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Laughter is the Best Medicine

“Cheerfulness strengthens the heart and makes us persevere in a good life; Therefore the servant of God ought always to be in good spirits.”-St Philip Neri.

It is said laughter is the best medicine. Science tells us laughter releases chemicals/endorphins, which stimulate multiple physiological systems. They decrease stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine and increase activation chemicals that enhance physical and mental health.

In essence, laughter activates the reward system of the brain. We all know how we feel after a good laughing spill.

The Bible told of this long before man’s findings too:

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.”Proverbs 17:22

There is a famous scene in Mary Poppins, a family favorite, where they sing “I love to laugh.” I easily recall the uproarious laughter in my head as I type this. I’m sure you know the premise behind that scene-the incessant laughter makes everything lighter, so much lighter than Uncle Albert began floating toward the ceiling. He was unable to come down until they stopped laughing.

That scene unfolds as we watch the hilarious moment when even Mary Poppins allows her “practically perfect” self to eventually succumb to the laughter too.

It’s hard not to laugh even when she doesn’t really want to.

I am sure you can recall many other famous movie moments where you were brought to your knees laughing.

Maybe you were raised to the ceiling with laughter like filling a helium balloon, or you laughed until tears fell from your eyes, or you, um, you started to snort.

There is something pretty incredible about laughter, especially the uncontrollable kind.

We literally love to laugh in this house. Hence the House of Love AND Laughter. My beloved has always had an uncanny way of making me laugh all of the years we’ve been together. It has always been one of my favorite things about Jon.

We hold tight to the laughter and find solace in it. Stressful moments are diffused when we allow hilarious moments to take over.

I remember a pivotal moment about laughter when we attended our Pre-Cana Class just before we got married. All couples attending the retreat were asked to introduce themselves and share one thing we found to be THE most favorite or endearing thing about the person we were about to wed.

When it got to our turn, I allowed Jon to go first because I was pretty sure I knew what I wanted to say, and I thought it would be easier to let him break the ice. I was sure Jon would say something that would allow me to punctuate his funny comment with what I had to say.

Instead, I was surprised by the words Jon offered. Instead of making me laugh, I was brought to unexpected tears, honored and humbled by the words he shared.

Then I had to form the words while trying to gather myself, clearing the lump in my throat and wiping my tears. I took a deep breath, “Well, (sniff, sniff) that was unexpected, I was going to tell you what I love most about Jon is his excellent sense of humor and how he makes me laugh exactly when I need to laugh. Um, well, (clearing my throat and wiping tears back then) clearly he knows how to surprise me and deliver the sweetest messages too.”

Well, that was enough to cause the room to erupt into laughter and cause a few ladies to search for tissues.

All that to say, keep yourself in company with someone who can make you laugh. Humor is a powerful tool to diffuse the weight of difficult moments.

Life is not easy. And we’ve experienced “not easy” quite a bit this last year. Without a doubt, this month alone has been filled with the lion’s share of heavy stuff.

But I promise you that laughing, remaining in good spirits, and having a light heart sure makes it easier to endure this Clever and Courageous journey.

GK Chesterton was known to value laughter as a sign of wonder, perhaps a symbol of hope. He says, “The secret of life is found in laughter and humility.”

The moment at our PreCana retreat was entirely humbling for me to hear Jon’s words, and it is still true. He always makes me laugh.

In the last few weeks, I have had conversations with a few different friends who shared they wanted to just laugh again. While the world was on pause this last 15 months or so, it’s entirely possible we have held our breaths and neglected to laugh.

Maybe it was less about forgetting and more about the loss, hardships, fear, frustrations, the grief, the unknowns so many of us experienced.

There is a strong desire to return to making memories filled with laughter once again.

It’s okay to enjoy life even when we are lamenting or feeling sorrow.

It’s a delicate balance, I know.

Ecclesiastes 3:4 says, “there is a time to weep and a time to laugh.”

I sure can relate to this Biblical sentiment. Sometimes I weep and other times I fill the air with the loudest cackling laugh.

We’ve tried to keep life as playful and regular as we can on these heavy days. I’d rather float to the ceiling like Uncle Albert as I giggle or climb and zip-line across trees with my family than falling into a deep abyss from all of the worry and fear.

