Laughter has been called "inner jogging" because an old fashioned thigh-slapper does give you an aerobic workout of sorts. It stimulates the cardiovascular system, sends surges of oxygen through your bloodstream, exercises muscles and generates bursts of laughter reaching speeds as high as 70 miles an hour.
While laughter itself is delightfully stimulating, its afterglow creates a temporary reduction in blood pressure, respiration, heart rate and muscle tension.
Laughter enhances creativity and problem solving, reduces stress, eases strained relationships and promotes mental health. It may even encourage healing, strengthen the immune system and contribute to longevity. Amid the most trying and oppressive circumstances, humor is a guardian angel that protects our sanity.
When you laugh together as a family, it fosters understanding, open communication and harmony. In families with young children, humor can diffuse emotionally charged issues and encourage balanced disciplinary measures. Humor also promotes good will and cooperation between generations.
As a testimony to the healing power of mirth, in recent years humor programs have sprung up in hospitals and outpatient centers across the country. Humor enthusiasts and researchers have established associations, annual conferences and a variety of publications.
Certain folks have a special gift for telling jokes and creating a level of fun and joy that the rest of us can only admire. We needn’t try to become carbon copies of these great fun-lovers. But we can learn from them and delight in the laughter and lightheartedness they bring.
While laughter is an important element in a well-rounded sense of humor, cheerful smiles, playfulness and moments of quiet amusement also are important characteristics of a merry heart. The highest form of good humor is always an inside-out job. It begins with a heart that is peaceful and filled with a quiet joy.
Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with the Hall County Extension.
Her Family Ties column appears in Sunday Life on the first Sunday of each month. Contact: 770-535-8290.