There’s Healing Power in Laughter
Reasons to Laugh
In this life, we have a lot of good reasons to feel sad – perhaps, our best friend won’t talk to us, our beloved has forgotten our special day, or we’re going through something like a job loss, a divorce, a breakup, a sick pet, etc., but according to a famous psychologist and humor guru, if we waited for a reason to laugh, we would probably never laugh.
At some point in our lifetime, we may have been told, “What are you smiling at?” “Stop laughing, that’s not funny”. But this is repression of our spontaneous joy, and it is not really quite a healthy lesson. Laughter is healing and rejuvenating. We should be free to express it. We have to admit that it feels good when we laugh. When we laugh, our energy and the circulation of our blood is stimulated, the heart rate increases, our immune system are boosted into gear, our blood pressure stabilizes, and it massages the inner organs. When we laugh, it can also divert our thoughts because no other thought comes to mind. We do not think of pain or discomfort. Laughing can also induce physical changes in the body. After laughing for only a few minutes, we may feel better for hours.
In addition to the benefits I mentioned above, according to some studies, laughter may provide physical benefits by helping to:
• Boost not only the immune system but the circulatory system
• Increase oxygen supply
• Stimulate the heart and lungs
• Trigger the release of endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers)
• Relax muscles throughout the body
• Facilitate digestion/soothes stomach aches
• Pain reliever
• Keep blood pressure in balance
• Improve memory and creativity
• Promotes overall attitude and sense of well-being
• Reduce stress and decrease muscle tension
• Promote relaxation and improve sleep
• Strengthen relationships and social bonds
Some hospitals or clinics apply the method of Laughter Therapy, also called Humor Therapy to promote overall health and wellness (physical, emotional and mental) among their patients. This therapy aims to use the natural physiological process of laughter to help relieve physical or emotional stresses or discomfort. A growing body of research supports the theory that laughter may have therapeutic value.
Medical experts tell us three to five minutes of belly laughing equals three minutes of strenuous exercise on a rowing machine. Zen Buddhists believe that 15 minutes of laughter is equivalent to six to eight hours of meditation.
Norman Cousins, a former magazine editor, proved that laughter can heal. He suffered years of prolonged pain from a crippling illness. He claimed to have overcome this illness by drawing on the regenerative powers of humor and laughter. He wrote in his book, “Anatomy of an Illness” (1979 edition) that 10 minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give him at least two hours of pain-free sleep. He watched comedy videos/movies and it helped him recover.
Laughter can be helpful in very many ways we might not have realized or imagined. It can help us feel better about ourselves and the world around us. It can help in the overall healing process even in the most chronic and serious kinds of illnesses.
I had joined a Laughter Club when I was living in Toronto. This is based not on humor or jokes, but rather on laughter as a physical exercise. One group laughter exercise involves us practitioners standing in a circle, including our leader. We put our fingertips on our lower abdomen and at the count of three, make “ha ha” or “hee hee” sounds until we felt vibrations through our bellies or whole bodies. It is hard for people not to join in because laughter is so contagious. At the end of a laughter therapy session, we all felt great! After continually doing it with the group several times, I must admit, I started to look so well and so vibrant daily; and a complex right ovarian cysts that I had at that time which was scheduled to be removed eventually disappeared. I did not even have to go for surgery at all. Of course, it may be attributed to a variety of natural treatments I underwent, and laughter may have been one of them.
I moved to upstate New York. Then things had been so hard, ie, finding a job, then a home, that I haven't laughed like this in years. Because once I found the job, I had to spend hours of overtime work in that job. Then once we found a home, we spend time making it and keeping it. Then recently, on an intermittent basis, I make every effort of visiting my parents in Toronto due to their ailments. I thought of contacting my Laughter Club again while there, but I never thought about laughing everyday, that I can do it wherever I go. Even when I don't feel happy, I can still laugh and feel better. One example is when I am driving alone travelling to Toronto, I have the whole six to eight hours by myself in the car driving on the Thruway and Highways, so I can incorporate even a few minutes of laughter within that trip. There are humorous CD's that I can listen to. It helps keep me awake and alert on the road. The bottom line is: I feel good, refreshed and revitalized!
“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” Prov. 17:22
Laughter is a Natural Medicine
We were born with the gift of laughter. Laughter lifts our spirits and makes us feel happy. Laughter is a contagious but positive emotion. It can bring people together. It can help us feel more alive and empowered. God has given us that wellspring of inner strength which we can tap by endowing us with a sense of humor. God has always been urging upon us love and laughter.
God has also provided us with a wealth of comedy material. If we just look around us and within us, there are all sorts of things to make us laugh. Children are best examples. When we listen to a child’s laughter, we hear joy and love of life. When I’m with children, I make goofy faces, laugh with them, roll down on the ground with them, I don’t mind how ridiculous I must look because I’m too busy having fun. Just like them, I should express my joy and love of life. Laughter is an outward expression of joy. Kids give us the permission to be silly. Children don’t wait for permission to laugh, they laugh because it feels good.
Bishop Fulton Sheen wrote in “Lift Up Your Heart”, “When a person loses his or her sense of humor, he or she ceases to see the point of the universe, which is that all things are revelations, symbols, reminders of God who made them. To take things seriously as ends in themselves is to overrate them, to treat them with a solemnity that is not warranted.” Oscar Wilde said, “Life is too serious to be taken seriously.”
I remember a man of God also told me once, “In your difficulty, pray to God for guidance and wisdom. God listens, and God does have a sense of humor.” When we can still laugh in the midst of our problems, it is proof that we are bigger than our problems. Because that means, we have not given in to despair.
I realize it is nice and wonderful to surround myself with people who manage to laugh even in the midst of adversity. It is wonderful to share laughter with friends. This makes us realize, we are no longer alone. Pain can be blinding, and sometimes it takes another person to help us “see the point of the universe” so we can enjoy life again. We need to associate with people who have good sense of humor. Laughter is indeed contagious. It has tremendous healing power. Therefore, go, just laugh and love. All is well.
“The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.” – E. E. Cummings