Religion column: Laughter good for your health

Have you ever read some of those “not meant to be funny” church bulletins? I like the one “Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It’s a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Don’t forget your husbands.”

Or how about this one? “For those of you who have children and don’t know it, we have a nursery downstairs.”

One of my favorite school stories happened when I overheard one child say to another on the playground: “The thing that ruins my weekends is school, man!”

My husband and a friend have a standing birthday celebration. They give each other last year’s used card, with an odd gift in it. By odd, I mean a half stick of gum, a band aid, an outdated pocket calendar or a candy wrapper. They “guffaw” over it at coffee time.

Medical science has said laughter is one of the healthiest things we can do. It gives a workout to your stomach and chest muscles, heart and lungs. Although blood pressure and adrenaline go up during laughter, they drop to normal or below, releasing stress.

Laughing dispels anxiety. Finding things to laugh about breaks tension and sets a friendly tone. Even in hard situations a sense of humor lifts our spirits and conquers gloom.

Proverbs 17:22 describes laughter as good medicine: “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.”

I like to read about Elijah in 1 Kings 18. I find the story amusing when Elijah challenged the people to take a stand for God. They called on the name of Baal (their pagan god) from morning till noon. At noon Elijah told them to “Shout louder.” (Verse 27) He further stated: “Surely he is a god! Perhaps maybe he is deep in thought, or busy or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.”

Elijah then ordered four large jars with water to pour on the sacrifice three times and prayed. “Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench” (verse 39). Elijah confirmed the real God to the people.

Laughter promotes optimism, clears the atmosphere and enables one to be on the winning side. Someone has said, “Laughter is a tranquilizer with no side effects.” How true! The gift of laugher makes every day sparkle with “verbal sunshine.” It makes a happy face to others because a smile instead of a frown makes simple living wonderful. I’ve never seen a smiling face that wasn’t happy.

An unknown writer has said, “Think about what you want people to say about you after you’re gone and then live backward.” Good advice.

I don’t want to be remembered as a worrier, crier, and miserable person feeling sorry for “poor little me.” I love the Irish Proverb: “Dance as if no one’s watching, sing as if no one’s listening, and live everyday as if it were your last.”

I want to live every day of my life with the “joy” of the Lord. Laughter in my heart reminds me of that joy.

The gift of laughter is one of God’s gifts, a gift to share. When you open your eyes each morning, make a decision to have a sense of humor. Be joyful throughout your day. Be “contagious.” Allow someone to “catch” your laughter. Each day we can spread sunshine and that keeps laughter in your heart.