I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose. Woody Allen
Laugh out loud for a moment. It seems kind of silly to do, but try the simple exercise of making yourself laugh and note what changes. Your whole face does, as well as your perspective. Having a sense of humor about things always changes our outlook and level of stress. Mark Twain said that “the human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.”
Our outlook on life impacts our physical, mental, and behavioral health. When we choose to laugh, it doesn’t change the circumstances going on around us; it simply changes how we look at them. Laughter is being used as a form of therapy to help with depression and even PTSD. How can that be? Because when we laugh, it breaks things down. It crosses any social hierarchy or cultural diversity. It changes how we think, our conversations, and our interactions.
Scripture says that a cheerful heart is good medicine and “a happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit” (Proverbs 15:13). The words “cheerful” and “joyful” are used interchangeably at times, as they both refer to an individual being noticeably happy and causing great pleasure and delight. We all know people who are filled with joy and cheer. For me, their unbridled optimism can even at times seem too much. However, I far prefer their presence over someone who is always downcast and critical. Why? Because criticism feeds a cycle of negativity, while laughter and optimism breaks that cycle. Heartache crushes the spirit.
Heartache isn’t something that is always easy to heal from or overcome, especially when it begins within your home. When so many of us are in pain, individuals, families, and communities are all affected by these rifts and unhealthy behaviors. All of us deal with crisis, heartache, loss, sickness, and depression at points in our life. 50% of us will develop a behavioral health issue in our lifetime. 217 million days of work are missed annually because of our mental health, and this year alone, over $1.5 trillion will be spent on behavioral health issues.
None of us are immune to pain and heartache. None of those moments are easy to go through alone. When there is pain, unhealthy decisions and behaviors often follow. Our outlook is influenced by those circumstances.
Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl wrote, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” This from a man who was interned during WWII in various concentration camps, lost his mother, brother, and wife, and somehow survived. In surviving the worst of man’s actions, Frankl recognized that meaning can be found even in such circumstances.
As a ministry of helpers and servants, we see the need every day with those who call in and those we serve. Our encouragement to them and you is that it can and does get better. And sometimes, you just need to laugh. Not because it changes the circumstances, but because it changes our perspective.