Laughter is not just good for the soul – it is vital for our overall health – mental, psychological, spiritual and physical.
“The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.” Voltaire, French Philosopher
Are there really health benefits to laughter, other than it feels good in the moment? Yes there is and it is confirmed not only through scripture and sages of the past, but also from medical research. Unchecked long held stresses over time contribute to illness.
“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” Proverbs 17:22
Laughter releases the hormones that heal our physical body and strengthens our heart and immune system. Hearty laughter exercises our heart – lowers blood pressure, gives our lungs a workout, releases tension in all parts of our body and releases opiates in our blood system giving us a high – a lift.
Perhaps the greatest gift that humor gives us is to be able to laugh at ourselves.
Laughter, if just for a moment, takes the edge off the seriousness of death and tragedy, expands our world view, and more than anything else allows us to let go of our inflated self-image, our bloated pride and self-importance.
Laughter clears the playing field, reduces levels of stress and gives our body the boost it needs to help fight off the effects of depression and loneliness.
When we take off the rose colored glasses, we stop embellishing or diminishing ourselves through impractical comparisons, and realize that we are all God’s creatures subject to both humor and divine intervention. When we stop taking ourselves so seriously, we are able to laugh at the flawed parts of our nature while celebrating the parts that give rise to creative energy.
Stress is very subjective. Perception is both the creation of stress and what we will do with it. It is both personal and unique. What stresses you out may not stress me at all.
Any life event, major or minor, can become a cause of dis-stress. It can be an on-going source of irritation and even victimization. It can also be the beginning of an off-repeated humorous story. Can we take events and turn them into something we can laugh at for decades?
Years ago in a speech I gave on stress to a group of teachers in the U.K. I shared one of the stories my father-in-law told our kids about when he was a kid. Their much loved Grandpa Bert was an easy-going guy, with seemingly not a care in the world who drove my mother-in-law crazy. As a kid he attended a small, rural school.
Now Bert was not a student of academia – in fact he hated sitting in the classroom. During recess while other kids were busy jumping rope or throwing ball, he was busy exploring the tall grass around the little country school, looking for wonderful things such as bugs, worms, caterpillars, frogs – you name it.
Laughter is not a once-in-a while event – it is a lifestyle – a way to look at life. You not only find the good things every day, but you find those moments when you can take an intolerable situation, one packed with emotions and stress, flip it on its side and tickle its tummy.
“I’m giving so much money to my therapist; they will want to erect a statue in my honor.”
“I’m hanging on so tight, I’m getting rope burn.”
It isn’t laughing at someone – it’s laughing at intolerable situations – its taking the edge off the adversity that is in front of you – it is enlarging the joyous moments – expanding the depth of our love and enjoyment of life. Humor takes the edge off any crisis.
“When we admit our schnozzles, instead of defending them,we begin to laugh and the world laughs with us.” Jimmy Durante
Perhaps the greatest gift we give ourselves is our ability to laugh at ourselves! Don’t take yourself so serious. When we laugh at ourselves nobody can laugh “at us” – they can only laugh “with us….”
“When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on. And swing!” Leo Buscaglia
When was the last time you laughed – really laughed – until the tears rolled down your cheeks, your sides hurt and you gasped for air? You laughed and laughed and didn’t want to stop.
Something tickled your funny bone so that in an instant you saw the world differently – your situation was so bad, it was funny – your problem so profound, it was laughable – the ludicrous became the comical. The world had turned upside down and you laughed as you swung in the absurdity of the moment.
“The crisis of today is the joke of tomorrow.” H. G. Wells
What precipitated that laughter? How did it change how you felt about your world, your situation, yourself? How did it change the minutes and hours afterwards?
“Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.” Mark Twain
Every day we have the opportunity to begin again – to start over – to write a new chapter in our life story.
We can choose to find solutions instead of dwelling on the insolvability of problems.
We can focus on all our blessings instead of all the things we think we have to have.
We can focus on love instead of hate – laughter instead of crying. We choose our focus.
Love, Laughter and Grace
Every day we are graced with a new beginning. Within each day we can purposefully look for the grace of God in our pain, make a decision to laugh in the midst of our struggles and accept God’s gift of love and then apply it throughout the day.
“How dare she!” – “That was mean” – “That’s it – it’s over.” – “How could he do that to me”
Someone has wronged us or betrayed us. Anger rises. It simmers in our thoughts as we contemplate our revenge: “Just wait” – “I’ll get even with you”.
And we repeat to ourselves over and over again the injustice of the situation, of how we were treated and why we didn’t deserve it. Our expectations, whether appropriate or not, have been trampled.
Now we continue that pain as we replay over and over again what was done to us. As we continue to stoke the flames of anger, hurt, and betrayal, we soon have a raging furnace inside of us, our stomach churning into hard knots; yet we feel chilled to the bone. Each time we re-play the events, we become more victimized and traumatized. Each time we review the offence, our desire for revenge gets stronger and stronger.
Everyone sees the world differently. What “stresses” one person out may be another person’s excitement and enthusiasm for life.
When we share family stories with our siblings, we are often surprised at how differently each person growing up in the same household interpreted family dynamics and what their goals and aspirations were.
We are shaped and molded by our life experiences. We develop core beliefs about what we can and cannot do and how we perceive the world.
But despite their influence, we have the ability to change negative and self-defeating perceptions and re-direct our lives.
Properly channeled, stress enables us to live happy, energetic, productive lives. It allows us to set goals, meet dangers and defend ourselves.
Life is not perfect.
Just as there will be times when we will experience incredible joy and happiness, there will be times when we will experience high, extreme levels of stress because of unexpected tragedies, adversities, and losses that severely impact every aspect of our lives.
At such times, we will feel anxiety, worry and fear. The more overwhelmed we are in such circumstances the more helpless, hopeless and depressed we can become.
Our bodies were made to deal with stress
So, if we were made to handle all kinds of stress, should be concerned?
Receive 3 Free Gifts when you subscribe to my mailing list!
Eight Ways to Change Your Focus and Change Your Life
Steps to a Successful Goal
Learning to Live Again in a New World (Chapters 1-2)
Plus, you’ll get a new blog post and podcast episode every Wednesday!