rule of ‘2×2,’ where every week, “give or do at least two things for others and ask or receive two things for yourself. It’s the balance of opposing factors that makes life stimulating.”
Dr. Manuel attributes her success to her optimistic faith in life. “I believe that no matter how many times you fall or how difficult life is, you can still learn to trust people and find that life is good. I, myself, have had a constant personal journey of challenges that have only enriched my life,” shared Dr. Manuel.
Many might wonder how developing neural connections in the brain might help with stress? “There was a study done at Stanford University on the power of mindfulness—which is all about being present in the moment. Researchers took people who experienced anxiety and had them practice mindfulness for about six months. They scanned their brain every few weeks and compared the results to the control group. Amazingly, they found that people who did the mindfulness exercises had major changes in the front part of their brain where feelings of relaxation and calmness are generated. This is also the solution-oriented part of the brain,” said Dr. Manuel.