By Richard G. Smith
Resident, The Farmstead
Printed on a decorative pillow, which my wife Louise and I received as a gift, is the phrase “Friends are for sharing laughter and shedding tears.” Wonderful! Laughter is, according to the dictionary, simply making “explosive sounds with the voice”, but this happens when a “person is amused or feels joyousness”. According to Roget's International Thesaurus, other words used for laughter are: giggle, titter, snicker, crow, cheer, shout and (figure this) cachinnation.
Wow! Cachinnation: to laugh loudly or too much.
Send in the clown
The feelings that lead to laughter are brought about by that which is somehow humorous to a person. The clown was and is one who brings laughter to those who watch him. Testimony to the clown's importance was seen in the large number of clown's suits worn at Halloween.
Also, laughter is induced by hilarious TV shows like “I Love Lucy,” comedy movies, and jokes. We (older adults) can recall all of them, as well as humorous moments in human relationships.
Laughing for the right reason
Before we consider the value of laughter, it is useful to remember that there are times laughter occurs inappropriately or with momentary enjoyment. Actions may be taken that are malicious or mischievous, followed by laughter at the predicament of the victim. Goofs, mistakes, and gotchas often prompt laughter. What often happens to a football team coach after his team wins? A large container of ice cold liquid is dumped over him. Peals of laughter ring out.
Someone wrote a nursery song, “Smile awhile and give your face a rest, laugh a while and ease your little chest.” Laughter is welcomed as that which makes a person feel good--so good that in some situations it promotes healing.
Years ago I followed with great interest the story told by the remarkable Norman Cousins, Editor of the Saturday Review of Literature. Cousins became ill with Ankylosing Spondylitis, a connective tissue disease, for which there was no cure. He wanted to beat the odds, and so turned to laughter. Every afternoon he watched one of the humorous films available, such as “Tight Little Island” or one in which the Marx brothers played. The positive effect on his immune system enabled him to recuperate and he lived beyond 1964, when he was diagnosed with the disease, to 1990.
One person who studied the effects of laughter concluded that “the physiological response produced by belly laughter was opposite of what is seen in classical stress, supporting the conclusion that mirthful laughter is a state that produces healthy or positive emotions.” This is sufficiently important to warrant a statement from a study by Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. They wrote: “Humor and laughter strengthens your immune system, boosts your energy, diminishes pain, and protects you from the damaging effects of stress.”
Take time to laugh
Douglas Edward explains it in a short poem:
Laughter helps the heart,
Laughter helps the mind
Laughter helps in every part
Laughter helps us to unwind.
The wisdom writer put it correctly, there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). So, find the time, and take the time while there is time to laugh.
About the Author
Richard G. Smith lives in The Terrace senior apartments, a living option at The Farmstead located in Andover, Minnesota.