THE BLOG

How Laughter Can Heal the Heart and Soul

03/05/2014 11:33 am ET | Updated May 05, 2014

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"At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities." -- Jean Houston

To me, laughter is a non-sexual orgasm. My mind, body and spirit are tickled, sending waves of euphoria that reverberate throughout me. All that is negative is converted into positive waves of light and love. I greatly value the healing and connecting properties of laughter.

Every so often (and twice last night,) I've been awoken in the middle of the night by the sound of my 8-year-old daughter, Claudia, laughing in her sleep. It's not merely a chuckle or a giggle that wakes me from my slumber, but a rolling belly-laugh that fills our previously silent home. My heart swells with love for Claudia, expanding even more as I wonder about the joy she is experiencing in her dreams. There are no words to adequately describe the bliss that ignites my spirit when I hear this magical, nighttime laughter.

I so dearly love my best friend, Cherilynn. Perhaps what I love most about her is the way she can make me laugh so hard that there is simply no room in my hysterically convulsing body to retain any feelings of fear, shame or anxiety. This is because she has lovingly churned these negative feelings into fodder for our laughter through her normalization, validation, intellect and wit. She reminds me not to take myself or my life too seriously. Laughing with Cherilynn makes me feel known, loved, understood and connected in ways that mean the entire world to me.

Tragically, my beloved friend, Carrie, died of cancer eight months ago. I loved her deeply and was profoundly honored to be included in a "sacred circle" of women/mothers who she asked to support her husband and young children after her passing. A couple months after Carrie died, I was with my Claudia and Carrie's daughter, Francesca, having popsicles from an ice cream truck at the park. As we sat on the hill that smelled of grassy sweetness, Francesca and Claudia playfully pounced on me with pre-calculated tickles. I shrieked with panicked laughter, uncontrollably rolled away for relief, and saw that the white, puffy clouds overhead were rolling in the blue sky along with me. When the girls were satisfied with their success, we caught our breath, giggled and snuggled as we soaked in the warmth of our togetherness, the brightness of the summertime sun, and the power of Carrie's love all around us.

My husband has a gift for saying something that is incredibly humorous, humble and wise at life's moments of trial and tribulation (like when we are having a "Level 10 Family Meltdown" along with our two daughters.) While my brain is pre-programed to respond to stress with judgement and guilt, he's able to take a step back and not personalize things, saying something simple and ridiculous like, "Holy sh*t-ness!" with a broad smile. This makes me laugh and all the madness that seemed so very overwhelming is neutralized. Our family dynamic re-calibrates, homeostasis is returned and my love and appreciation for him grows.

My sister made me laugh so hard when we were out to lunch the other day that I breathed my iced tea deep into my lungs and spent the next several minutes choking and gasping for air. It was well worth it. The joy and intimacy resulting from a lifetime of history that gave us each the insight to appreciate how the other was responding to our shared story was absolutely priceless. It's especially fun to note how our similar eyes crinkle, our mouths open, our faces contort, our hands flail and our laughter shrills together in a perfect unison resulting from shared DNA and decades of sisterly togetherness.

In a horrible turn of events, my 11-year-old, Celeste, is even better than imitating me than I ever was at mocking my mother during my adolescent intolerance. Her antics are simultaneously embarrassing, enlightening and humanizing. We bond through laughter and in return for my tolerating her sassiness, she tolerates my affectionate squeezes as we navigate this tumultuous time of our relationship together.

There are some who you know so well that little needs to be verbalized to share in the joke together. One friend commented that he doesn't even need to try and make me laugh, because I find his responses to life humorous in and of themselves -- no scripting, editing or effort required. Just cruising through the absurdity of life together is funny and enjoyable.

It's laughter that gets me through the the horrific sadness of trauma, grief, abuse and neglect that I hear everyday in my practice.

It's laughter that helps me overcome the fears, doubts, uncertainties and overwhelm that I (and everyone else) experience.

It's laughter that warms my heart, fills my body with love, and connects me with special people every day.

I deeply value and cherish those who can make me shake to the bone with silliness; shaving years off my chronological age yet adding them to my life, sharpening my mind, and rejuvenating my soul. Do you?

"Laughter is the shortest distance between two people." -- Victor Borge