With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, we can’t help but think about love. Not the universal, ‘brotherly’ kind, but the very human kind of love, the kind that (usually) involves physical contact and fluttering hearts. Whether we’re looking for someone new or are in an existing relationship, we can benefit from attending to these three steps to find lasting love. This week we cover Part 1;

Love Your Self

We are not very good at self-love. It seems to be all the rage, and we certainly pay lip service to it, but most encouragement around this idea is watered down to the point of a platitude. As a result, it’s difficult to understand what self-love is, much less practice it.

Based on my experience, Self-love is not seeing everything we do with a rosy glow, or ignoring feedback we don’t like because we don’t want to damage our fragile self-esteem.

Self-love may have to be tough love sometimes. If we think about a healthy relationship between a parent and a child, or a mentor and a student; what the parent / mentor wants most in the relationship is to see the child / student grow and find happiness in success.

At times, this will require course-corrections, admonishments, suggestions, etc. While this may be painful, at times, for the child or student, it is a necessary part of learning.

With self-love, we perform this role for ourselves. Rather than glossing over what we’re not doing right or dwelling on it so much we can’t see outside of it, we need to be able to look at our unhelpful behaviors with both a critical and compassionate eye.

The Devil you know

This holds true for any aspect of life, but since we’re focusing on love in this post let’s take that as an example. Let’s take a moment to write down all of our fears and insecurities around finding new love or about our current relationship.

These might be physical qualities, like our weight or the proportions of various body parts associated with physical attractiveness. They might be personality qualities we think inhibit a lasting relationship; ‘not playful enough’, ‘too controlling’, ‘too anal’, or –on the flipside – ‘too messy.’

It is okay if you cry during this exercise, I have often cried during such exercises. When we’re pulling up our deep fears and wounds, we should feel emotionally moved. If you don’t feel an intensity of emotion around what you are writing, it may be a sign you are not digging deep enough.

Once we’ve exorcised all those ghosts in our hearts, we are ready to really see them; to evaluate how they affect the way we feel about ourselves and the ways they get in the way of having a healthy relationship.

When we are bogged down by our fears and insecurities, especially when we haven’t taken the time to really be conscious of them, they can inhibit us from having healthy and fulfilling relationships. For example, if I’m insecure about my weight, I may project that insecurity onto my husband.

If he says, ‘let’s not eat out tonight’ I may interpret that to mean he thinks I’m fat and if we eat out again I’m only going to get fatter. Or if he says “We need to start going to the gym more.” I may think he means I need to go to the gym more because I’m getting fat.

Truthfully, my husband may think none of these things. I simply don’t know, and even if I ask, because I’m already projecting my own fear onto him, I’m unlikely to believe anything reassuring he says. We put a healthy relationship in jeopardy when we look to our partner to reassure us on the areas where we already feel vulnerable and insecure.

Each of us has different areas of sensitivity. Many people are insecure about their weight, but some are not. Some are insecure about their desirability or how good they are in bed. Others may be insecure about their intelligence. It doesn’t matter what our areas of insecurity are, it’s a key first step just to find them. If knowing is half the battle, we can’t even begin to fight if we don’t know.

Now What?

Now that we’ve flushed out our relationship fears and insecurities, we’re ready to work on the self-love part. First, we need to be compassionate with ourselves about the fact that we even have all these fears and insecurities. We can also feel pretty good that we were willing to admit them to ourselves, and bravely write them down!

Secondly, we should take each item individually and evaluate whether this is something we can (or want to) do something about or if it is something we just have to accept about ourselves or our situation; it may be both.

I engaged in this exercise before the birth of my second child. I had many fears and insecurities about the upcoming birth, especially given my last birth experience, and I really wanted to work on them. One of the fears I wrote down is that I would ‘run out of energy’ and be unable to deliver. My first labor had been thirty-four intense, long hours and I was terrified I wouldn’t have enough energy to go through that again.

When I looked at this fear I realized there were some reasons why my labor had been so long. I could ensure that my midwife and the hospital staff were well aware of the difficulties that happened the first time around. Too keep up my energy, I could ensure my diet leading up to labor was healthy and full of energizing foods. I could make sure we had lots of healthy ‘early labor’ snacks and that I was getting a good night’s sleep.

Writing down these ideas and putting them into practice greatly reduced the influence of this fear.

