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Start a Cleansing “Laughter Practice”

I am a true believer in the saying, “ laughter is the best medicine.”

Not just because I enjoy a good laugh with my dear friends and family (which I do), but also because after two difficult surgeries — including one where a doctor made a devastating, life-altering mistake — it has, at times, felt like laughter literally saved my life.

After my first surgery, one of the first things the nurse asked me was “have you passed gas?” She explained that because of the laparoscopy I’d had, which expanded my abdominal cavity with air, she had to make sure my body was getting rid of it. She encouraged me to try walking with my husband, Eduardo offered me his arm, and we shuffled at a snail’s pace up and down the hallway, making feeble jokes.

“You break the wind beneath my wings.”
“Till death do us fart.”

Like a healing balm, our laughter helped ground me in my loving connection with Eduardo in that painful moment. Now, years later, we often look back at that moment and laugh.

After my second surgery I spent hours with Eduardo lying beside me on the bed while our children played in a broad square of sunlight from the hotel room’s sliding balcony doors. Sometimes Lore and Paty danced and sang for us or staged fashion shows and presented educational programs featuring poetry, art, Mandarin vocabulary, and other things they learned in school. Eddie joined in, clowning around, making me laugh until I had to hold a pillow against my aching midsection. Those weeks with my family in that hotel room are among the happiest memories of my life.

Science has uncovered many reasons to explain why laughter is good for the health and the soul.  It reduces blood pressure and anxiety while boosting immunity and acting as a natural antidepressant.  It improves breathing and can even help relieve pain. No wonder laughter therapy has become a thing.

But don’t rely just on science! The best way to discover laughter’s benefits is to try it yourself. In the midst of our busy lives, and in these particularly stressful times, it might help to try these tricks for inspiring a giggle even when you’re feeling serious or down:

  • Keep a journal of memorable silly moments and thumb through it when you need
  • Create a “Funniest Pics” folder in your photos app to swipe through
  • Set aside a time of the day or week to talk to or just hang out with people and creatures who make you laugh and smile: kids, pets, friends…
  • Keep a list of words that trigger funny memories to weave into conversations or just think about. Say them aloud.
  • Watch movies or series that make you laugh.

Often laughter finds us unexpectedly, creeping up on us out of nowhere. But at times when it doesn’t, why not be intentional about letting go and making space to laugh, just as you might with your yoga or mindfulness practice?

Call it your “laughter practice.” Show up for it regularly. There’s nothing more cleansing than a good, visceral, deep-belly laugh.