Life is funny.
Sure, in the sense that strange things happen to us on a regular basis.
But also, in that, we can, if we choose, find genuine humor in the regular happenings and experiences of everyday life.
You’ve maybe heard it said that, “laughter is the best medicine.” But are you aware that this idiom was derived from scripture?
Proverbs 17:22 tells us that, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
Over the last several years, many of us can relate to having a crushed spirit. So, in the midst of all that, how can we learn to allow ourselves the freedom to laugh? Or maybe, laugh more often?
…turns out, there’s actually a lot of great wisdom and direction that’s been brought out of that Proverb over the years.
Now, if we’re honest and thoughtful, we acknowledge that a very happy person can “randomly” or unexpectedly drop dead of some terrible disease and a miserable person can live for a long time but the point is that our psychological state can have dramatic effects on our overall health and well-being.
The power of laughter has long been recognized by both medical and spiritual experts. It is said by some to have even predated linguistical speech as a way for our earliest ancestors to share joy and tell others they are open to friendship and there is nothing to worry about.
In fact, perhaps inspired by the wisdom of Solomon, in the 1300s visionary French surgeon Henri de Mondeville, a professor of surgery, advised telling patients jokes after an operation. And Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, identified the power of laughter and “gallows humor” to let go of stress in times of crisis. And plenty of medical and psychological research also supports the power of laughter.
Here are 5 Scientific Reasons they share for why laughing makes our lives better:
IT WORKS LIKE A DRUG
Research has shown that laughter releases endorphins — a natural feel-good chemical — in the brain via opioid receptors. This process acts as a natural mood booster, similar to the euphoric feelings that are brought on by drugs — without the nasty comedown.
FORMS CONTAGIOUS SOCIAL BONDS
Research has found that the pleasurable and calming effects of the endorphin release caused by laughter promote feelings of safety and togetherness. Prof Lauri Nummenmaa, of the University of Turku in Finland, and co-author of the 2017 study into how laughter affects the brain, says: “That endorphin release induced by social laughter may be an important pathway that supports formation, reinforcement, and maintenance of social bonds between humans.” So, as well as making us feel better, laughter can also improve the well-being of those around us. Science and health expert David DiSalvo says: “It’s like a game of endorphin dominoes. That’s why when someone starts laughing, others will laugh even if they’re not sure what everyone is laughing about.” Another study found how the brain responds to the sound of laughter and preps the brain and face to join in the fun.
RELAXES THE BODY
A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving our muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after. It increases then decreases our heart rate and blood pressure, stimulates circulation and aids muscle relaxation.
CAN BOOST THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
Negative thoughts can manifest into chemical reactions that can affect our body by bringing more stress into our system and decreasing immunity. In contrast, positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more serious illnesses.
IT CAN EASE PAIN
Research has shown that watching comedy videos can decrease hospital patients’ need for opioid painkillers. Viewing or participating in comedy led to higher pain tolerance and people who laughed more felt less pain later. Studies of opioid-blocking drugs have shown that endorphin activity is tied to pain relief.
Even if we don’t feel like laughing, doctors say it is something we can learn and train ourselves to do. We can surround ourselves with funny people, watch funny films and TV, read funny books and play with our kids and let their natural joy rub off on us. And we should give ourselves a gentle push to crack a smile and join in the fun even if it doesn’t come naturally at first. Because it has been proven that embracing this powerful natural medicine can make our bodies and minds healthier and more relaxed.
Latina poet, Rosario Castellanos (1924-74) shares with us that “Laughter is a response.
- Laughter is what our body does when our mind picks up on humor or the absurd.
- Laughter can lighten our burden, freeing us from the many weights we carry.
- It literally can shake us out of a mood we are in.
- Laughter is a sign of liberation.
- Laughter reflects the freedom to think.
When we laugh, our individual perspectives or cultural norms can be better known. We respond to what we will allow our mind to imagine; we laugh in the space we’ve made to absorb what we hear or see. A constrained mind has less latitude for humor; we laugh more when our thinking is open. Laughter can help us consider new ideas or fresh insights on old ways.
Moments of laughter maybe some of our most wise. Laughter reflects the freedom not to think.
Laughter can come as a surprise. We sometimes laugh before we have a chance to consciously wonder why, and in those times, let go of the need to understand. We are fully present in the moment, completely free to feel the jolts of hilarity coursing through us. We relax attempts to look controlled; we let ourselves respond without judgment or explanation.
Moments of laughter maybe some of our most unguarded. Laughter reflects our freedom to trust.
Laughter can transform a situation from one feeling state to another. It reminds us that most of what we experience is temporary in nature. A fresh perspective, an ironic angle, or a deft insight can bring us to laughter. We can trust that our agile minds and adaptable emotions together can bring us into balance.
Moments of laughter maybe some of our most hopeful. In laughter, we express a bounty of freedom.”
I love to laugh. Especially at funny things that get my whole body involved and cause tears to flow out of my eyes.
So this month, at our July First Friday event, we’ve decided to press “pause” on the Authentic and Accountable teaching series we’re engaged in, to enjoy some authentic and hearty laughter together. We’ll be featuring 3 of some of the best clean comedians around today via video in a Comedy Stand-Off. If you’re in the area, give yourself a gift; come out and join us beginning at 6:30pm at North Coast’s Vista campus. You’ll be better for it, glad you did, and we’ll enjoy having you along. All of us could learn to give ourselves the freedom to laugh more. Let’s begin together tonight.
Right here with you,