Believe me. I fully understand of all of it. Let me be clear, I do not pretend to understand why it all the tears and sorrow happen, though I do think those trials bring us closer to God if we open our hearts to it. But I do recognize all of the feels in all of what we are enduring.

I know tears and sorrow do exist. I honor them when that wave of emotion decides to sneak up and visit as unexpectedly as those precious words were from Jon back during our Pre-Cana Retreat.

It seems there are so many reasons to not want to laugh, to feel sorry for ourselves rather than enjoy life, or to not feel optimistic.

But there is always a choice in how we approach our day. Laughter is great medicine for the soul. It doesn’t remove the circumstances, but it helps us cope with the tough stuff.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity and she laughs without the fear of the future.” Proverbs 31:25

I remember a long time ago when my mom fell and hurt herself pretty severely. My dad was upset and worried for her as I drove him to gather her and her car from work. But my mom sat there and laughed. Her merriment sure was a relief to both my dad and me.

My mom loved to laugh at herself.

Lately, we find it comforting to laugh about so many things, especially those special and treasured things we miss about my mom. We know she has found eternal peace. I am sure in time I will process so much and write more in the days to come when I feel called to share. I shared thoughts here, here and here about my mom.

Perhaps that peace has been punctuated with eternal laughter.

“Come, share your master’s joy in heaven, where there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain” (Rv 21:4).

Tomorrow is unknown. Try not to take everything so seriously. The last few years have been evidence of this for so many of us.

How do you bring cheerfulness, humor, and laughter to your otherwise tricky days?

This was St. Phillip Neri’s Feast Day. He was a great evangelist known for being cheerful and obedient. My friend Stephanie Weinert shares about her sweet, joyful Beckett and his connection to St Philip Neri. I hope her words touch you. Beckett’s joyful life touched so many. Talk about a great saint and a sweet life that represented pure joy. Talk about a momma with a heart set on obedience to God. I hope you get to know Steph too.

“Never say what great things Saints do, but what great things God does through those saints.”-St Philip Neri.

Just for one moment, put down the load you are carrying and pick up something that makes you laugh.

Here are some ways we found a heap of laughter in the last few months.

When my kids say a phrase that sounds like a song, Jon and I start singing the song. I search for the music and blast it from the speakers in our house. Then we have a dance party, or I dance alone in my kitchen..eyes roll, and laughter ensues.

We are known to break out in dance at any given moment. My kids roll their eyes until they get the “jitterbug,” too. Then we have loud dance parties and jam sessions.

Have you ever played the game Utter Nonsense? I guarantee you will find yourself laughing. You may even find yourself in a rap contest with your family members or speaking a phrase while doing a dog “accent.”

Find old pictures of your kids, yourself, or your precious momma or loved ones, especially those that just found their way home to eternal peace. Tell stories about the most hilarious picture you find.

Maybe if you are lucky, you’ll find a few old wedding photos where you smashed wedding cake in the face of the one you love, even to the chagrin of others around you. And you found this laughter and joy was going to be the gift that carries a marriage through many difficult things.

Earlier this week, I was reviewing some notes from a recent doctor appointment for Jon. I was struck by a memo written by the nurse: “He had no complaints, He was accompanied by his wife Heather. They shared some personal stories and LAUGHS and talked about their 4 children.”

We may not have been laughing until we reached the ceiling like Uncle Albert, Bert, and Mary Poppins, but sharing our laughter in that somewhat stressful moment made an impression on our care team.

Perhaps, laughter IS the best medicine, so much so that those in medicine take time to notice it.

I say we need to keep on laughing, celebrating the big and small moments and finding Joy on this Journey and I encourage you to laugh too.

“LAUGHTER has something in it in common with the ancient winds of faith and inspiration; it unfreezes pride and unwinds secrecy; it makes men forget themselves in the presence of something greater than themselves; something (as the common phrase goes about a joke) that they cannot resist.” -G.K.Chesterton/The Common Man

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Please continue to keep Jon and our family in your prayers. We will continue to Offer Up our heavy cross for the challenges you are suffering with too.

May this season of transitions—beginnings, endings, and everything in between—be blessed with many possibilities and beautiful memories and as always lots of love and laughter.

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