According to Dr. Richard Swenson, M.D., the peak of laughter is at age four. Four year olds, on average, laugh about once every four minutes. That’s about 250 times every single day – an astounding amount of laughter. Life only gets more serious from that point onward.
Follow a four year old around and watch the spontaneous joy. They laugh at bright flowers, goofy-looking bugs, funny-sounding words, and big, floppy hats. They laugh when they drop an animal cracker into their juice, and when the juice spills on the floor. Giggles, chuckles, snickers, and knee-slapping laughter is just a way of life.
We ADULTS don’t usually find life nearly as funny.
By comparison, adults laugh about 15 times a day. We rarely notice bright flowers or goofy-looking bugs, let alone laugh at them. And we definitely don’t find anything funny about the juice spilling on the floor. However, we are the ones who end up missing out.
The book of Proverbs says “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength” (Proverbs 17:22).
Medical research, more and more, is demonstrating the truth of what the Bible says. Hearty laughter increases respiration, exercises the muscles of our face and upper body, lowers our blood pressure, and stimulates the functioning of our immune system. We don’t understand exactly why laughter works, we just know that people who regularly do it are healthier. Dr. Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire reports that people who suffer from heart disease are 40% less likely to laugh or see the funny side of life.
So if you feel like you you could use a little more laughter in your life, let me make a very simple suggestion: PRACTICE! That’s right, laughter is like anything else in life, and the more you practice the more naturally it comes. Now I don’t know what tickles your funny bone: Low-brow humor like the 3 Stooges or more sophisticated fare like Jim Gaffigan. Maybe it’s the Sunday Morning Funnies, a Dave Barry book, or a goofy-looking bug – but find something that works for you, keep it handy, and break it out often.
My family says that it’s funny to watch me laugh. When I really get going, I cry tears. Sometimes I can hardly catch my breath. And my family claims that when I’m laughing hard I sound like a funny, high-pitched Santa Claus. (I’m not convinced that last part is completely true, but I’ve been accused of worse, so I’ll let it slide.)
I’ve been a huge fan of the comic strip Dilbert for years and I try to never start a day without reading my Dilbert for the Day Calendar. When one strikes me as particularly hilarious, I set it aside in a collection I keep in my desk drawer. I’ve been collecting these for years now and I’ve accumulated a couple hundred. Every so often I go through and read them again, and it NEVER fails. As I read one after another, the humor builds on itself and what starts as giggles, moves to chortles, and eventually belly laughs, that brings me to tears.
It always does me good like medicine.