On the other hand, another fear I wrote down was that we would have a child with high-needs that we were unprepared to fulfill. Our first daughter requires so much energy and attention, my husband was very wary of having a second. I really pushed for the idea and I knew it was something that I wanted much more than he did.

As a result, I was terrified that this second child might make our lives even harder and cause my husband to resent that I had pressed so hard to have one. What if we found it hard to love the second child? What if we were never able to spend time being together as a married couple again because our lives were so full of childcare responsibilities?

Unlike the first fear, this one I had to accept. The many tears I cried over this fear helped me come to terms with it, though. Once all the tears were cried out, I was able to accept this potential reality and move forward knowing deep down that whatever happened, there would be support, love, and help from the Universe.

I offer these examples, knowing they may cast me in an unflattering light because it is important to be honest with ourselves about our fears and worries, even if we would be embarrassed sharing them with someone else. Even if we are embarrassed to even have them.

I recommend going through each of the fears and insecurities you’ve identified around love and relationships and making an effort to understand them at a deep level as just modeled. What are you willing to change? What are you unwilling to change? What do others have to accept about you? What do you have to accept about yourself?

Now that we have made an effort to identify, understand, and come to terms with our fears and insecurities, we should promise ourselves that we are going to avoid projecting them onto potential (or existing) partners. In order to avoid the projection, we had to go through the painful exercise of identification and reconciliation first.

It’s important to find and keep a supportive partner. However, we must recognize that no partner, no matter how wonderful, can heal our wounded sense of self-worth. We can only heal ourselves and we can only do so by truly loving ourselves. Allowing our conscious mind into the dark and hidden corners of our own hearts will help us find a path of healing.

When we really understand and internalize this lesson, we will naturally stop expecting our partners to bridge the gap between their own love and the love we should feel for ourselves. We will be one step closer to finding lasting love.

Tune in next week for the next step in this three part series on how to find lasting love!

Who hasn’t made a reckless (or not-so-reckless) commitment in a moment of duress? Please <insert divine authority>, get me out of this mess and I’ll never drink / smoke / bite my nails / lie / go home with a stranger / whatever / again.

How often, when we actually do find ourselves out of the mess, does that promise seem… silly? Unachievable? Who expects us to keep a promise like that? Especially if the ‘negative’ habit we are trying to avoid is an especially pervasive one, or the ‘positive’ habit we are trying to instill has many barriers – how often do we keep that promise?

I know my answer – not as often as I’d like.

Those promises and commitments seem silly to us later. I mean, why does God or the Universe care if I drink soda, or alcohol, or smoke, right?  However, our relationship with the divine and our own soul is as much about building trust as every physical relationship we have.

If we never keep our commitments to our friends or loved ones – what would those relationships be like?

Relationships are built the same way regardless of the medium of communication. Thus, we have every reason to believe that God / the Universe takes the commitments that we make in those moments – or any moments – very seriously.

The key is not to stop making these commitments as they actually are an important part of our relationship with the Universe / the Divine.  However, if we’re having trouble keeping those kinds of commitments, we may need to be more circumspect about what we commit to in the moment.

One option is to avoid committing to a totally unattainable goal.  For example, my default commitment is to stop picking my lips.  An uncommon but pernicious habit since childhood, my lips look quite destroyed when I’m stressed or bored or even just thinking because I compulsively pick at them.

Because this is the habit I feel most ashamed of and want to be free of, the promise to stop doing it is both the one I most often make and the one I most often break.  Here we’re touching on a core motivation of these kinds of commitments. There are particular habits we want to stop (or start) and, by extension, we think the Universe or our higher self also cares about whether we do these things or not.

Depending on the habit – that may or may not be true.  However, if we make a promise that is unachievable we are setting ourselves up to fail.  The commitments we make to the Universe need to be meaningful, they need to matter to us – but we don’t need to start by forcing ourselves to deal with the most difficult things in our lives.

Aside from trying to be careful of the commitments we make, the other key factor is that we need to respect these commitments once we’ve made them.

We can sometimes review the situation that provoked us to make a promise from a point of ‘illusory clarity’ after it’s over; I was never really in any danger or It was silly that I was so worried about this, etc. and, by extension, imagining ourselves ‘off-the-hook’ for any commitments we made in our momentary distress.

