by Christine Sine
“Don’t let the world defeat your laughter and song.” This quote by Keren Dibbens-Wyatt has held my attention this week as I, like all of us, have grappled with the seriousness of what COVID-19 has imposed upon us. It is so easy to forget that in the midst of dealing with the fears and anxieties of possibly getting sick and even the busyness of moving so much of what we do online, we also need fun and laughter. So this week, I did a little research on the impact of laughter and thought that you would like to see the stunning results of my investigations. We really do need laughter. It’s good for us physically, emotionally and I think, spiritually too.
The joy that laughter brings can impact our creativity and our perspective on life. Babies laugh on average 400 times a day. Yet adults over 35 on average laugh only 15 times a day. So get out there; play, have some fun, laugh and enjoy yourself.
I have adapted the rest of this post from this article Stress Relief from Laughter posted by The Mayo Clinic.
A good laugh has great short-term effects. When you start to laugh, it doesn’t just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body. And laughter is contagious. Last week, we were taking photos of Tom for publicity for his upcoming book. It was my job to make him smile. He asked me to tell some funny stories but that was hard for me so I just started laughing, and by the end of the session Tom wasn’t just smiling, he was laughing too.
- Stimulate heart, lungs and muscles. It enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain. Laughter reduces your blood pressure, improves your muscle tone (especially your abs) and and increases your tolerance for pain.
- Activate and relieve your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response, and it can increase and then decrease your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling. Even a smile can help. It, like laughter, is contagious and often leads to a good laugh too. This not only improves your mood, but has the added benefit of improving the quality of your relationships with those around you. It can even help create new relationships. And at a time like this, these are all things that we need.
- Soothe tension. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress and improve the quality of your sleep.
Laughter isn’t just a quick pick-me-up, though. It’s also good for you over the long term. Laughter may:
- Improve your immune system. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. By contrast, positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.
- Relieve pain. Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers.
- Increase personal satisfaction. Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It also helps you connect with other people.
- Improve your mood. Many people experience depression, sometimes due to chronic illnesses. Laughter can help lessen your depression and anxiety and may make you feel happier.
- Creates hope. Laughter changes your perspectives and helps you to see difficult circumstances as a challenge rather than a threat. It is hard to feel anxious, sad or angry when you are laughing.
- Promotes creativity. Humour reduces tension and causes you to relax, and relaxation is an important component of creativity.
Improve Your Sense of Humour
- Add a daily dose of humour to your schedule. What makes you laugh? Is it photos, greeting cards, or comic strips that make you chuckle. I know I have a collection of each and am pulling them out this week to help me get my daily dose. I might even hang a few of them around the house for when I need an extra boost. And in the evenings, Tom and I are looking for funny movies and books to read. I am particularly drawn to cartoon prayer books that both make me laugh and nourish my soul: Like Scott Erickson’s Prayer: 40 Days of Practice Charlie Mackesy’s The Boy, the Mole, the fox and the Horse and Michael Leunig’s A Common Prayer.
- Laugh and the world laughs with you. What about the current situation makes you laugh? Find a way to laugh about your own situations and watch your stress begin to fade away. Even if it feels forced at first, practice laughing. It does your body good. And if you are not sure where to begin watch this:
- Or you might like to try some laughter yoga:
- Share a laugh. Make it a habit to spend time with friends who make you laugh. Perhaps you could plan a virtual fun night together. Share funny stories or jokes or play games together that make you laugh.
Laughter is the best medicine and a gift from God
Jesus was “anointed … with the oil of gladness” (Heb 1:9). Some of the things he did sounded very humorous. I think he loved to laugh. Spend a few minutes reflecting on Jesus laughing. What images come to mind? How does it make you feel?
Now go ahead and give it a try. Turn the corners of your mouth up into a smile and then give a laugh, even if it feels a little forced. Once you’ve had your chuckle, take stock of how you’re feeling. Are your muscles a little less tense? Do you feel more relaxed or buoyant? Do you feel a little more connected to God? That’s the natural wonder of laughing at work.