Monday, August 6, 2012

Release those neurotransmitters!

"He will yet fill your mouth with laughing, and your lips with rejoicing" (Job 8:21).

Laughter may indeed be the best medicine after all. In his Anatomy of an Illness, published in 1979, Norman Cousins recounts how ten minutes of solid belly laughter would give him two hours of pain-free sleep. Laughter stimulates heart and blood circulation and promotes respiration. It produces deep relaxation, thereby breaking up our tension. Just putting on a happy face can be rewarding. I worked in a high rise for senior citizens for several years, and I made what I thought at the time was the profound discovery that if I smiled­--whether I felt like it or not-­-I would feel better. I knew I couldn’t go in to those dear old people looking like a grump, so I would paste on a smile, and soon I was actually smiling. In an article published in the Orlando Sentinel, Ronald S. Miller stated that “if we just assume facial expressions of happiness, we can increase blood flow to the brain and stimulate release of favorable neurotransmitters.” So when I smile I am releasing neurotransmitters and giving others and myself a better day in the process!

Years ago I had a ministry with parents who had lost children. At the risk of sounding like a heretic, I asked them to keep a good joke book beside the Bible. I explained that there would be days when even the Bible might need to be supplemented with a good laugh that could, at least momentarily, lift the incredible weight of pain and loss. My personal daily shot in the funny bone is Lynn Johnston’s For Better or for Worse. God bless her for her painkiller insight on family life.

One more bit of advice: don’t stick around negative people. These are what one writer calls “energy suckers.” Do yourself a huge favor and find someone positive and funny and enjoy life. God wants us to laugh and enjoy the full range of positive emotions He created. Otherwise, He wouldn’t have promised to “fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with rejoicing!”

So let’s rattle those funny bones today and praise our heavenly Father for the wonderful gift of laughter.

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