On the contrary, we are very much on the hook for any promises we made.  Every time I break a commitment (and I’m no saint, I’ve broken plenty), there is an erosion of trust in both my relationship with my soul-self and my relationship the Universe. I can feel an anticipatory twinge of guilt the next time I make a promise… am I really going to keep it this time?

On the upside, keeping these promises builds trust and strengthens the relationship between the embodied self and Universe (as well as the soul-self).  A strong relationship between ourselves and the Universe allows us to make the most of our current life at all levels; emotionally (relationships), financially, and – when we’re ready – to do the deep soul-self work that will help us master the lessons we came here to learn.

If you know anything about Astrology, you’re probably familiar with the concept of “Mercury Retrograde” and you probably also know we’re smack dab in the middle of it. According to Astrology, Mercury influences (broadly) the area of communication. By extension, Mercury influences any field where communication is key; travel, technology, diplomacy, really almost everything.

Astrology websites usually feature a list of ‘don’ts’ or ‘avoids’ for Mercury Retrograde period. Don’t travel. Don’t make detailed plans. Don’t implement technology releases (actually, that one is just from my boss 🙂 ). I’ve even seen some caution against going out at all. There’s a perspective out there (not all, but certainly a few) that if you can hide in your house until it all blows over, more the better.

I used to be one of the doom-and-gloomers. Certainly, I’ve personally experienced the effects of a Mercury Retrograde from time to time. Recently, though, under this new Trickster paradigm, I’ve started thinking about this period a little differently. Before we get into that, though, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Mercury Retrograde, let me explain a little first.

What is Mercury Retrograde?

“Retrograde” is a term used by Astrologers, primarily, to describe when it looks like a planet is going “backwards” in the sky. All of the planets appear to go Retrograde at some point or another. Do any of the planets actually ‘move’ backwards in their orbits? No. However, most websites that champion science (like the NASA one) will explain this phenomenon in a way that’s mildly unfulfilling.

These websites often use the (very helpful, I think) example of people running around a track to explain Retrograde motion. They explain that, when a planet with a faster orbit laps a planet with a slower orbit, the planet with the slower orbit will appear to be moving backwards to the planet with the faster one. This makes total sense for the outer planets, but not at all for Mercury.

Mercury has a tighter and faster orbit than Earth’s, revolving around the sun in just 88 – 116 days (depending on the source). This is why Mercury retrogrades three times a year. The above race example doesn’t work for Mercury’s retrograde motion. Although when Mercury laps us, we will appear to be moving backwards to Mercury, Mercury will still appear to be moving forward to us.

So when would Mercury appear to be moving backwards in Earth’s night sky?

If we continue to use the example of people running around a track, the runner on the inside track would appear to be moving in the opposite direction of a slower runner on an outer track when they are in fact moving in the opposite direction.

They’re far enough ahead in the curve of their orbit that they’re ‘looping back around.’  This doesn’t mean they’re moving backwards, they’re moving forward for them, but in the opposite direction of us.

So, unlike the outer planets, where at least some of the retrograde motion is truly an illusion, Mercury’s “Retrograde” period does reflect an actual change in the energy of motion for the planet in relation to us.  The planet is not moving backwards, but it IS true that Earth & Mercury are moving in opposite directions which might be why the energy around this period feels so “oppositional.”

But Wait, Who Actually Believes in Astrology These Days?

Astrology is often the victim of the centuries old belief; if we don’t understand how it could happen, it must not be possible. But consider this, the gravitational pull of the Sun is so strong it keeps our planet in orbit. The moon dramatically affects the oceans on this planet via the tides, and the gravitational pull of Venus and Mars help keep our planet in it’s orbit.

Considering the observable impacts our space neighbors have on our planet at a macro level, it’s certainly possible that there are impacts at a micro level that we just haven’t studied closely enough to see.

So what does all this mean for me?

As noted earlier, Astrologers tend to strike a cautionary note around Mercury Retrograde period. This is warranted. It hardly feels like a blessing to be on the receiving end of delays, mix-ups, and miscommunications. However, if we approach this period from the perspective that we ‘learn more from failure than success’ it can be a time of incredible personal (and communal) growth.

Mercury (Retrograde) unearths the weaknesses in our systems and helps expose the areas where we aren’t paying attention. As a result, we are presented with opportunities to improve the way we do things.

