In case it’s been a while since you experienced a joyous, all-consuming belly laugh, the kind that leaves you breathless and smiling widely, I’m going to attempt to provide you with one — in 530 words.
I have the advantage, because we’ve had a 4-year-old in residence all week. For future reference, small children and puppies are almost guaranteed to produce random giggles and an occasional chuckling snort.
We did not have a puppy around this past week, but we did purchase two goldfish for our grand-boy. My husband thought we should name them Melania and Donald because “they seem a little fishy.” But we went with Disney characters instead. The one that was completely orange we still called Donald, last name Duck.
We specifically chose fish because at bedtime our grandson was afraid of “the bad guys coming;” he describes them as “zombies, witches, cheetahs, tigers and fish.” I thought a bowl of cavorting goldfish might distract him and neutralize some of his fear. But he later informed me the only “bad” fish are sharks.
I came up with what I thought was a rather brilliant way to eradicate “the bad guys” by filling an empty spray bottle with water and marking it “Bad Guy Spray,” specifically naming the culprits on the label and allowing him to spray wildly if he thought one was around. It worked well, although pillows and pajamas got awfully damp the first night. As a side benefit, “Jordan-boy,” as we call him, can now spell “cheetah.”
Laughter is usually defined as “rhythmic contractions of the diaphragm in response to internal or external stimuli.” Done well, it can be quite aerobic. Elders who happily watch comedy show reruns on television instead of taking a walk around the block might use that as a defense if challenged about not getting enough exercise. Although some of both — daily physical activity and regularly enjoyed chortling, guffawing, tittering, cackling and sniggering is preferable.
An online article in Psychology Today a few years ago described laughter as “full-on collaboration between mind and body.” It “releases tension, lowers anxiety, boosts the immune system and aids circulation.” I must admit, the first time I read that article I almost went out and bought a puppy.
Another online article from Psychology Today was titled “20 Rules That Everyone Can Live By,” and the first rule was: “Bring your sense of humor with you at all times. Bring your friends with a sense of humor. If their friends have a sense of humor, invite them too. Remember this when going to hospitals, weight-loss centers and funerals, as well as when going to work, coming home, waking up and going to sleep.”
I recall laughing around the supper table on the day of my dad’s funeral. We were all remembering when he almost set himself on fire in church after he put his still-lit pipe in his shirt pocket and then interrupted the sermon trying to explain what had happened — with smoky tendrils curling around his head and the congregation doubled over in laughter.
Dad was in an unexpectedly competitive race for church council president at the time. And, yes, he won.
— Sharon Johnson is a retired Oregon State University associate professor. Reach her at Sharon@agefriendlyinnovators.org.