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Laughter does a soul good

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

There are times when you just need to laugh.

It might seem inappropriate to some, lovely to others, and utterly inexcusable to even more. But it doesn’t matter. During a lighthearted moment, when you least expect it, or in the wake of a fear so deep it leaves you sleepless, sometimes you’ve just got to laugh. It shows you that you’re still alive.

What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul. Someone Yiddish said that, I’m told. Makes perfect sense to me.

Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies. A good laugh relieves physical tension and leaves you relaxed. It releases endorphins and protects your heart. Laughing makes you feel good, even in the most challenging of times. It gives you courage sometimes. Makes you stronger even. It’s contagious. Apparently, if you’re not careful, it can kill you.

Did you know there are people who actually died laughing? I looked it up. In the third century B.C., it is written that the some Greek philosopher fellow named Chrysippus died of laughter after giving his donkey wine and watching it try to eat figs. Not clear on what happened to the donkey. I once watched an inebriated man try to eat a French fry that ultimately ended up in his nose. I shouldn’t have laughed, maybe, but I did. The man was fine and the French fry did get eaten, which made me want to gag, not laugh. And in 1660, a Scottish polymath named Thomas Urquhart is said to have died laughing upon hearing that Charles II had taken the throne.

First off, let me confess that I had to look up the word polymath which, in itself, is funny because that mere act proved that I was, indeed, no polymath. A polymath is apparently someone who is smart in a great number of subjects. I am no polymath.

I am able to laugh at myself, however.

I fell down the stairs in my garage yesterday going to the refrigerator to get a popsicle. I laughed. I also cried a little because it hurt. But I laughed. When the pocket of my robe got caught on the bathroom door knob and I flung myself backwards across my bed, I laughed. I cussed first, then I laughed. And when I walked outside to get the mail and saw the man down the street picking up limbs knock himself in the head with one, I laughed. Okay, so I shouldn’t have laughed at him and, granted, I didn’t do it out loud, but I couldn’t help it. He looked around to make sure no one saw him and I hid behind a tree. I’m sorry neighbor man. You can laugh at me the next time I fall in my garage.

I laugh at jokes.

A man walked into a bar and said ow.

See, now that’s funny.

Have you ever heard a baby laugh? A genuine belly laugh coming from a little bitty body, there’s no sweeter sound. No one taught them how to laugh. It’s an innate, unconscious, glorious thing that somehow as we grow older gets pushed down deep inside and isn’t allowed to come out except when we say so. It’s a shame, really. A genuine belly laugh is something we should have every day.

Life isn’t always funny. It isn’t always fun. But if you laugh a little bit every day — just a tiny, little bit even — an otherwise ordinary day can be a little better. Watch a funny show. Do something silly. Find someone else laughing and walk toward them. It’s contagious.

A man walked into a bar and said ow. It’s stupid, I know. But go ahead and laugh anyway. Come on, you know you want to.

What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul. We can all use a little soul bath.

Contact columnist Mandy Flynn at flyn1862@bellsouth.net.