As I write this, I’m also recalling a line from the Dao de Jing that advises us to be like the reed that bends in the wind, rather than the tree that stands against it. I can’t think of better advice for a Mercury Retrograde period. It’s a good time to work on our flexibility, adaptability, and (as featured in last week’s post) resiliency.

When things grind to a halt, how quickly can we get them started again? Do we get stuck or are we able to adapt, change perspective, troubleshoot, and move on? Remember that Mercury is a Trickster and one of the lessons the Trickster can teach us is to find value in disruption and uncertainty because of what they teach us about ourselves.

If you’re getting bogged down by the crazy issues that a Mercury Retrograde can throw your way, remember that, whatever the culture, Trickster stories are often funny, and the ability to laugh – especially at the self – is in itself a type of flexibility. If we can find the spirit to laugh during this time, we’ll weather it much better.

Happiness. It seems elusive. Perhaps we define it by a set of conditions in our life; love, family, success. But consistent happiness is more a state of mind than a ‘state of the union.’ Finding happiness and staying there on a daily basis is not about having the perfect life but developing resiliency in our current not-so-perfect life.

What is resiliency? The ability to ‘bounce-back’ when life sends obstacles and challenges our way; the ability to see those challenges as learning experiences and opportunities, and the ability to maintain our positive mood and outlook even in the face of the anger, fear, and frustration exhibited by those around us.

Below are five habits that I use to uplift my mood and maintain my happiness throughout my hectic corporate days as well as nights and weekends filled with two adorable, energetic, independent, and sometimes frustrating toddlers.

1 – Strategically use music to lift your mood

Scientific evidence is only beginning to corroborate what many of us have known for most of our lives; music influences mood. Music is so effective at influencing our mood and behavior that it is an extremely powerful, much underestimated (by consumers), marketing tool.

A study from the Netherlands, as referenced in a Psychology Today article from Dec 2012 asked subjects to “identify happy and sad ‘smiley icons’ while listening to happy or sad music. Music turned out to have a great influence on what the subjects perceived. Interestingly, even when a ‘neutral face’… was shown, the subjects often thought they recognized a happy smiley when listening to happy music and a sad one when listening to sad music.”[1]

If you’re not sure what qualifies as ‘upbeat’ music, how about The Romantics’ song, What I Like About You? Or the U2 song, Elevation? An upbeat, energizing song can leave us feeling ready to tackle anything that comes our way.

Listening to upbeat music can really enhance and lift our mood, but what if we’re not in the mood for upbeat music? For example, sometimes I hear one of my favorite upbeat songs and all I can think is Turn that off!

In such a case, the song is too upbeat for our current mood, and we need some help getting there. This is where transitional music comes in handy. What is transitional music? Transitional music starts at a lower vibration[2], or mood, and ends on a higher one.

A great example of a transitional piece is Sting’s Brand New Day. The song starts on an almost mournful note, but by the time the harmonica kicks in, we feel the corners of our mouth start to turn up. Another good example is the Madonna song, Living for Love.

If you’re not a Sting or Madonna fan, that’s okay. The best thing is to experiment with your own music collection as these are the songs you feel the most resonance with; notice which songs lift your mood and which songs lower it.

We have moods that can fit all the music in our collection, by understanding which songs have what effect on our mood we can move ourselves from a low mood to a higher one. This habit can be one way to help us recover from events or circumstances that have a lowering effect on our mood.

2 – ‘Stop & Smell the Roses’

Most of us are probably familiar with the age-old advice to ‘Take Time to Stop and Smell the Roses.’ Well, as it turns out, there may be science to back up why this is such a good idea.

Scientists used to think that when human beings were in a rest state in between active tasks the brain just shut down. It turns out, though, that particular regions of the brain remain active and interact with each other even when our attention is not engaged in anything in particular. This is no surprise to anyone who’s ever daydreamed. These regions, taken as a unit, are called the default mode network.

The default mode network is responsible for such activities as mind wandering, self-reflection, planning or forward thinking, and – as mentioned earlier – day dreaming. The default mode network enables us to reflect on ourselves and others and is therefore a crucial part of our ability to relate as human beings. In fact, little to no activity within this network is associated with autism and sociopathic behaviors.

