“A joyful heart is good medicine. (Prov. 17:22)”

“A joyful heart is good medicine. (Prov. 17:22)”

I like to laugh. It’s that simple. Laughter is the best medicine. Don’t take my word for it – trust in the studies of the Mayo Clinic. The researchers there have determined a good laugh has great short-term effects. When you start to laugh, it doesn’t just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.

Laughter can activate and relieve your stress response and can soothe tension. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.

Laughter isn’t just a quick pick-me-up, though. It’s also good for you over the long haul. Laughter can improve your immune system. Laughter can ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers. Laughter can also break the pain-spasm cycle common to some muscle disorders. Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It also helps you connect with other people. Laughter can help lessen your depression and anxiety and make you feel happier.

Laughter is a gift from God. As we worship in this season of Lent, perhaps our proper attitude should be, first and foremost, thanksgiving to God. And perhaps we might say a prayer in thanksgiving to God for all the people, living or deceased, who simply made us laugh – especially at ourselves!

My father, with a smile on his face, once told me: “God must have a great sense of humor. He allowed me to marry your mother. Who would have thought that was possible!”

God must sometimes laugh at us – our fumbling attempts to believe, to pray, to do good things, care for each other, and to forgive when it seems almost impossible. God loves us just as we are. Now that’s a good sense of humor.

Father James