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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Taking Laughter Seriously

by Doug Wysockey-Johnson

Who do you laugh with easily?  It might be worth spending more time with that person. 
It is middle of winter here in northern New England.  We could all use a little playfulness about now.  That is my very unscientific observation from looking around.  But it turns out that there is some data to back it up.  

Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore have shown for the first time that laughter is linked to healthy function of blood vessels.  They assert that laughter appears to cause the tissue that forms the inner lining of blood vessels to expand.  This helps increase blood flow, which has a healthy effect on your arteries and reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease.   Their conclusion?  “We recommend you try to laugh on a regular basis.”  (The Creation Health Breakthrough, by Monica Reed, M.D)

Playfulness is an important part of relationships as well.  One study looked at couples that had been married between 15 and 61 years who said they were happy in their relationship.  Of those interviewed, an overwhelming majority agreed on the importance of play and humor in their relationship. (The Play Solution:  How to Put the Fun and Excitement Back into Your Relationship, by Jeanette C. Lauer and Robert Lauer)

Forced laughter or playfulness usually backfires, at least for me.  If someone tells me that they want to tell me a joke, I usually think, “This is not going to be funny, but I am going to feel pressure to laugh.”  By and large, jokes don’t make me laugh. 

But there are certain people who are gift to me because of the way they evoke my laughter.  And it is worth thinking about ways that my wife and can play together.  

Krister Stendahl was the archbishop of Stockholm for many years.  Before that, he taught at Harvard Divinity School (not a very playful place).  In his 1984 Commencement Address, he said “Joy is closer to God than seriousness.  Why?  Because when I am serious I tend to be self centered, but when I am joyful I tend to forget myself.” 

Back to the original question:  With whom do you laugh easily?  Who helps you play?  Might want to spend more time with them. 

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