An Apache myth tells us that the Creator made man able to walk and talk, to see and hear – to do everything. But the Creator wasn’t satisfied. Finally, he made man laugh, and when man laughed and laughed, the Creator said, “Now you are fit to live.”
In Navajo culture, there is something called the First Laugh Ceremony. Tradition dictates that each Navajo baby is kept on a cradle board until he or she laughs for the first time. Then the tribe throws a celebration in honor of the child’s first laugh, which is considered to be his or her birth as a social being.
We are not only Homo sapiens, the creature who thinks. We are Homo guffawus, the creature who laughs.
“Man is the only animal who blushes — or needs to,” wrote Mark Twain. He could have added, “Man is the only animal that truly laughs. Or needs to.” How solemn can God be if He endowed us with the priceless gift of laughter?
We all need to laugh. Recent studies have shown that he or she who laughs lasts. Norman Cousins, who used laughter to conquer a debilitating disease, writes “Illness is not a laughing matter. Perhaps it ought to be. Laughter moves your internal organs around. It enhances respiration. It is an igniter of great expectation . . . . It has always seemed to me that hearty laughter is a good way to jog internally without having to go outdoors.”
“A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures,” winks an Irish proverb. Laughter stimulates the circulation, tones the muscles, energizes the lungs and respiratory system, stimulates endorphins in the immune system, boosts the neurotransmitters needed for alertness and memory, increase motivation to learn, and provides superb aerobic exercise
Scientists continue to support what we’ve known to be true since biblical times: “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”
Laughter can be hazardous to your illness. Studies in psychoneuroimmunology demonstrate a link between a healthy heart and a sense of humor. A team of Maryland medical researchers found in a study of 300 people, half of whom had histories of heart problems, those with heart disease were 40 percent less likely to laugh in humorous situations than those with healthy hearts. “The old saying that laughter is the best medicine definitely appears to be true when it comes to protecting your heart,”’ said Michael Miller, director of the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Go forth and practice random acts of laughter. Ripples of laughter will wash the brightest pearls onto the shores of your life. Laughter makes life the merriest of go-rounds and will keep you from getting dizzy.
Written by author and famed verbalist Richard Lederer.