Do you find it easy or hard to laugh at life? The bible says laughter can be like medicine to the soul.
A study conducted by the University of Maryland found that laughter reduces stress, pain, and conflict. It literally makes the heart function better.
The Bible references laughter nearly 50 times. Laughter makes the heart cheerful and helps us cope with the unexpected., In Genesis 18, Sarah laughed when God promised something that seemed too good to be true—a son at the age of 80. When it came true, she named her son Isaac which means “he will laugh.”
It seems God has a sense of humor. Have you ever looked at a giraffe, a baboon, or a dolphin? Dolphins seem to be born to laugh with us. Monkeys laugh at us.
Tim Washer teaches laughter
In episode 141, Tim Washer and I discuss how laughter helps us get through life’s ups and downs. Tim studied improv under Amy Poehler, and has worked on Saturday Night Live, Conan, and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. He’s also worked in marketing communications for IBM and now works as a virtual event speaker and emcee.
Tim regularly teaches marketers how to use humor and laughter as a way to discover new ideas. He explains that laughter helps us face hard things like a global pandemic or more personal issues such as brain surgery.
Laughter helps us endure hardship
After talking with Tim, I woke up one day having a minor panic attack. A doctor’s report scared me and some personal issues felt overwhelming. Frankly, I felt like I was going crazy.
I knew I wasn’t crazy, but I remembered something Tim said. He instructs us to imagine it being a whole lot worse.
On the funny farm
I thought to myself, “If I were crazy, they would send me to the funny farm.” The funny farm. Now that’s a silly way to describe a mental hospital. But what if that’s what it was? A FUNNY farm.
I started picturing a farm where the animals could talk. As I approached the chickens, I realized the rooster was none other than Tim Washer pecking about and cracking jokes. All the hens surrounded him cackling with endless laughter.
Then I wandered over to the donkeys to find Michael Jr. ripping off jokes about being the butt of a joke at a birthday party when everyone tried to pin his tail back on.
I saw Kerri Pomarolli rollicking with the sheep telling some really baaaad jokes. Tim Allen led a gaggle of geese cracking jokes about the farmer’s tools and how much he looks like Santa Claus.
Joel Comm led the pigs in a parody about flatulating.
When I wandered over to the wild animals I saw Andrea Vahl trying to hide behind a tree, but she was a moose. No matter how hard she tried to hide, I could still see her horns and her tail.
I still crack up thinking about the absurdity of a literal funny farm. It helped me realize I could laugh at my circumstances and things would be okay.
Laughter became medicine to my soul. It can do the same for you.
Benefits of laughter
Laughter also helps us learn better and retain information longer. Michael Jr., recently released a new book Funny How Life Works and went on the Emily P. Freeman show to discuss it. During the interview, Emily used the word “perseverate.” Not knowing the word, he stopped her and they bantered about the word until they concluded that it meant “a fancy way to procrastinate.” It became a running joke: “Why procrastinate when you can perseverate!” I will never forget the word because of the use of humor.
5 Ways to Facilitate Laughter
If you’re not naturally funny, there are intentional things you can do to generate more laughter in your life. Here are five ways to facilitate more laughter:
#1: Find shows or websites that make you laugh.
I love watching the Voice because not only are there inspiring performances, but the judges love to banter back and forth. I also enjoy watching Last Man Standing, Frasier, America’s Funniest Home Videos, and more. There are some amazing clean comedians out there that are worth putting on a playlist.
Listening to comedy used to seem like a waste of time, but now I realize it’s medicine and I need to take it every day.
What shows do you watch? Tell me in the comments below.
#2: Use the tools of comedy to reframe your circumstances.
During the interview, Tim described the discomfort of standing in long grocery lines during the pandemic. He said it would be easy to get frustrated or he could reimagine the situation to distract himself. For example, he said when are some times it would be devastating to wait in line for 30 minutes? He came up with the example of being a bank robber whose escape car was an Uber driver who got lost. Listen to the episode for the rest of the hilarious story.
#3: Laugh at yourself.
None of us are as important as we think we are. Laughter helps us keep things in perspective. While we can esteem and value who we are, it’s also a good practice to laugh at the silly things we do.
#4: Do something unexpected to provoke laughter.
Tim describes laughter as the great interrupter. Humor disrupts our thinking patterns and gets us to look at things from a new perspective. That’s how a great joke works. The “setup” leads us down a familiar path until we feel invested. That’s when the “payoff” catches us by surprise.
Pastor Craig Groeschel pulled this off masterly in a recent sermon (see the 17:40 mark). He shared the story of a 20-year old girl who told her parents she had some bad news. She asked them to sit down and hear her out. She proceeded to say something like this,
“I went to a bar and met this guy. We hit it off and he came back to my place where we hooked up. I’m embarrassed to say that I’m pregnant. The good news is that he will be released from probation next year and will marry me once he finishes rehab. But since we can’t afford a wedding, he decided to move in with me.”
She lets it hang for a minute and then says, “Actually, none of that is true, but I did get a D on my chemistry exam. I just wanted you to know it could be a whole lot worse.”
Another example is how Bob Carey decided to wear a pink tutu to take pictures for his wife every time she went in for chemotherapy. It helped her laugh. Did you know researchers have found laughter improves your odds of beating cancer?
#5: Surround yourself with people who love to laugh.
I used to think comedy clubs were a waste of time and money. Now I realize they are essential. Find joyful people who can help you keep things in perspective and find ways to reframe what you’re going through.
While not a panacea, laughter brings real benefits to the body, mind, and soul. I plan to make laughter a part of my daily life. How about you?
Father, I thank you for the amazing way you made the human body. You made us to laugh and enjoy life. I pray you’ll teach me to not take myself too seriously and to see the sparkle of delight in your eyes. Set us free. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.