I learned a new word today, “gelotology.” Gelotology is the study of laughter and it’s psychological and physiological effects on the body. Believe it or not gelotologists get paid to use laughter therapy and something called laughter mediation to treat folks. According to Wikipedi laughter meditations occurs in three stages;
“In the first stage, the person places all energy into stretching every muscle without laughter. In the second stage, the person starts with a gradual smile, and then slowly begins to purposely belly laugh or cry, whichever occurs. In the final state, the person abruptly stops laughing or crying, then with their eyes now closed they breathe without a sound and focus their concentration on the moment.”
I’m not sure how much people pay for laughter therapy, but it seems to me that spending an hour watching The Office or hanging out with my buddy Brady would be a whole lot cheaper. Anatomically speaking, laughter is caused when the epiglottis constricts the larynx. Studies indicate that children can start laughing as early as 17 days old. Laughter is part of universal human vocabulary and apparently chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, rats and dogs have their own forms of “laughter” too.
Research has shown that laughter is produced by the amygdala and the hippocampus (brain regions) and stimulates the production of endorphins in the brain, which leads to feelings of well-being. Several research studies have shown that laughter also causes dilation of blood vessels and increased blood flow, which is good for our heart.
We know that “Jesus wept,” (John 11:35), but did He laugh? Jesus is God but He was also fully human when He walked the earth (John 1:14, Philippians 2:7-8, Romans 1:3). Since all humans laugh (some admittedly more than others), Jesus must have laughed if He was human, right? The Bible also indicates that everyone, including kids, loved to be around Jesus (except the Pharisees and Sadducees). Do you like to hang out with funny and joyful people or pessimistic prunes.
As great as laughter is, the Bible teaches us that laughter is fleeting but joy is lasting. In fact, we can only find true joy through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joy is one of the fruits that is produced in a Christian who is indwelt and submissive to the Holy Spirit. The Bible says it this way,“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23, NIV).
So how about it? Go ahead and laugh today because it’s good for you. When you get done laughing, kneel and ask the Holy Spirit to flood your heart because joy is essential for you.