It’s no joke – laughter is the best medicine

Perhaps the greatest gift bestowed upon me was and is my sense of humor. I love to laugh and I absolutely love to make others laugh too. Yet these days I haven’t had much to laugh about. Life has presented me with some very painful and unwanted changes this year, and while it hasn’t always been easy, the ability to make light of my situation lives at the top of my go-to-list of favorite ways to make it through these tough times. When you get to the place where you can laugh, you know you are going to survive.

Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand. – Mark Twain

Laughter, it’s said, is the best medicine. And there is plenty of evidence to back that statement up, though I’m sure few would argue the point. Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and even conflict. Nothing works faster or more dependably to provide balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens the load, releases burdens, inspires hopes, reconnects you to others, and keeps you grounded and balanced.

Humor is infectious. The sound of roaring laughter is far more contagious than any cough, cold, sniffle, or sneeze. When people are in a group and they hear someone laughing, they often join in spontaneously. Laughing with other people helps us deepen our connection with them. I dare you not to smile while watching someone having a really good laugh. You may be thinking right now of that last time you had one of those gut-busters yourself. You know the kind where your face hurts and you’re begging them to stop, no more, please, squeezing your cheeks, tears of joy flooding your eyes. Those are the best.

I always knew looking back on my tears would bring me laughter, but I never knew looking back on my laughter would make me cry. – Cat Stevens

Laughter can help restore us to a positive mental and emotional place, even while in the midst of deep grief. Laughter also triggers healthy physical conditions in the body, so it is essential to every health-and-wellness program. Humor and laughter strengthen your immune system, boost your energy, diminish pain, and helps to protect you from the damaging effects of stress. Stress hormones are decreased as laughter reduces stress in ways like nothing else can.

Laughter can reduce chronic pain too. Medical studies have shown that just a few minutes of laughter can diminish chronic pain for up to a couple of hours. It allows us to tolerate discomfort more readily. Other studies have shown that laughter can increase energy while reducing stress and boost your immune system. Infection-fighting antibodies are released when you laugh. It also reduces blood sugar levels, increasing glucose tolerance in diabetics. Is there any condition not benefited by laughter? I think not. Best of all, this medicine is free and easy to use. All you have to do is tickle that funny bone.

A day without laughter is a day wasted – Charlie Chaplin

If you have ever been to a Conversations with God retreat, you know we open our first night by getting to know who is in the room. We ask our participants to not only share who they are and what brought them to us, but also we invite them to tell a joke. It is a great way of easing us into the space, reducing the natural tension we all feel in those kinds of situations. It also helps set the stage for the deep emotional and spiritual work we come to do. The work is about enlightenment, which means, to lighten up.

Often the work we do can cause the room to become ‘heavy,’ especially when the sharing takes us to some of those very painful places. The challenges that are brought to the room by our participants are no joke, yet we notice every time that in the right moment laughter can provide an access to healing like nothing else can. It does so by creating the condition for us to see the other side of our life situations…the “lighter side.”  Without a doubt, that, as much as anything, can create the space to heal even the most painful of situations we face as humans. I know this all to well right now.   And as I said at the top of the article, humor has been one of my greatest tools and assets on my journey.

There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt. – Erma Bombeck

So this week let’s all help each other enjoy the benefits that laughter has to offer. Share your experience of how laughter has helped you through the tough times. Or maybe just share a joke or two (keep ’em clean). I am certain that I am not the only one that could use a good laugh right now. I will kick us off with the following silliness. 🙂

Four Catholic men and a Catholic woman were having coffee in St. Peters Square.

The first Catholic man tells his friends, “My son is a priest.  When he walks into a room, everyone calls him ‘Father’.”

The second Catholic man chirps, “My son is a Bishop. When he walks into a room, people call him ‘Your Grace’.”

The third Catholic gent says, “My son is a Cardinal. When he enters a room, everyone bows their head and says ‘Your Eminence’.”

The fourth Catholic man says very proudly, “My son is the Pope. When he walks into a room, people call him ‘Your Holiness’.”

Since the lone Catholic woman was sipping her coffee in silence, the four men give her a subtle, “Well ………?”

She proudly replies, “I have a daughter, slim, tall, 38″ DD bust, 24″ waist and 34” hips. When she walks into a room, everybody says, “Oh, My God.”

(J.R. Westen, D.D. is a Holistic Health & Spiritual Counselor who has worked and presented side-by-side with Neale Donald Walsch for over a decade. He is passionate about helping individuals move beyond their emotional and spiritual challenges, transforming breakdowns into breakthroughs. His coaching provides practical wisdom and guidance that can be immediately incorporated to shift one’s experience of life. As is true for most impactful teachers, J.R.’s own struggles and triumphs inspired him to find powerful ways of helping others. Sober since June 1, 1986, J.R.’s passion for helping individuals move through intense life challenges drove him to also specialize in Addiction and Grief Recovery. J.R. currently shares his gift of counseling & coaching with individuals from around the world through the Wellness Center, Simply Vibrant, located on Long Island N.Y.  In addition, he works with Escondido Sobering Services and serves on the Board of Directors for the Conversations with God Foundation. He can be contacted at JR@theglobalconversation.com, or to book an appointment, write support@simplyvibrant.com.)

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  • em claire

    LOL 🙂

  • Erin/IAm

    Good one, JR…LOL, too!
    You are quite correct about laughter…And humanity is never short-changed of comedic perspective, is it?
    Funny, too, how the Hippocratic Oath says “First the word, then the plant, then the knife”. Perhaps “the word” doesn’t refer to only ‘prayer’…Perhaps a good joke will do just fine.:)

    My contrib to the giggles…a favorite T-shirt:

    M R Ducks
    M R Not
    O S A R
    C M Wangs?
    L I B!
    M R Ducks
    🙂

  • Neil MacDonald

    As a child I loved to laugh, it was the best feeling I ever had. But, at school the teacher told me not to laugh in class, at work my boss warns me not to laugh. Now I sometimes associate laughter with being “naughty”, a bad thing. Society has conditioned me as to when laughter is appropraite.

    Laughter was my natural state, happiness. They stole my laughter and killed it, quite literally. When you feel like laughing you should just go ahead and laugh, maybe even be congratulated for being in a healthy state, “well done”.

    I’m 45 years old and was brought up in protestant Scotland. The laughter police are everywhere, humanities disease . Knowing when to laugh is seen as a sign of maturity and you are chastised for being juvenile otherwise.

    I attended “laughing yoga” classes (try it) in India, we should do that in schools and in the work place to help well being.

    Thank you J.R. Weston for a great reminder and a good joke. (my Scottish jokes probably won’t translate here!)

  • bush

    you suxx