Play: Laughter

This is Part 3 of a series.



After being told he had little chance of surviving his heart disease and debilitating arthritis, Norman Cousins cured himself.

With laughter.

Beset by terrible pain from his condition, he said “I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep. When the pain-killing effect of the laughter wore off, we would switch on the motion picture projector again and not infrequently, it would lead to another pain-free interval.”

That’s right, he would watch Marx Brothers films to induce laughter as a form of pain relief and ultimately, healing.

Cousins did research on the biochemistry of emotions during his time as a professor at UCLA School of Medicine. He knew something I believe we all know on some level.

Laughter is healing.

And we need healing. And lot’s of it. Our bodies, our minds, our relationships, our spirits, our world. All are in need of a good dose of healing.

Besides, who can deny that a good belly laugh that shakes your whole body, makes your eyes water and maybe even makes you feel like you might pee your pants, isn’t one of life’s greatest pleasures.

Hopefully you’re no stranger to the state of relaxation and sense of well-being a good laugh can foster. But did you know that laughter has been researched and proven to also relieve muscle tension and lead to a substantial reduction in resting heart rate and blood pressure.

But that’s not all, laughter also releases endorphins – those feel good chemicals – and increases immunity by raising T-cells in the blood and reducing so called stress hormones.

Scripture says: “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” Indeed.

Plus, a shared sense of humor is one of the biggest connectors in friendships and romantic relationships. And it’s free.

So why don’t we laugh more?

Again, I go back to observing my children in my investigation of play.

If they are awake, chances are they are giggling. Giggling during meals, giggling while they play with their friends. Giggling during bath time. Giggle. Giggle. Giggle. All the time. It’s easy for them, they are blissfully unaware of all the reasons to be sad.

Also, the fact is not lost on me that they make a game out of nearly everything. Clearly, the idea of playing and laughing are closely intertwined.

The fact that we aren’t playing as much is obviously part of the reason why we are not laughing as much as we could be.

But I believe there’s something else too.

In a world filled with so much suffering, I think laughter feels like somewhat of a …. betrayal.

As if my laughter somehow disregards of another person’s pain.

Or stated another way, if I am somber and morose, somehow I am paying respect to those less fortunate. Sort of a showing of solidarity.

Even as I’m writing this, I find that it seems a little ridiculous.

First, I don’t think most people in the midst of their own sorrow would wish the same on anyone else.

Second, this logic multiplies sorrows, not divides them.

And yes, there is a time to ‘mourn with those who mourn.’ But those are seasons, not a lifestyle.

I believe a very necessary part of any healing lifestyle is mirth, levity, and downright hilarity.

So how can we get more laughter into our lives?

Well first and foremost, we need to lighten up. Stop taking yourself so seriously. You are not so important that if you ease up in your intensity for a few minutes the world will stop spinning.

Then, intentionally put yourself into situations that make you laugh.

My husband and I went to a live comedy club recently. I highly recommend it.

A few of my other favorites are: Saturday Night Live episodes from the 90’s, funny movies, hanging out with funny people, or just watching my children. Laughter is contagious.

Bottom line, laughter is important. For your health, for your heart, and for your relationships.

So why not make laughter a part of your healing journey.

A relaxed, joy filled, HEALED person is much more equipped to actually DO something about the trouble in the world than the person bound up in anxiety and sadness.

What do you do to laugh? Leave a comment with some more ideas to get those good, medicinal belly laughs going.