The other night I went to watch a live comedy show with a few good friends of mine. And we laughed together…. A lot.
It was that deep, uncontrollable, crying our eyes out, belly- aching, can’t actually breathe properly, kind of laughter. And it felt so good! I laughed more than I had done in quite a while.
As some of you might already know, I’ve had a pretty shocking year. In fact, 2018 can pretty much just ‘do one’ as far as I’m concerned… But that’s a whole other blog!
I once heard it said that ‘laughter is an expression of the soul dancing’, which I think is a really beautiful analogy.
Do you know that laughter is a truly amazing gift? It has some amazing healing properties.
Studies have shown that laughter actually reduces feelings of stress and improves our mood by lowering the levels of hormones such as cortisol in our bodies and simultaneously stimulating positive endorphins instead.
But perhaps most incredible thing about laughter of all, is that it can actually improve our health and increase our physical pain threshold. Tests have actually shown that watching just 15 minutes of comedy makes us 10% more resistant to pain, as well as increasing the volume and activity of our body’s immune cells which help us to fight off disease. How amazing is that??!
But whilst in an ideal world, we’d all be happy and laughing all the time, we all know that we don’t life in that type of world right now, and so what really counts the most is our emotional resilience – that is the ability to bounce back quickly from disappointment, and remain hopeful and joy-filled, even in the midst of our pain.
And it’s easy to talk about, but much harder to do, I know, and I am still very much a work in progress…
But I have recently started to be more intentional about seeking out ‘joy triggers’ in my life; be that stand-up comedians, funny films or situations, or just individuals in my life who seem to know how to laugh a lot, don’t take life too seriously, and know how to practice joy much better than I do.
And this might sound really obvious to others, but as a very goal-orientated person myself, it’s taken me a really, really long time to realise that often the most healthy or spiritual thing I can choose to do when things are hard is just to lighten up a bit and laugh.
I don’t know if it’s the evangelical christian upbringing I’ve had or just my natural personality type, but the truth is that I often struggle with feeling that I should probably be doing something more useful or important with my time, than just being silly and having fun for fun’s own sake.
But the truth I am discovering is that there is a huge amount of purpose in laughter simply for its own sake, and not everything needs to be so serious either.
Some things exist just to make life just a little bit more colourful or fun or creative, like glittery unicorn t.shirts, and inflatable pink flamingos, colour-changing gin cocktails, and bright red high-heel shoes.
Having fun just for the sake of having fun is not pointless or frivolous or a wasteful use of our resources and time, because it actually feeds the human soul.
So whatever the source, these day I want to practice choosing laughter much more as the antidote when things go wrong, because laughter really is the greatest medicine and it doesn’t cost a thing.