Years ago, I taught one year of kindergarten before “graduating” to fourth grade. One aspect of that year proved especially delightful: the humorous things those five year-olds would say. I started writing them down, to enjoy again in the future. The future is now!
Alice and Lisa spent most of recess one day digging a hole in the sandbox. “We digged so deep,” Alice said, “we could hear the people in China walking around.”
After giving instructions for an art activity, I asked if anyone had a question. Lee raised his hand to inquire, “What’s the capital of North Dakota?”
Megan was recuperating from strep throat. She informed me, “I could have gotten dramatic fever.”
Lauren asked me one day, “Mrs. Ruegg, what’s your last name?”
Such moments were pure fun-shine, lighting up my spirit.
Did you know scientific study is discovering that laughter provides a number of health benefits? (Just as research has proven the benefits of happiness, as we considered in the last post.)
You see, laughter enhances your intake of oxygen as you breathe more deeply. That, in turn, positively impacts your heart, lungs, and muscles.
Laughter releases endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are one of the brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters that send electrical signals through the nervous system. When stress or pain occurs, endorphins are released. They help reduce the impact of such factors on the brain. Endorphins lead to a feeling of euphoria, and laughter is a big contributor.
…reduces stress and generates a relaxed feeling.
…helps dispel depression and anxiety, thus improving our moods.
…fosters connection with other people.
Once again, secular research is proving what scripture has said all along:
“A cheerful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22).
But there is no need to invest in joke books, watch humorous You-Tube videos, or teach kindergarten! You’ll receive a healthy dose of cheer in these ways, too:
Possibility #1: Spend time with positive people.
Research indicates up to 80% of our laughter is not generated by funny movies or comedians on Sirius radio. Most laughter occurs during everyday comments in everyday social situations.
Another fact proven by research: most positive people have a sense of humor. It would stand to reason that Christians should be the most positive people around. Spend time with positive, Christian people and you’ll no doubt find yourself laughing frequently.
Possibility #2: Celebrate the small joys as well as the monumental.
Psalm 126:1-3 relates the experience of exiles returning from captivity in Babylon to Israel. They laughed and sang for joy, feeling as if they were living a dream.
“The Lord has done great things for us,” they cried, “and we are filled with joy” (v. 3)!
Sometimes we, too, laugh and shout spontaneously at the announcement of good news—acceptance to that university of choice, a job promotion, a new baby on the way.
But the Lord does great things for us frequently. The more I celebrate his goodness, the more joy and laughter I’ll experience.
Just the other day, I was washing dishes (Such a boring, unpleasant chore!) when a large, black and yellow butterfly fluttered by the window. To be honest, I didn’t laugh or sing out loud, but my heart was overjoyed just the same. That butterfly felt like a little love-gift from God, making that moment at the sink less burdensome.
Throughout each day, we would do well to follow David’s example: “I’m thanking you, God, from a full heart. I’m writing the book on your wonders. I’m whistling, laughing, and jumping for joy; I’m singing your song, High God” (Psalm 9:1-2, The Message).
Possibility #3: Revel in God’s presence.
Psalm 16:11 reminds us that God fills us with joy in his presence. Just conversing with him throughout the day can be incredibly uplifting.
Brother Lawrence, in The Practice of the Presence of God (Whitaker House, 1989), suggests that we tend to stifle joy by spending only brief moments in worship.
“If God can find a soul filled with a lively faith, he pours his grace into it in a torrent that, having found an open channel, gushes out exuberantly.”
That exuberant gushing out of God’s grace, that bubbling overflow of all his glorious riches into our lives—might it take the form of rejoicing laughter sometimes? I think so.
Karl Barth, that great theologian of the twentieth century, might agree with me.
“Laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God.”