Laughter is the Best Medicine

When I was a kid visiting my grandparents’ house, Boo and Pop always had copies of Reader’s Digest everywhere: On the kitchen cabinet, on the coffee table, even behind the toilet.

Reader’s Digest was, generally speaking, more than my child’s concentration could maintain, but there was one section to which I immediately turned: “Laughter is the Best Medicine.”  The jokes were funny, easy to get, and clean (or, if they weren’t, they went over my head).  I also never forgot that title: “Laughter is the Best Medicine.”

Of course, today we know that’s true, emotionally, psychologically, and physiologically.  The Mayo Clinic reports that laughing can help lessen depression.[i]  Further, Hara Marano reports in Psychology Today that laughter reduces pain.  We now know laughter even affects the inner lining of blood vessels, causing them to relax and expand, increasing blood flow.  In other words, laughter is good for both heart and brain health.[ii]

Individuals who can laugh at their own foibles are more forgiving of themselves and others.  Relationally, those who laugh together form bonds of trust and communion.

Divine Humor: How Laughter Benefits Us Spiritually | Guideposts

God and the people of God also commend laughter.  When the Jews return from their long exile in Babylon, the Psalmist reports, “Our mouth is filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy!” (Psalm 126:2).  And the teacher of Proverbs makes this specific instance general when he says, “A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)

At George H.W. Bush’s funeral, retired Senator Alan Simpson said, “Humor is the universal solvent for the pervasive abrasiveness of life.”  Healthy laughter is not escapism from reality, but rather a recognition that life is to be held lightly, taking joy in life as a precious yet ephemeral gift and proclaiming through our laughter that God’s love for us is deeper and truer than anything that may assault us.

So, in these days, remember to laugh.  Laugh at yourself.  Laugh with those you love.  Laugh at a good joke, a silly T.V. show, a slapstick gag.  Laugh, and be of glad heart.