Monday, 14 June 2021

T To Your Health

Laugh Your Way to Death...Health

Perhaps you recall that kids’ round, “Laugh, I thought I’d die. And die I did. And they buried me. And the grass grew up and tickled me. Laugh, I thought I’d die. And die I did ….” And on and on it goes. I suppose there were times in our youth that my brothers and I would drive our mother crazy with silly songs like that, but she had her ways of getting us back. For example, sometimes she would send us down to the river without soap to wash our go-to-church clothes (we were Baptist preacher’s kids, so we had to be in church every week, front and center, collars starched, fingernails clean, and so forth). So on Saturdays we would go down to the river (we didn’t have a washing machine in those days) with the other poor kids to wash our clothes. Most of the others brought along soap and their own rocks to beat the dirt out of their clothes on the giant granite rock shelf that was there, but we were so poor that we didn’t have any rocks, and when we also didn’t have any soap, we had to beat the dirt out with our heads.[i]

Well, this same preacher’s kid became a preacher himself a few years later, and once, following one of my long sermons, a nice older lady was trying to encourage me when she said, “Sonny, every sermon you preach is better than the next one!”

         Are you laughing yet?

If so: Your face is convulsing involuntary. Your facial muscles, particularly your lips, are stretching and you have a peculiar expression in your eyes. Your vocal organs vibrate and then you utter a sequence of rhythmic expiratory sounds. You sound like you’re choking as you gasp for breath, while your shoulders jerk and your entire body twists and shakes. If they didn’t know you were laughing, observers might think you were having a seizure.       

One of the simplest ways to improve your quality of life is to laugh. A sense of humor is essential to wellness, and it may contribute to longevity, for as the saying goes, “He who laughs, lasts.” By intuition, experience, and observation we know that laughter has physical, emotional, relational, and even spiritual benefits.

About 3,000 years ago Solomon wrote, “A merry heart does good, like medicine” (Proverbs 17:22, NKJV).  It’s taken medicine almost 3,000 years to catch up, but today there are numerous scientific studies showing the health values of laughter.

Physically, laughter boosts your immune system, lowers blood pressure, decreases stress hormones, decreases pain, and increases lung function, among other benefits. The physical act of laughing is important, so a heartfelt snicker simply won’t do, nor even an under-the-breath guffaw. The exertions involved in producing laughter increase oxygenation in general, while triggering an increase in endorphins, the opioid neurotransmitters known for their feel-good-effect.

Psychological benefits of laughter include reduction of stress and anxiety, elevation of mood, an increase of coping skills, increased self-esteem, and so on. Laughter helps combat depression. After all, it’s hard to laugh and feel sad at the same time.

Sociologically, laughter fosters closeness in a group. One study tested resistance to pain before and after bouts of social laughter through experiments using comedy videos. The results showed that laughing increased pain tolerance, whereas simply feeling good in a group setting did not.

Neuroscientist Dr. Robert Provine studied laughter as it relates to couples. “Laughter establishes – or restores – a positive emotional climate and a sense of connection between two people, who take pleasure in the company of each other,” he wrote. “Levity can defuse anger and anxiety, and therefore, can pave the path to intimacy. Laughter is not primarily about humor, but about social relationships.”

But spiritually? We know from Scriptures that God sometimes laughs (usually derisively at those who deny Him), and we also know that Jesus had a sense of humor (though there is no verse, “Jesus laughed,” like there is, “Jesus wept.) For example, He used sarcasm, puns, enigmas, irony, and paradoxes to make His point from time to time.

Although He never engaged in the debate about how many angels can dance on the point of a pin (because that particular debate didn’t occur until the middle ages), He did once say, “…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matt. 19:23, KJV). Do you think his listeners, mostly poor folks, laughed? I can almost hear them now. I can even envision them acting it out.

Paradise via Starbucks: Recently a friend pulled into a Starbucks drive-thru for a cup of coffee. She was absent-mindedly writing a song in her head and pulled too far forward – past the microphone where she was supposed to place her order. She stopped, rolled down the window and didn’t realize she had rolled down the back window. Her dog in the back seat loved being able to look out the window. When she realized her mistake, she backed up to place her order and found the entire barista staff laughing. The staff told her that all they could see in their video camera was her dog with its head out the window eagerly waiting to place an order. They had never had a dog want to place an order before. The excited pooch received a puppy latte for starting the staff’s Monday with a laugh. Arf! The woman expanded her enjoyment by posting the story on Facebook, thus fulfilling this interesting anonymous quote: “He deserves Paradise who makes his companions laugh.”

