Have you ever heard the phrase “Laughter is the best medicine?” Ever wonder where it comes from?
It’s a secularized version of Proverbs 17:22, “A joyful heart is good medicine” (NIV). King Solomon wrote most of the book of Proverbs to teach people how to attain wisdom in life. The sayings in chapter 17 are intended for everyone, regardless of age, gender, or position in society.
I don’t know how cliché this phrase is in the Christian world, but there seems to be an unspoken expectation (in some circles at least) for Christian’s to be happy all the time. While we know it’s impossible to always be happy, is it possible to be perpetually joyful? According to 1 Thessalonians 5:16 we’re supposed to, “Always be joyful.”
Chuck Swindoll describes joy in this way: “I have come to realize when you’re any age joy is essential—but it’s optional. You may choose it, or you may reject it. It’s up to you. No one will force it on you and no one can obligate you to a joyful countenance. It’s really up to you.”1 Anyone who listens to Chuck on the radio knows how much he loves to laugh. He teaches that people with a good sense of humour and a deep joy are contagious.
I’ve learned you don’t need to be happy all the time—or even have a great sense of humour—to receive the benefits of laughter. A few years ago, I attended a conference where a laughter therapist came on stage and took us through a laughter session. At first it was strange but once she explained how our bodies can’t tell the difference between fake and real laughter and how it acts as a stress reliever I thought it couldn’t hurt to participate. It was a great experience.
Laughter can lift our spirits, help us deal with stressful situations, and lighten our moods. It can also diffuse a situation. One tactic I use when feeling frustrated is to shout a positive motto. Now when I’m stuck in traffic and want to glower at the other drivers I’m instead yelling “I love meeting all these people!” or “I’m super happy to be sitting here right now!” The silliness of the expression helps me regain perspective and releases my tension. And sometimes I even laugh about it.
1. Swindoll, Charles R. Laughter: Chuck’s Prescription for Joy. Joy Comes from Within, 2003.