• Dr. Andy and Renie Bowman

Laughter is Like Medicine

I can be sitting at my desk, deeply engrossed in thinking of a serious crisis the world is facing. My mind spiraling in never ending circles, like water going down a drain. And as I contemplate the seemingly unsolvable issue that has my attention, if I am not careful, the problem can consume my morning.

Like beef jerky - the more I chew on it, the tougher it gets. Sigh….such is the life of a responsible adult.

But suddenly, out of the blue, I hear the happy-go-lucky giggle of a toddler at play. And the murky gray space around me seconds before suddenly lightens just a little.

A child’s laughter, the simple enjoyment of what they are doing right then holds no guile, no worry, no pretense, no shame or embarrassment. It is the expression of what they are feeling. Fun. Happiness in the moment. Innocent appreciation of their life right now.

One of the greatest sounds in the world is laughter. To me it can surpass wind rustling through the trees, thunder rolling in the distance, and rain pattering on the roof while I am falling asleep – and these are personal favorites of this writer. But nothing holds a candle to hearing the laughter of happy children.

The Scripture teaches that “Laughter doeth good like a medicine.” Modern scientists can list many health benefits in laughter. It is well known to be a great stress-reducer, causing the dormant feel-good endorphins to kick in and change our mood. Also a pain reliever and immune system booster, this free medicine is nothing to ignore. Our hurting world could use a good old fashioned belly laugh about now. And I’m not talking about bullying or cruelly having fun at the expense of someone else. Just the emotional release found in finding humor in ourselves and the situations around us.

When our two sons were small, the oldest could tickle the funny bone of the younger with such simple things. We would hear his infectious baby laughter break out in their room they shared. When one of us would step to the door, we would find the youngest sitting spraddle-legged on the floor, giggling at the smallest inane things his brother would be doing. Placing a tiny crumb of his cookie on his baby brother’s lip could cause uncontrolled hilarity to erupt from both of them. Silly, of course. Of no consequence, absolutely. Notable in this world, not a chance. But bonding? Without a doubt. Healthy? No doctor would disagree.

Oh yes, I realize we are no longer innocent fun-seeking children anymore. You and I have jobs with responsibilities that carry serious weight. And I am very much aware that we live in a broken hurting world, where there seems to be so little to find funny. But that is precisely part of my point. You need to laugh. You need to seek out the silly, the laughable, the worry-breaking, the tension-lifter…however you can find it without causing yourself harm.

Oh, one more great benefit of laughter? It is so contagious. Listen to the wholesome lighthearted chuckles of a group of adults and see if it doesn’t lift the mood of people nearby. But speaking of contagion. Watch what happens when a group of serious-minded and worried adults get together and discuss. Feel the tension escalate. Watch the worry growing in their eyes. Visualize the rising blood pressure. Imagine the accumulating effects on stress levels and strained immune systems. Not a pretty picture.

So what makes you laugh? A full throttle throw-your-head-back-and-enjoy-the-moment laugh at something you find just plain funny? Don’t remember? Never have? Think that idea is rather useless and shallow? Hmmm….maybe you could learn something from an innocent child. Someone who already knows how to enjoy life in the moment with absolutely no expense attached. Nothing was ever solved by worrying, so that is a non-starter. But laughter? That is definitely worth chasing for you and creating for others.

By the way, have you heard the old joke “Knock, knock….?’

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