Bottom line: It’s okay to laugh - good for you, actually - though I’ve known some believers who took being “sober-minded” so literally that they almost died of seriousness. But some have been more like the missionary who, when put in the pot by cannibals, offered the chief his wooden (mostly cork) leg for an appetizer. “Ugh,” the chief exclaimed, “throw him back!” Or maybe they were like the Sunday school teacher whose eyes were crossed because she couldn’t control her pupils.

I know. Bad. But punny, eh? I’m sorry, I almost forgot. That same group of cannibals also issued a reprieve to a couple of clowns because they tasted funny.

Sorry, I can’t stop myself. If you are tired of laughing, stop here, or laugh with me some more at the following facetious funstabs (I made that word up):

For example, here are a few purportedly true performance evaluations from here and there:

"Since my last report, this employee has reached rock bottom and has started to dig."

"His men would follow him anywhere, but only out of morbid curiosity."

"He would be out of his depth in a parking lot puddle."

"This young lady has delusions of adequacy."

"He sets low personal standards and then consistently fails to achieve them."

"This employee is depriving a village somewhere of an idiot."

"He's been working with glue too much."

"He would argue with a signpost."

"He has knack for making strangers immediately."

"He brings a lot of joy whenever he leaves the room."

"Gates are down, the lights are flashing, but the train isn't coming."

"If you stand close enough to him, you can hear the ocean."

"The wheel is turning, but the hamster is dead."

Exit Laughing – and Healthier

Here’s a couple more to elicit a loud guffaw:

Did you know that Noah’s dog had a speech impediment? All it could say was “Ark! Ark!”

Or perhaps: I'm reading a book about anti-gravity. I can't put it down.

Or, I took a job at a bakery because I kneaded dough.

Or, I used to think I was indecisive, but now I'm not so sure.

Sometimes a story captures it better:

This guy’s at the airport, checking in at the gate, when an airport employee asks, "Has anyone put anything in your baggage without your knowledge?" To which the man replies, "If it was without my knowledge, how would I know?" The employee smiles knowingly and nods, "That's why we ask." 

Or, the psychiatrist is gazing out his front window at his newly poured cement driveway when a barefoot kid dashes across the soft, wet surface, chasing a ball. The doctor rushes out and loudly scolds the child, within earshot of all the neighbors. When he's finished, he retreats to his kitchen for a cold drink, whereupon his wife reminds him of his own advice to patients about being gentle and kind as much as possible, even when someone does something really dumb. To which the shrink replies, "That advice is in the abstract. Those footprints are in the concrete."

Okay….so you crave something true? I placed a classified ad once to sell a camper. “Free can of beans with purchase of pop up camper.” It worked. The guy got the beans and the camper. I got the money.

But I still have not had the nerve to try this: Sit in a bathrobe in a lawn chair on the front lawn pointing a hair dryer at the neighbors as they speed by on their way to work. Someday soon I must do it. For those that laugh, I will have improved their day. For those who get mad, I’ll just offer them a discount on the used frost-free microwave or frozen bath tissue, four rolls: 89 cents, that I recently listed in the local classifieds. (Not really – 89 cents is too cheap for FOUR rolls, for sure!).[ii]


[i]Please, no letters. If I tend to exaggerate, it is my father’s fault. A Baptist preacher, he had a habit of clearing his nostrils just prior to the sermon, with the help of a clean white handkerchief. One morning he pulled out one of our mom’s white nursing stockings instead, and everybody laughed. Did he do it on purpose? Does it matter?

[ii]The author has made every effort to identify original sources for all material used in this article. Where no citation is listed, no unique originator can be found. Most likely the stories have been adapted over time by various users, including the author, who makes no claim to being humorous enough to have made them all up, himself.

Columnist: Dr. David B. Biebel

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Dr. Biebel has authored or co-authored twenty books, including one bestseller: If God Is So Good, Why Do I Hurt So Bad? and the Gold Medallion winner, New Light on Depression. His recent releases include Making God Visible and Away in a Manger: The Christmas Story from a Nativity Scene Lamb's Point of View.


His goal is to help people attain and retain optimal physical, emotional, spiritual, and relational health (personal wholeness) so they can love the Lord with their whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, and their neighbors as themselves. He founded Healthy Life Press (www.healthylifepress.com) to help new authors with something to contribute in this arena to get their works into print.

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        To Purchase these or any other of Dr. Biebel's titles click HERE

 

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