Indoor-fins: The Science of Laughter

fish-bowl-small-sizeThe health benefits of laughter were known centuries before recent studies discovered the connection between laughter and endorphins (indoor-fins).

Somewhere around 900 BC, King Solomon assembled his collection of wise and pithy principles for life. Proverbs 17:22 is a good example: A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.

An article in Forbes does more than just confirm the words of Solomon, it lists six benefits of laughter:

  • Laughter is a potent endorphin releaser.
  • Laughter contagiously forms social bonds.
  • Laughter fosters brain connectivity.
  • Laughter is central to relationships.
  • Laughter has an effect similar to antidepressants.
  • Laughter protects your heart.

If you’ve been sick, down-in-the-dumps, needled by pain or coping with stress, laugh a little and let your brain release the endorphins that will kick-start your immune system, enhance your mood, soothe your pain, and tame your stress.

I hope the words of John McLeod will nudge you in the right direction and put a smile on your face:

Can I give you a handful of laughter

A smidgen of giggles to boot,

A cupful of tease and a comical sneeze

Followed by a hilarious hoot.

Depression: An Emotional Hole

A-5-Minute-by-Craig-SunterLife would be boringly bland if it were not for our emotions.  I’m thankful that I can scan the horizon of humanity and see faces of innocence framed in smiles that run from ear to ear.  What would a party be if a child never had the gift of joy when he unwrapped a toy?

Emotions are God’s gift to His creation, and I believe He intended for you to have a life filled with gigglicious moments—those times that are delicious with laughter.

When I think of emotions, I wonder about Adam and Eve.  They never had a second of sadness, and they were never disappointed; not, until they sinned and disobeyed God.  Their lives of delight were immediately overcome by fright and despair as they tried to hide from God.

The negative and debilitating emotions that Adam and Eve experienced in the Garden are the same feelings that still afflict thousands of people today.  Some research by the National Institute of Mental Health confirms this:

  • 60% of our fears are over things that will never happen.
  • 30% of our fears are focused on things that happened in the past
  • 90 % of our fears are somewhat insignificant
  • 88% of our fears are health-related (hypochondriacs)

The Anxiety and Depression Society of America has stated that anxiety disorders are the most common forms of mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18% of U.S. population). Uncontrolled worry can have a debilitating effect on a person’s appetite, relationships, job performance, and sleep–all of which can be precursors to depression.

While your situation may be different from those of another person, the circumstances of life should not circumvent your emotional health.  Circumstances are external events that trigger an internal and emotional response.  Even though you cannot control all of the externals, you can learn to manage the internals.

The simple truth is that you either control your thoughts or they control you. A key means of controlling your thoughts is to be introspective with a proper perspective. This is a technique that is at least as old as the Apostle Paul, who said: “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.”

It takes discipline and practice to make this a habit. This is because many people are born with a negative bias in the way they see life. Research indicates that the brain is more likely to focus on negative feelings instead of positive feelings. This has been referred to as the FUD Factor (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt). When our thoughts are left unattended they wander into the wilderness of negativity and stumble into the cesspool of distress.

This is one reason Paul said that we need to bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).” Some thoughts can be wonderfully captivating; however, others are so powerful in their negativity a person becomes a prisoner of his own mind.

When you give some thought to your pattern of thinking, you become aware of your self-talk; and, you can begin to identify it as wholesome conversation that builds your self-esteem and glorifies God or an attack on who you are in Christ.  When you begin to recognize the pattern of your thoughts, you’ve taken the first step into transformative thinking that will renew your mind (Romans 12:2).