Why laughter is good for you

 

Paper Towel Holder for blogDid you ever have one of those days when nothing seems to go right? I’m not talking about huge problems here, just a string of trivial irritations that add up. Then with a lot on your mind, when a normally minor annoyance occurs it’s easy to get out of sorts. In my little world, the last straw for me on a particularly stressful day was the paper towel machine in the ladies restroom of a public building that refused to cooperate. Concerned about being late for an important appointment, I stood there frantically waving my wet hands in front of the designated detector with no success.

I thought this was going to turn into be one of those humiliating moments when a couple teens were about to mock an uptight baby boomer. You see, two attractive teenage girls were looking on in amusement at my plight, when one sympathetically said, “Don’t you hate when that happens?”

And then I laughed. It was the kind of belly laugh that comes from deep inside when pent up emotion is finally released. The teens chimed in laughing with their girlish giggles sounding like a rippling melody. It’s that simple, I laughed, and suddenly the whole world seemed brighter. Decades were spanned in that moment of laughter too, and camaraderie forged between the generations.

In that instant, I was reminded that sometimes the young are just as afraid of not being accepted by us mature adults, as we are of them. I also realized that it had been awhile since I had heard the sound of unrestrained laughter. Instead, lately I have noticed the stoic faces of human beings everywhere, assuming the continually charged political climate, back to school blues, or unusual summer weather might have been taking a toll.

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Still, people need to laugh. There have been many studies that provide documentation for the medical benefits of laughter. For example, on the website www.moodwatchers.com we find that, “Research has shown health benefits of laughter ranging from strengthening the immune system to reducing food cravings to increasing one’s threshold for pain. There’s even an emerging therapeutic field known as humor therapy to help people heal more quickly… ”

An April 2016 post on the Mayo Clinic website www.mayoclinic.org, “Stress relief from laughter? It’s no joke,” reports that laughter can, “Stimulate many organs…Activate and relieve your stress response… [and] soothe tension.  Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.” We have known that laughter is healthy for us dating back to Biblical times. To quote the famous proverb, “A merry heart does good like a medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones,” which remains a common saying in our everyday language.

Many of us could use some relief from stress, but we won’t all find the ability to laugh through the same method. Recounting humorous events, telling funny jokes, reading the comic section, watching slapstick TV, or viewing a comedic movie might result in a few chuckles. If all else fails, you could try tickling a loved one. I wouldn’t tickle a co-worker though, because you will probably find yourself unemployed.

Speaking of employee etiquette, I used to have to endure colleagues who relished telling dumb blonde jobs before the advent of political correctness or lawsuits for workplace discrimination. I never enjoyed being the brunt of the joke having had blonde hair all my life. I was deeply touched once when a co-worker asked for my forgiveness for telling a rather harmless dumb blonde story sensing my discomfort. That’s why a word of caution is necessary, because humor can be based on cruelty. That’s why a word of caution is necessary, because humor can be based on cruelty.  Hopefully, most folks mature into understanding that it’s never appropriate to make fun of other people, unless you are a presidential candidate of any party. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. But it is good to laugh at ourselves when we are taking life too seriously.

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For me, on blue days watching a couple YouTube videos of babies laughing or pets doing funny things usually lifts my spirits. Click on this cute baby’s photo and I’ll bet you that you won’t be able to not smile. Yet it is those spontaneous happenings when someone in a conversation or group does or says something that is so hilarious that you can’t help but bust out laughing, no matter what else is going on, that’s best.  Think about it. When was the last time, you had a good belly laugh? So good that you wiped the tears from your eyes and ran for the nearest restroom? When you get there watch out for the paper towel machine.

Christina aloneChristina Ryan Claypool is an Amy award-winning freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.  

52 Churches in 52 Weeks: The Ultimate Church Hopper

Church windowI am a self-admitted church hopper or at least I have been for almost a year now. Late last summer, I embarked on a project, “52 churches in 52 weeks.” If you Google this title, you’ll find that other individuals have taken this same journey. So far, I have visited about 46 different churches, all but three of them located in Miami County. I have attended Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, Nazarene, Presbyterian, Apostolic, United Church of Christ, Church of God, Brethren, Catholic, Assemblies of God, and non-denominational services, and the list goes on.

When my husband and I relocated to Miami County a few years ago, one of the questions people frequently asked us was, “Where do you attend church?” However, this might be the wrong question if you are trying to decide whether you share a similar faith experience and denominational or theological stance. After all, statistics from the website www.city-data.com reveal that the largest population growth in religious attendance in Miami County is in the category of those who do not attend at all. In a county of approximately 104,224 people estimated by July 2015 data from the United States Census Bureau, currently about 64,347 individuals are not attending or claiming affiliation with a religious group. This is a 21 percent increase from the 52,998 individuals who claimed no religious affiliation in 2000 when there were approximately 99,000 residents. Of course, this dramatic rise must be adjusted for the population growth that has occurred in Miami County.

This is not a phenomenon peculiar to Miami County as nationwide especially mainline denominational churches have seen a tremendous decline in attendance in recent years. This is often attributed to the large proportion of the young adult (millennial) population who are not church-goers. It was this statistic about those with no religious affiliation which originally spurred me to investigate the churches in Miami County. This began as a private project for possible publication, because while completing a master’s degree in ministry some years ago, my studies included a personal emphasis on church growth.church windows

The project was eventually accepted as my research report to fulfill a Leadership Troy requirement. As a part of the 2016 class of Leadership Troy, it has been an interesting journey documenting my experience visiting dozens of our county’s houses of worship to prepare to write a report not about specific churches, but about the local faith community in general. I hope to let you in on the results in a few months, but for now, if I haven’t visited your Miami County church or other religious fellowship, temple, etc., and you would like me to, please send me an email, being sure to include service times and location. In my report, one of the items to be addressed is that some religious establishments are neglecting Internet postings through a website, blog, or Facebook page regarding basic information like service times. Although there are also fellowships that are doing an exemplary job of having an Internet presence to get their information out.

On a positive note, I have been profoundly changed on this path. About halfway through the project, there was a Sunday when my husband and I visited a West Milton congregation. As the sunlight streamed through the stained glass windows, tears filled my eyes. Not tears of sadness, but of gratitude for what I have witnessed in fellowships all across our county. Whether it was 30 elderly seniors gathered in a century-old brick building singing traditional hymns or hundreds of people of all ages clapping and making a joyful noise in a converted bowling alley, I have been privileged to observe local residents expressing their faith.

Church window 2Witnessing the zeal of many church attendees reminded me that there are citizens who still care deeply about this nation, and about this community. Those who want to do the right thing and support the schools, the elderly, the poor, the sick, and to battle the county’s heroin epidemic like the 40 plus area churches that joined together for the Hope over Heroin event in July. I gleaned all this information from reading church bulletins listing numerous outreaches mostly led by volunteers, and by listening to heartfelt Sunday morning prayers and sermons. I have been blessed by friendliness and inspired by devout dedication, relieved to find that there are thousands of wonderful believers alive and well in Miami County. To be continued …

Christina aloneChristina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker who earned a master’s in ministry from Mount Vernon Nazarene University.  Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.