Yesterday I was privileged to go to a workshop on laughter. I did not realise that was what I was going to attend. The title of the morning was ‘Joy’ and I thought I would be sitting, listening to a lecture on the Joy of the Lord, or on how to be joyful.
But no. This was a lecture given by someone who has the title of ‘joy activist’ and who made us laugh.
Some of the things she said were funny – so we laughed. Of course we did. Some of the things the audience said were funny – and we laughed again. That’s what people do when faced with a sharp wit and amusing comments.
But then we were told that laughter is not reliant on comedy.
‘Laughter is the best medicine.’ How often have we glibly said that to one another? But have we found that to be true?
Looking back at my own journey, I became aware a year or so after my husband died that I did not laugh much. It was not that I was going around in a pall of gloom. When I was with family or friends, I was happy to laugh with them. But when I was alone I did not laugh. It was almost as if I was embarrassed to do so. There was a fear that letting go and laughing aloud might make me lose control of my emotions. There was a sense of guilt too. How could I laugh when I was still grieving my loss?
Oh, I would smile if something struck me as amusing – I may even have chuckled from time to time. But at no time did I laugh from my stomach, gasping for air, tears streaming down my face.
I thought about this a bit, once I became aware of it. And I made a choice. There was no reason for me to be embarrassed – or even guilty about laughing out loud. So for a while, I made a point of watching one or two TV programmes that appealed to my British sense of humour but which I had been avoiding. And there were times when I laughed and laughed. The more I laughed the easier it became. And the better I felt. Much of the tension I had been experiencing melted away as I laughed.
Yesterday, we were asked to laugh just because. Not at anything funny but just because it is good for us. So we did – and we laughed at one another laughing. Do you know what happened? I came away from that session feeling better. Not just emotionally, or spiritually, but physically.
I am sure there are wonderful scientific reasons why such a thing would happen and why laughter makes a difference (in fact I know there are – although I can’t remember exactly what they are). What I do know is that I left that workshop feeling on top of the world.
Laughter is a gift from God – He must have laughed at some of the strange and wonderful creatures He created. I’m thinking of that funny little lizard that lives in the desert called the shovel-snouted lizard. This little creature performs a thermal dance as it lifts its front left and back right feet off the hot sand to cool them down, then stands for a split second on all four feet and lifts its front right and back left feet up. It’s a miracle of detailed creative care. A way of a tiny animal dealing with incredible heat. I laughed in delight when I first saw this lizard – and I am sure God does too.
And if He laughs then laughter is good enough for me!
After all – laughter is the best medicine!