Laughter is the Best Medicine

Wanda and I are in my “office” bedroom. Grandson David, who will be 15 in three weeks, is sitting at the computer station “chatting” on the internet. I am clearing my desk by filing papers while Wanda reads from her Joke File. “Here’s a good one.” She begins reading:

Due to increasing products liability litigation, American liquor manufacturers have accepted the FDA’s suggestion that the following warning labels be placed immediately on all varieties of alcohol containers:

WARNING: The consumption of alcohol may make you think you are whispering—you are not.

WARNING: The consumption of alcohol may cause you to think you can sing.

WARNING: The consumption of alcohol may make you think you can logically converse with other members of the opposite sex without spitting.

WARNING: The consumption of alcohol is the leading cause of inexplicable rug burns on the forehead, knees and lower back.

WARNING: The consumption of alcohol may create the illusion that you are tougher, smarter, faster, and better looking than most people.

WARNING: The consumption of alcohol may lead you to think people are laughing WITH you.

WARNING: The consumption of alcohol may cause pregnancy.

WARNING: The consumption of alcohol may leave you wondering what the heck happened to your underwear.”

Wanda began giggling, and said, “Mom, you’ll have to read this last one.”

“NO,” David protested, rising from the chair and standing in protest beside me. “I can hear it. I know everything. I’m 15! I know all about that stuff.”

By the constant clicking of the computer keys, we thought David was concentrating on the internet. How could he be listening to us while clicking away?

I said, “I don’t know about that, David. I’d hate to embarrass you.”

“You won’t. I can hear everything!”

I asked Wanda, “What do you think?” She replied, “The ball’s in your court.”

I said, “O.K., David. Now if there’s anything you don’t understand, I’ll explain it to you.” I handed the page to him. It ended with:

“WARNING: The crumsumpten of alcahol may Mack you tink you can tipe real gode.”

Wanda and I screamed with laughter while David returned to the computer station mumbling, “Y’all think you’re smart, don’t you?”

Laughter lubricates everyone, even better than alcohol does, of course. I’ve done a lot of reading lately on the subject “Laughter is the best medicine,” even in life’s darkest moments. To be seriously ill is no joke, but humor can save the day. It breaks down tension and brings a sense of normalcy to life for the ill person. When you can laugh, you are out of the worse danger. You become a “glass half full” person. Laughter is like changing a baby’s diaper–it doesn’t permanently solve any problems, but it makes things more acceptable for a while!

From the Bible, Proverbs 15:15, “He that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.” Proverbs 17:22, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” Job 8:20,21, “God will not cast away a perfect man…He will fill thy mouth with laughing and thy lips with rejoicing.”

Many books have been written about laughter being good for our physical (and mental) well-being, for all systems, from our immune to our cardio-vascular. From Norman Cousins’ book “Anatomy of an Illness:” “When I was in the hospital, I had a ‘WE’ nurse. She began each sentence with ‘How are we today?’ ‘We need to have a bath.’ This really irritated me, so I decided to play a little joke on her. One day, she brought in a specimen cup and requested a urine sample. After she left, I poured my apple juice into the cup. When she returned for the specimen, she observed it and noted, ‘My, we’re a little cloudy today, aren’t we?’ I asked to see it, and removed the lid and said, ‘Yep, better run it through again,’ and drank it. The look of shock on her face was priceless.”

Norman Cousins was diagnosed as terminally ill: six months to live; 1 in 500 chances for recovery. He realized that worry, depression and anger in his life contributed to (perhaps caused) his disease. He wondered, “If illness can be caused by negativity, can wellness be created by positivity?” He decided to experiment. Laughter was one of the most positive activities he knew. He rented all the funny movies he could find; read funny stories; asked friends to call him whenever they said, heard or did something funny. His pain was so great he could not sleep. Laughing for 10 solid minutes relieved pain for several hours so he could sleep. He fully recovered from his illness and lived another 20 happy, healthy and productive years. His journey is detailed in his book.

Another good book on this subject is “The Healing power of Humor” by Allen Klein.

If we’re not well, laughter helps us get well; if we are well, laughter helps us stay that way.

Joel Goodman, founder of “The Humor Project” in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. says: “On the way to the hospital where my father was to undergo surgery, I shared a hotel courtesy van with the anxious relatives of several patients. The driver began telling his stressed-out passengers a few jokes. Then he did some magic tricks that had me and my mother laughing. In that five-minute ride he taught us that humor can relieve our stress. The surgery was successful, and I was so moved by the experience that I researched laughter’s power. A good laugh relaxes muscles, lowers blood pressure, suppresses stress-related hormones and enhances the immune system.”

A laugh can transform almost unbearable tears into something bearable, even hopeful.

We don’t stop laughing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop laughing!

Laughter slows down the aging process; overrides discomforts of advancing years; helps us keep

our balance when life deals us surprises; helps us communicate with younger generations.

Comedian Milton Berle once said that “laughter is an instant vacation.” Laughing takes your mind off your pain—you can’t help but feel better.

William Fry, professor emeritus at Stanford University and pioneer in laughter research said, “A hundred belly laughs is the aerobic equivalent of ten minutes on a rowing machine.”

Dr. Michael Miller, preventive cardiology at University of Maryland Medical Center said, “Everyone has the ability to laugh. Your mate for life should be someone you can laugh with.”

American photographer Elliott Erwitt whose pictures blending humor and emotion are in museums around the world, said, “When you can make someone laugh and cry, now that’s the highest of all possible achievements.” A goal of good writers, also.

There are times, however, when not everyone is laughing. We must be careful to distinguish between genuine humor, which everyone can enjoy, and hurtful humor, which is at someone else’s expense. Even a hasty “just kidding” doesn’t excuse put-downs and other rude forms of hurtful humor. The biggest turn-offs to me are jokes based on religion or the Bible.

Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord” in most translations, reads, “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord.” Forty years ago, I began saving all cartoons (and jokes) that made me laugh. I’ve entertained company by sharing files of cartoons that kept us laughing for an hour or so. Two years ago, the Lord led me to include a page of laughter along with my “Happenings Along the Way to Heaven” that I send to everyone on our church prayer list, the homebound, lonely people and anyone else that I think needs a laugh. Twice, the recipient requested another copy, because: “I didn’t get to buy my sister a birthday card, and sent her your cartoons instead” and “I passed your cartoons around the dinner table (at the “home”) and it never came back to me. No one admitted keeping it!”

Psalm 126: “Our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing…the Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad. They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.”

TILLIE WIER , inspirational writer and employee of Logos Ranch

and Word Holdings, shares her adventures with God to inspire

others to live closer to Him and to see Him in their everyday lives.

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