“While laughter should not replace exercise, we do recommend that you try to laugh on a regular basis. Fifteen minutes of laughter daily does the vascular system a power of good.” So says a report from the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Its recommendation was based on research in which volunteers were shown a funny film and a grim one. Average blood flow increased 22 percent during laughter.
Laughter comes in many shapes and sizes. It can be uproarious or secretive; it can be in response to wit or slap-stick; it can come unexpectedly or as we wait for a punch-line. And it’s no respecter of persons – people whose struggles seem to be almost overwhelming often find strength to share a good laugh while those who look as though life’s treating them well can sometimes appear rather humourless.
Jesus used humour. His pictures of a camel going through the eye of a needle or someone with a plank in their own eye taking a speck of sawdust out of someone else’s show a cartoonist’s eye for the ridiculous. He also delighted in parties and fun. These were not extras. They were not distractions from what life was really all about. The number of times we know he attended meals or other social occasions make them central to his life, part of his life blood.
Like all good things, humour can be abused – it is for example an effective way of making someone feel small – but properly used it can release tension in an awkward situation, lighten the impact of a criticism or cheer someone up. We value people who make us laugh and times of fun are gifts to be grateful for which we need to build into the regular pattern of our lives. They can be transforming sources of new energy and life.
Read: Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. (Psalm 126.2)
Rejoice: in people who make us laugh.
Reflect: What friends or sources of entertainment could I cultivate if I’m looking for more laughter in my life?
Remember: to laugh at myself.
Resolve: to enjoy humour when it’s appropriate and protest when it isn’t.