However, too much activity within this network is associated with depression and anxiety disorders. Logically, this makes sense, too much time spent obsessing over what happened in our day or feeling anxiety about the future takes us out of living in the present. We can’t live in the past or the future – so it’s probably unhealthy to spend most of our headspace there.

Contrast the default mode network with the task positive network. The task positive network activates when we’re engaged in a task that requires our concentration. Such as, you guessed it, smelling the flowers. 🙂 When we take time out to really observe our surroundings; the sights, the sounds, the smells – we’re activating our task positive network.

It’s not that the task positive network is good and the default mode network is bad, but if you notice that you’re spending too much time going over events of the day, it may be time to switch gears and engage yourself in a task that requires active concentration. This can be something as obvious and easy as noticing your surroundings.

If simply observing your surroundings doesn’t seem likely to knock you out of a funk, pick a neutral activity (ie, not related to whatever was causing you anxiety or distress) to engage in for awhile; something like cooking a new recipe or playing a new song on an instrument. Remember – the key here is that the activity require your concentration – if it’s something you can do without concentrating, it’s unlikely to engage your task positive network and switch off your default mode network.

3 – “Plant” things that make you smile or laugh in places where you’re likely to need them most

A study featured in Huffington post in April of 2014 (and surely there are more) provided evidence that laughter and humor don’t just make us feel better, they help us perform better. Participants in a California University[3] study were asked to perform a memory test and then given a break. One group was asked to sit silently and the other group watched funny videos.

While both groups improved their results on the memory test after the break, the “participants who viewed the funny videos had much higher improvement in recall abilities, 43.6 percent, compared 20.3 percent in the non-humor group.” If that isn’t enough, “the humor group showed considerably lower levels of cortisol, the ‘stress hormone,’ after watching the videos.”[4]

I have a co-worker whose desk is filled with all sorts of little toys and gadgets. He has a desk calendar with funny sayings. If your work environment brings you down, you may need to think about where you can put inspirational or funny sayings so that they can help you when you’re feeling worn out and frustrated.

Anyone can hide away on a mountain and be ‘blissfully at one with the Universe’, it’s living and working with other people that challenges our happy, spiritual side the most. Recognize where you have the biggest challenges to your happiness and think strategically about how you can inject humor and uplifting material so that you’ll have it close when you need it; sometimes even having a Dilbert calendar on your desk to flip through after a frustrating meeting or e-mail can help you bounce back.

My husband and I are parents to two beautiful, adorable, and frustrating daughters. While we love them more than life, they take so much attention and time that sometimes it’s just too much. To keep our sanity we periodically read a funny parenting book together (examples; Parenting with Crappy Pictures by Amber Dusick and Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan)

We laugh with each other about the stories in the books and that helps us laugh at our own misadventures. It also helps us grow stronger in our parenting bond, instead of letting the times of conflict (and, don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of those) become the defining moments of our parental relationship.

4 – Schedule time-outs throughout the day

After a month back at my corporate job after a twelve-week maternity leave in early 2015, I told my boss, “Every day I come in like a rainbow and leave like a storm cloud, I’d be happy if I could just leave as a light drizzle.” After some reflection, I realized I was expecting too much of myself to maintain my bliss through hours of frustration on a highly challenging technology project.

When I started scheduling little ‘time-outs’ throughout the day to lift and elevate my mood, I found I was better able to face challenges with resiliency. What is a time-out? Well, it can be as small as a three-minute uplifting ‘song’ break (although, if your day has been really frustrating, you may need a transitional song or two first). A short walk (outside if possible!) combined with music could be even better.

If you have a fifteen minute break or time over lunch, use that. If not, even a few minutes spent strategically uplifting your mood will work wonders. Use the time to remind yourself of all the funny, happy, and wonderful things not associated with whatever the current challenge or frustration is.

Take a minute to call a friend or loved one who always makes you smile. If you don’t have one of those (and that’s okay, at times in my life I haven’t had one of those either :)), simply spending a few minutes engaging your task positive network may help give you the space you need.

If you recall from the earlier mentioned study on benefits of laughter – both groups in the study performed better on a memory recall test after a twenty minute break. This suggests that merely taking the break can help us recover from stress. When we plan short sanity breaks strategically throughout the day, and fill them with activities that uplift and empower us, it can make a world of difference in how the rest of the day goes.

