December 17, 2018

Something to Laugh About

by William Fraser | Wellness Committee

Humour and laughter are universal. Wherever you travel you will find situations and people ready to go from a grin to a smile, to a chuckle, to a full-blown laugh.

So what happens when we laugh? First, there is an instant facelift, our blood vessels open, respiration is enhanced, our complexion improves, our hormone system changes and strengthens, heart rate and blood pressure change, and our diaphragm convulses. If that is not enough, laughter makes us feel good.

More specifically, a number of chemical changes occur in our bodies as we laugh. Apparently, an antibody in our saliva combats upper respiratory infection. The laugh also improves ventilation, which relieves chronic respiratory conditions. It decreases serum cortisol, thereby providing an antidote for the effects of stress and, at the same time, secretes an enzyme that protects the stomach from ulcers. It also releases endorphins that provide natural pain relief while helping to move nutrients and oxygen to body tissue.

What is even more wonderful is that this medical miracle is free and available without a prescription. It is available to everyone, and you can have as many daily doses as you like. You can laugh at life, a cartoon, a story, a comedian, or a joke. The value and importance of the laugh is such that some health clinics even teach people to laugh. They are asked to artificially force a laugh, but it usually does not take long before it is a genuine laugh at the sight and sound of the artificial laughs. Laughter is contagious.

So what is there to laugh about? In the play, Harvey the main character says that it is always easy to find the ninety-five per cent that is wrong, but finding the five per cent makes life interesting. That means that even on the worst day, you can look for that five per cent. It has been said that if we take an honest look at ourselves, we will always have something to laugh at. Each of us has done or found ourselves in a situation where we could get angry or laugh. Personally, I remember a misadventure with a blender and spinach soup. Covered in green soup I could have been angry at a loose lid and wasted soup, but I imagined how I looked covered in green and chose to laugh at myself, a giant leprechaun — in a kitchen also covered in green!

If you are not fortunate enough to be your own comic relief, you can look elsewhere for a daily laugh. YouTube has a huge catalogue of comics, and who can remember and not laugh at Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s On First” comedy routine, or Tim Conway’s “Dentist” skit, or Bob Newhart’s “Driving Instructor” monologue. In the same way, Google can provide numerous lists of jokes and funny stories.

A gentleman at our church approaches me each Sunday and asks for a joke, and I always try to provide one. He and I share a laugh. It has been said that each time we laugh we add five minutes to our lives. It’s my hope that I have added a couple of hours to his, mine, and yours.

For more posts like these, visit the Emotional Wellness page.