My 3-year-old loves the Tickle game.
It’s a simple game. I just stand and look at her and say, “I’m gonna tickle you” and she erupts into hysterical laughter. Sometimes I’ll flutter my fingers in front of her to tease her a little bit without touching her. She can’t handle the anticipation. She starts to curl into a ball on the bed and protect her midriff. She knows. She giggles with delight. I’ll pause and go in for a real tickle of her belly or begin to kiss her sweet little neck. Laughter ensues.
Her little laugh is priceless. I wish I could bottle it up and keep it forever. That laugh makes me smile in my soul.
According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter has great short-term and long-term effects on the body. Laughter stimulates the organs, relieves responses to stress, soothes tension, improves our immune systems, relieves pain, help lessen anxiety and depression – and this one may seem obvious – improves our moods.
A Vanderbilt University study found that 15-20 minutes of laughter a day can burn up to 40 calories. Now that’s a fun workout plan!
Research alone is enough to convince me that laughter is beneficial. I have also learned the benefits from personal experience. When my husband died a year ago, my heart was so heavy I felt like I was walking around with a boulder in my chest. The grief was so hard to bear. I also had the added challenge of navigating grief for my three daughters, ages 3, 6 and 9.
Here’s what I learned: It’s important for us to cry. We need to lean into the memories. We need to feel the heartache. We also need to laugh. Laughter ushers in healing.
We have spent time laughing over pictures and funny faces. We laugh over goofy things Daddy used to do like the robot dance. We laugh thinking about the things he might be doing in Heaven today like teaching angels how to do burpees or leading a choir for off-key worshippers.
The book of Ecclesiastes reminds us, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Verse 4 goes on to say, “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance…” I love this juxtaposition of seasons and emotions. The tears are important but so is the laughter and the dancing.
We need to give ourselves permission to laugh. Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously as mamas. It’s easy to get caught up in the guilt and the shame of not measuring up, not having enough patience with our kids, not finishing enough tasks in a day. It’s easy to push laughter aside and forget its benefits.
This year as we press into our theme of “A Fierce Flourishing” and “embracing rest,” I want to challenge you rediscover the things that make you giggle. Laughter bonds people. Laughter builds trust. Get some time with your kids or your mama friends around the table, and give yourself permission to belly laugh.
After all, laughter is the best medicine.
Dorina Lazo Gilmore is the Coordinator of the Bridge MOPS group and a published author. She is a mama of 3 active daughters, ages 3, 6 and 9, who love to jump on the trampoline, paint masterpieces and play the Tickle game.