Power of Humor to Heal by guest bloggist Brenda Evers

Funny Toes

Funny Toes

Once when I was feeling stressed and overwrought with the responsibilities of child rearing, I went for a walk with a family member with the idea it would be a good time to get a few things “off my chest.”  In the middle of my rant, which was only making me feel worse, he stopped me to ask me a question.  “Would you like some cheese with that whine?” he quipped.  I burst out laughing, and was instantly relieved of my concerns.

Now, some might think someone who responded this way to complaint wasn’t being very kind, but this family member knew me well enough to know that I didn’t want to be grumpy.  This surprising joke was his way of helping me.  And it worked.

Clinical studies and every day observations have shown the power of humor to relieve stress and even improve physical health.  Studies out of the University of Massachusetts concluded that laughter has physical, mental and social benefits. .

And references found on helpguide.org agree.  The researchers there point out that “Laughter relaxes the whole body, …. boosts the immune system, …triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals and ….protects the heart.”

They also provide some suggestions for laughing more which include:

“Smile.  Count your blessings. When you hear laughter, move toward it. Spend time with fun, playful people. Bring humor into conversations.”

Other sources, such as Arizona State University, agree that humor improves health. Among folks known for being proponents of humor’s ability to improve health, they quote Norman Cousins and Dr. William Fry.  Norman Cousins “found that the more he laughed, the longer his body was without pain.”  Dr Fry “found that the chemicals, i.e. the hormones in a person’s tears are different when a person is laughing as compared to sobbing.”   However, these researchers also raise a cautionary note in pointing out that there is more than one type of humor.  They rightly show that “aggressive and self-defeating humor” can be harmful.   And, if we want to be healthy, it’s to be avoided.

It is gratifying to think that there are things we can do to improve our health with humor, but are these just chemical responses — more endorphins released by the brain or more oxygen taken into our system, such as some studies suggest.  Could it possibly be something more; something spiritual perhaps?

The Psalmist of the Bible hints that there is more when he says:

“Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.” (Psalm 32:11)

Humor and joy are mental qualities—two of many.  Honesty, kindness, vitality, courage are others.  Each one carries with it the ability to contribute to good health.  And everyone has access to these qualities.  They are right at hand every moment.

I’ve always appreciated quick wit wherever it’s found.  It can come so unexpectedly but with such serendipity – as it did that time when I needed it.  No prep or study time needed; just spontaneous humor that contributes to better health.

Brenda is a writer who loves to learn about and share with readers the connection between spirituality and health. In addition, she is a Christian Science Practitioner in Ellicott City, Maryland.  She and her family spent many wonderful years in Southern California and now are happy to have returned to beautiful Maryland.

Photo by farm4.static flickr.com

 


4 Comments

  1. Linda Hanson

    I love this blog. I agree that laughter is very health-giving. So many times we get bogged down with the apparent “seriousness” of a difficulty either in relationships or physical discomforts. A good joke often puts personal worries and concerns into a new perspective and eases the anxiety, then leads to a new view, and often to relief and healing. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you Linda for the comments. I will share your comments with Brenda. Humor lifts us up so we can look over the problem instead of staying in them.

  2. LOVE this one! Thank you for making me smile!