Monday, October 17, 2016

Joy in the Journey, Pt. 3

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

From there to here, from here to there, 
funny things are everywhere.
Dr. Seuss

Some researchers think laughter just might be the best medicine, helping you feel better and putting that spring back in your step.  Laughter is a natural, God given response to joy in life.  It is a gift.

We change physiologically when we laugh.  We stretch muscles throughout our faces and body, our pulse and blood pressure go up, and we breathe faster, sending more oxygen to our tissues.

The Mayo Clinic claims there are many benefits to laughter.  Laughter actually induces physical changes in our bodies stimulating many organs.  As you laugh you take in deep breaths of oxygen which stimulate your heart, lungs and muscles and increase the endorphins released by your brain.  A good laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response while increasing your heart rate and blood pressure.  The result?  A good, relaxed feeling.  It also stimulates circulation and aids in muscle relaxation reducing the physical symptoms of stress.

Laughter isn't just a quick pick-me-up though.  It's also good for you over the longterm by improving your immune system.  Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity.  In contrast, positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more serious illnesses.  Laughter helps the body to produce its own natural painkillers.  Many people experience depression, sometimes due to chronic illnesses.  Laughter can help lessen the depression and anxiety and help cope with difficult situation.

I read a story about some women in their 70's who did a Bible study together.  One week, they came together, not feeling well.  Two  had sever arthritic pain.  One had had a strong headache for several days.  Another felt depressed and two felt blah and indifferent.  We all know these feelings that can get us down and rob us of our joy.  Desperate to feel better, they decided to do a few fake "he, he's."  It sounded so dumb to them, that they ended up in fits of genuine laughter.  They were amazed as they noticed that the pain of their arthritis had lessened, the headache subsided and the depression gave way to a feeling of greater well-being.  

God knows what's good for us emotionally and physically.  Take time to share a joke and have a good laugh.

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