Who doesn’t love a good a laugh? Laughter has so many health benefits, yet few of us give it a place in our daily lives. Despite all of the pandemic memes out there, it feels like ages since I enjoyed a good, long belly laugh. Which gave me an idea; ask all of you to join me in a laughter challenge. Let’s face it, it’s impossible to entertain anger or dwell on whatever personal or business challenge haunts you while you have a good laugh. Laughter is the perfect antidote to stodgy, serious and over stated self importance.
The current world environment exudes heaviness and despair with a global pandemic, protests, high unemployment and general social unrest. Even the most optimistic person viewing the daily news can find little to maintain their optimism. To add insult to injury, we don’t need to watch the news to find discouragement; we can see it in our socially altered way of living. Living in such an atmosphere indefinitely can cause even the most hope-filled individuals to shift toward hopelessness. Laughter won’t cure all of our problems, but if you join me in a laughter challenge, we can begin to connect again.
Laughter Really is the best medicine
Most people agree that a good laugh feels good, but have little knowledge of the physical, mental and emotional benefits of laughter. Plus we all know those serious types who view laughter as nothing but “silliness”. I realize we can take laughter a bit too far sometimes, and border on the ridiculous. But losing the ability to find humor in ourselves or our situations is a mistake. Laughter is intrinsic to our overall well-being.
I work in healthcare, hospice and palliative medicine to be exact. Not particularly the type of profession where you might find laughter. Yet working with both physicians and patients that find humor in themselves and their situations taught me laughter really is the best medicine. I still remember one clinic patient with end stage cancer that came in one day. We just hit it off from the moment she came through the door. I always tried a little humor with my patients as I roomed them to put them at ease. This woman kept it going and we traded several quips laughing almost through the entire visit. When she left she expressed so much gratitude for my humor and sharing a laugh with her. She was so weary of the “gloominess” of her visits, that she found our visit not only refreshing, but uplifting.
Surprising Health Benefits of Laughter
Patch Adams is an American physician, clown and social activist, who believes in treating patients with love, humor and creativity in addition to traditional medical practices. He believed that bringing humor to sick people was the equivalent of bringing them love and compassion. Whether you agree or not, he was definitely on to something, check out these health benefits of laughter.
- Lowers Blood Pressure. Nitric oxide, a “vasodilator” is released when you laugh, opening the blood vessels resulting in lower blood pressure.
- Reduces Stress Hormones. Laughter reduces cortisol, epinephrine, adrenaline and dopamine. By reducing the levels of these hormones, you reduce stress and anxiety in your body.
- Works Your Abs. When laughing, the muscles in your abdominal area expand and contract just like intentional exercise. Meanwhile, other muscles get time to relax. Ladies, is there an easier ab workout???
- Improves Cardiac Health. Laughter increases your heart rate similar to a slow moderate walk.
- Boosts Immune Health. Laughter activates T-cells which are the main defense against sickness.
- Triggers Endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s natural pain killers. Increasing endorphins helps with chronic pain relief and overall well-being.
- Improves Perspective. Laughter improves your general outlook, fending off depression. People with a positive outlook fight disease better and are more likely to recover.
A cheerful heart is good medicineProverbs 17:22
the power of laughter
While it’s true laughter provides health benefits it also provides psycho-social benefits as well. Laughter connects us to others. We can certainly enjoy a good laugh alone, but when we share it with others, we laugh more! Laughter is contagious just like the story I shared about my cancer patient; and we both reaped the benefits. That’s why I’d love for you to join me in a laughter challenge.
Laughter is powerful enough to heal. In 1979, The New England Journal of Medicine published a report based on Norman Cousins, journalist and editor of the Saturday Review. He was diagnosed with a debilitating spinal disease and given a 1/500 chance to live. He believed in the importance of environment on healing and left the hospital. He pursued a treatment plan that involved continual exposure to humor and fully recovered. You can read his full story in his book “Anatomy of an Illness”. You can also read more about his story and the effects of laughter on depression patients in this PsychCentral article.
Laughter’s Power Even in the Memory
We see the power laughter has to improve our health, and even bring healing. But its power is not diminished by time. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say recalling a funny story from my past can have me laughing uncontrollably simply from the memory. To this day, I will laugh out loud at the memory of one of my beloved dog, Golda’s antics with my husband.
Golda knew she was not permitted to be on the second floor of our home, but that’s where our daughter Rachel’s room was located. Golda and Rachel were best friends. The second floor rule was my husband’s and Golda somehow knew that. So she would sneak up there when everyone went to bed. She would sleep in Rachel’s room all night, and when my husband’s alarm went off, she waited until he went into the bathroom, then would stealthily go back downstairs. This worked for quite awhile, until one morning my husband forgot something and came right back out and caught her in the act! Even he had to laugh!
Laughing at Ourselves
Remembering funny stories about ourselves can bring needed relief when we take ourselves too seriously or become too motivated by what others think about us. Case in point, I allowed myself to get very worked up over my appearance due to falling into the comparison trap. I kept comparing myself to others who had nicer clothes, better make up and seemed to effortlessly look like they had it all together.
So one day, I thought I picked out a well put together outfit for work, and was feeling pretty good about myself. That illusion came to a screeching halt on a trip to the bathroom at lunchtime. I glanced in the mirror while washing my hands only to be horrified by what I saw. My sweater was on backwards and I had forgotten to put on my eyebrows!! Initially I was utterly mortified to think of all the people with whom I interacted and what they must think of me. Upon taking another look in the mirror, I began laughing at my total foolishness in worrying about what others thought of me and thoroughly enjoyed a laugh at my own expense.
laughter is a gift from god
My God is not a sad, stern God sitting in heaven scowling at the foolishness of laughter. He is a happy God, his happiness is rooted in his unchangeable, unshakable, glorious nature! One look at the wonder of creation, and there is no doubt God has a sense of humor! His very nature is revealed in all of creation. We see His beauty, majesty and power in all things; the heavens declare the glory of God. Consider the silliness of monkeys, the playfulness of dolphins or the mischievousness of chipmunks. Scientists have even recorded certain species like the New Zealand Kea that actually “laugh”.
We are created in God’s image, created to laugh. If we think laughter and “holiness” are not compatible we have believed the lie of the enemy. God desires that we enjoy His good creation and He delights in our laughter as a parent delights in the laughter of their child. We know in this life we experience sorrow, but in the life to come we can expect laughter according to Luke 6:21. When we rejoice and laugh we glimpse a tiny slice of heaven, which infuriates the enemy of our souls. Psalm 30:5 tells us weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Weeping will end, but joy and laughter will never end. Psalm 16:11.
Join me in a laughter challenge
Knowing our laughter delights a happy God and given so much positive benefit from laughter, why do we laugh so little? Do you remember the last time you had a really good laugh? Let’s change all of that. Whether we laugh at funny stories, crazy animals, movies, or ourselves, laughter is part of what gives value to life. Similar to my recent post on Gratitude, laughter helps us appreciate and value life itself. It makes us feel alive!
So I invite you to join me in a laughter challenge. Take time over the next 30 days to laugh each and every day. Laugh alone or with others, but laugh. Take time to laugh with your kids, have you ever noticed they don’t need much prompting to find joy in life? Also, pull others into this challenge, laughter is contagious. Keep a laughter journal; at the end of each day write down something that made you laugh that day. By keeping a journal you’ll be more likely to find something to laugh about! Join me on Facebook and share your stories, I’ll share the humor I’ve found each day and look forward to your stories! Just wait and see what happens when you join me for a laughter challenge, what have you got to lose?