COLUMN: Laughter: It is life’s free medicine

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By John Lapp

The monthly magazine, Readers Digest, for many years had a regular part of the magazine entitled: Laughter, The World’s Best Medicine. Under this heading were some humorous stories and jokes.
There is something to be said about this statement that is absolutely true: good, hearty laughter appears to help display a healthy disposition. It has also often been stated that it relaxes our body system, we feel better and we may even (how nice this would be) grumble and complain less.
Verbal pollution, a sort of doomsday mentality, seems to be the focus of today’s newscasts, publications and even run-of-the-mill conversations among people of Christian or non-Christian persuasion.
On the contrary, a wonderful sound to hear is children at play, at joyous play, often laughing hilariously and giggling about who knows what. It’s just fun to hear and even more fun to watch them at play, tumbling about, rolling around, playfully chasing one another without, it seems, any cares of the world, which often trouble us as adults.
By the way, one of the most enjoyable periods of my life was when I directed the puppet program at our church, developing appropriate voices for both animals and those in human form.
Especially fun were the characters I named “Uncle Don” and “Aunt Clara,” a senior-aged couple, with the husband being a grumbling, complaining type and Aunt Clara, the control freak.
That was a blast, and laughter was regularly heard, as the children also laughed for the funny animals presented.
A case in point about how good laughter is for all of us: Mr. Norman Cousins, a noted research journalist, was in 1964 given a few months to live. He had a rare disease of connective tissue, was told by a doctor who was also a good friend, that he had a “one in 500 chance of survival, so get your affairs in order.”
Because he was a research journalist, he set himself to find a solution. He read and discovered that both his disease and the medicines were depleting his body of Vitamin C among other things. So he decided to do three things:
1. He fired his doctor, left the hospital (where under the doctors advice, he had placed himself), found another doctor who would work with him as a “team member” as opposed to insisting on being in charge.
2. He began to get injections of massive doses of Vitamin C.
3. He obtained a movie projector and a pile of funny movies, including the Marx Brothers and Candid Camera shows.
Subsequently, while watching these movies and in spite of his being in constant pain, he reportedly laughed until his stomach hurt.
Well, did the laughter do it? Who knows exactly, but he died many years later in 1990, nearly 26 years after his doctors diagnosed his heart disease and subsequent other problems.
Can this be proven, that the laughter alone brought him many more years of life?
It is known that laughter strengthens the body’s immune system and produces healthy emotions which are always good for us. In fact, in a book entitled, “The Laughter Prescription,” published in 1987, the authors state that laughter not only makes our serious lives lighter but also helps control pain in at least four ways: “(1) by distracting our attention, (2) by reducing the tension we are living with, (3) by changing our expectations and (4) by increasing the production of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers.”
Well, as strange as it may seem, laughter turns our minds from our seriousness and pain and actually increases a degree of anesthesia.
By diverting our attention from our situation, laughter enables us to take a brief excursion away from the pain. So, why not laugh?
Lighten up some, have a few hearty belly laughs.
Life comes at us from all angles and at sundry times, it sometimes feels like life is overwhelming. Get with a friend or one of your fun relatives (I hope you have at least one), even if it is on the phone and “guffaw” which is defined as “a loud or boisterous burst of laughter.”
Go ahead ... have a few bursts! Maybe when you do let it all hang out, your sides may hurt (I hope so!), realizing this hurt will be a good hurt that won’t be painful, but may even relieve some of life’s normal, regular pains.
One of my favorite authors, Dr. Charles “Chuck” Swindoll, wrote a book titled, “Laugh Again.” It’s written from the perspective of his more than 40 years as a pastor and 10 years as president of the Dallas Theological Seminary.
I believe you will enjoy this book and gain insight, even the belief that Jesus also had a sense of humor and, no doubt, had many opportunities to laugh as he was accompanied for three years by his traveling companions, the 12 disciples.
For more information, I can be reached at 477-2818, or (cell phone) 904-699-8417.
By the way don’t be surprised, if you visit my office, that you will discover that I have a lively, sense of humor. It’s fun to laugh.