5 – Recognize the Impact Diet has on Mood

This section is not going to be a lecture on eating healthy. Honestly, I don’t even know what that means anymore. The advice I have found most beneficial and helpful has been Michael Pollan’s manifesto, “Eat Food, Not too Much, Mostly Plants.”

So I’m not going to tell you what to eat and what not to eat, that is a way more political conversation then I want to have with anyone (including my immediate family 🙂 ). However, if you are interested in increasing your happiness and your resiliency on a daily basis, don’t underestimate the impact your diet has on your mood.

Katherine Zeratsky of the Mayo Clinic has this to say, “Depression and diet may be related. Several studies have found that people who ate a poor quality diet [defined by Zeratsky as] – one that was high in processed meat, chocolates, sweet desserts, fried food, refined cereals, and high-fat dairy products – were more likely to report symptoms of depression. The good news is that people who ate a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fish were less likely to report being depressed.”

I am not a fan of eating fish and I love chocolate, by the way, just to underscore that I don’t intend the above quote to be a ‘guideline’ on what to eat and what not to eat, but just a reference that draws a link between diet and mood.

Unfortunately, if you are looking for a guideline on what to eat and what not to eat these days, there is an over-abundance of somewhat contradictory information. There is general agreement, though, that skipping meals is a bad idea for our blood sugar, which can be a big influencer of our mood.

From the perspective of this post, however, the advice here is similar to that in section one; pay attention to how foods make you feel 1-3 hours after eating them. When do you feel good after a meal? When do you feel crummy? Let that be a starting point to developing an understanding on which foods make you feel happier and which make you feel grumpy, depressed, or high-anxiety.

Bringing it Home

When we combine all the above habits, we have a number of tools to help us develop and strengthen our resiliency so we can find and maintain our happy place.

But wait – you may be thinking – these all seem a bit more like ‘tricks’ to keep me feeling good, than the sort of happiness I’m looking for. There are two answers to that concern. One is that regardless of our internal state, happiness is a ‘daily maintenance’ kind of experience. We can have deep internal happiness and not be resilient in the face of the anger, fear, and frustration of others.

Thus we let our environment drag us down. (This is the type of experience that makes happy people want to go live alone in the mountains) Rather than lamenting that everyone else is raining on our parade 🙂 or trying to reform them all 🙂 or isolating ourselves (and I’ve done all of those 🙂 ) we position ourselves better for growth and learning by building up our resiliency and improving our ability to uplift our own mood.

On the other hand, it is true that there is a deeper type of happiness felt in the heart (or soul, if you prefer) that can help raise our ‘default’ mood to a higher level. In that experience, provided our resiliency is decent, we can operate from a happy place most of the time.

The downside is that deep happiness is not a ‘quick-fix.’ From my experience, deep happiness can only be found in doing the deep self-work that comes with meditation, communion with the Universe (or the Divine if you prefer), and actively walking the Spiritual Path. If this is something you’re interested in, stay tuned, as there’s going to be a lot more on the blog this year about that.

[1] Quote from psychologytoday.com article The Neuroscience of Music, Mindset, and Motivation, Christopher Bergland, Dec 29 2012

[2] Sonia Choquette often talks about ‘vibration’ which is not the same as mood, but (to oversimplify) operating at a very high vibration would be coming from a place of universal love and goodwill whereas operating from a low vibration would be a place of depression, anxiety, and fear. I believe (although I have never personally spoke to her about it) that Sonia talks about it as vibration because it refers to a state of the underlying energy. If you think about something like the String Theory of existence (that the smallest element of the universe isn’t a particle, but instead a vibrating string) then understanding how energy vibrates and the qualities of vibration become very important. I only understand this experientially and conceptually so I am not a great person to explain it, but if you have further interest it’s worth exploring Sonia Choquette’s work. Incidentally, Esther Hicks (when channeling ABRAHAM) approaches this same concept in terms of discs “high-flying discs” vs. “low flying discs.” In this post I use ‘mood’ because I think it’s something most of us can relate to without having to get into a complicated discussion of the underlying mechanics which don’t really matter to the point of this post anyway :).

[3] Loma Linda University

[4] Both quotes are taken directly from the Huffington Post article, New Study Proves That Laughter Really is The Best Medicine, by Yagana Shah, April 22, 2014