I would like to share with you a new and important finding from recent medical research. Over the last year several studies have been released that clearly show that there is a much higher incidence of arteriosclerosis–hardening of the arteries–in adults who lack a sense of humor. That’s right, people who rarely laugh are at a much higher risk of building up plaque in their arteries than those who laugh on a regular basis.
Okay, I must admit that what you just read has not been scientifically proven and was, in fact, in light of today being April 1, my own weak attempt at an April Fool’s joke. There are no such findings. Yet I wouldn’t be surprised if it was true, as the idea kind of makes sense, doesn’t it?
I know when I lose my sense of humor, while my arteries may not get rigid, I certainly become inflexible in lots of other ways. And I have no doubt that extended periods of little laughter are, in fact, not good for my over all sense of well-being. Fortunately, I am blessed to have a two and half year old grandson in my life who constantly keeps me not just smiling, but laughing out loud on a regular basis. So right now I don’t need to worry.
Just last weekend, because of his unique child’s view of the world, my grandson and I ended up playing with a wooden paint stir stick for quite some time. Perhaps you have never been so fortunate as to experience the joy of playing with such a wooden stick, so please allow me to elaborate.
My grandson, discovering the stick in a bag that had recently been brought home from the hardware store, wasted no time turning the stick into a series of imaginary toys. Upon spotting the stick he immediately lifted it to his lips and pronounced that the stick was really a trumpet, as he busily fingered the valves of the make believe instrument. Staying with the musical theme, the paint stick was soon a violin, a guitar, and a flute. Shortly thereafter it was a golf club, a neck tie, a fishing rod, and a tree. Before the afternoon was over it had also become a baseball bat, a diving board, a spoon, a fork, a knife, a popsicle stick, a teeter totter, a giant pencil and even a magic wand.
What I remember most about our play time together, was surprisingly not the imaginative uses of the stick that my grandson came up with, but rather his shrieks of joy and laugher when he announced each new idea of what the stick could be, always adding, “That is so silly!!” As with all young children, such shrieks of joy and laughter seem to come forth from every cell in their body. Such laughter is, of course, contagious and I was laughing out loud with him every step of the way, a few times laughing to the point of tears rolling down my cheeks. I know one of the reasons I enjoy spending time with children, and I don’t think I am alone in this, is because they make me laugh. They remind me how good it feels to be silly.
This all reminds me of an article I read recently that pointed out that young children laugh an average of 300 times a day and that adults, on the other hand, only laugh about 10-15 times a day. Whether those numbers are accurate or not is unimportant, as they point to the truth most of us recognize, that adults laugh far less than children. This does not need to be the case, however, we can continue to look for the fun and the unexpected that exists around us every day. This thought reminds me of the quote by George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop laughing because we get old, we get old because we stop laughing.”
In honor of it being April Fools Day today, how might you increase your “laugh quotient” today? Maybe you won’t reach 300 laughs as a young child might, but perhaps you might find yourself laughing a bit more than you usually do, keeping your eyes open for new perspectives and humor in your world. Just as my grandson could so creatively re-imagine new uses for a paint stick, how might we re-imagine challenges or problems we are currently facing in a new way? How might a new perspective open up and allow for a little humor to lighten things up? The ability to lighten up, the ability to laugh more often, is clearly good for the soul. And while I can’t say for sure, I imagine it must be good for our arteries as well.