Laughter is a universal language that needs no interpreter. It is also a gift. Not everyone can play the piano. Not everyone can sing or
paint or sculpt images from clay. These forms of special gifts have
been doled out sparingly.
But laughter is a gift God has given to all of us. No special tools are required. Not even a practice run is necessary.
Laughter is good medicine, too. It is as cleansing to me
as a good cry and less expensive—if you consider the cost of mascara.
Remember the words of Proverbs 17:22: “A cheerful heart is good
medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (NKJV).
Solomon knew it 4,000 years ago. A man named Robert
Burton realized it 400 years ago. In a book titled Anatomy of
Melancholy, he notes, “Humor purges the blood, making the body young,
lively and fit for any manner of employment.”
Laughter as Therapy
Recently, scientific studies have confirmed laughter is
good for your health. At the Primary Health Care Center in Motala,
Sweden, Dr. Lars Ljungdahl (with a name like that, you need a good
sense of humor) conducts laugh therapy. After years of research he has
determined that laughter suppresses the hormones that cause stress.
Laughter also reduces pain. And a good laugh increases
the blood flow to the brain and the oxygen level in the arteries and
veins by releasing valuable endorphins into the body. These endorphins
act as a “brain-made” drug that sets off biological processes that make
people feel good—immediately.
Dr. Ljungdahl believes his research is universally
applicable. He says, “The people of Motala, Sweden, have a reputation
of complaining, so if laugh therapy will work with them, it will work
anywhere.” His goal is helping people give a higher priority to humor
in everyday life.
I read about Dr. Ljungdahl in Steve Simms’ book
Mindrobics: How to Be Happy for the Rest of Your Life. Simms explains
that for 13 weeks Ljungdahl meets with his patients as they review
books, comedy records and humorous videos.
But then for homework, he asks patients to keep a journal
of funny happenings they observe. They are to rank them on a 1-to-5
scale from barely funny to hilarious.
The results? In the course of the therapy, all the
patients experienced a reduction in their levels of pain. Their immune
systems improved, as well as the overall quality of their lives.
Dr. Ljungdahl says, “The humor perspective is a way of
getting distance from your problems. Since every person has a sense of
humor and every child laughs, it’s not so much learning something new
as it is regaining what you once had.”
Does that sound familiar to you? Can you hear Jesus
saying that we must “receive the kingdom of God like a little child”
Speaking of Jesus—stop and think about the possibility of
His laughing. Just try to imagine what it might have sounded like. Do
you think he was a snorter or a guffawer?
In her book Managing Your Life and Time, Jo Berry says,
“I used to puzzle over why the Holy Spirit didn’t direct the authors of
the gospels to write, ‘Jesus laughed,’ as well as ‘Jesus wept.’ I’ve
decided the reason is because it’s so obvious that the Lord would
laugh. It goes without saying…Jesus was human, as well as divine, so
of course He laughed. He enjoyed life, relished close friendships, and
took great pleasure in being with children.”
Berry reminds us that the classic Westminster Confession
of Faith declares it is our Christian duty to enjoy God. And Martin
Luther once said, “It is pleasing to God whenever you rejoice or laugh
from the bottom of your heart.”
Is this sinking in yet? Do you get my point? God created you to laugh.
Since I am a comedian, it should come as no surprise that
I would write about laughter. But all comedy aside, laughter should be
a big part of your life—because laughter is an incredible medicine
created in us by God. No matter how much your heart may be hurting in
this season of life or how tense and anxious you may be on this
particular day, I want you to just try to find a little piece of life
that gives you the hope of a chuckle.
I am well aware of the paradox inherent in considering
laughter as medicine: On the one hand, healing takes time; it is a
process that cannot be forced or rushed. On the other, I’ve repeatedly
seen that laughter does its healing work as we allow it to—in no time
Taking Your Medicine
Laughter not only releases endorphins that help you feel
better, but also is sometimes the key that will open the door of your
heart. I suggest you engage in a bit of your own laughter therapy. Here
are some ideas for how to get started: