Laugher is good medicine, literally. It has important physiological effects on you and your soul mate. The French philosopher Voltaire wrote, "The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease." Modern research indicates that people with a sense of humor have fewer symptoms of physical illness than those who are less humorous.
This idea, of course, isn't new. Since King Solomon's times, people have known about and applied the healing benefits of humor. As Proverbs tells us, "A cheerful heart is good medicine." (17:22)
But humor brings more than physiological benefits to a husband and wife. Humor helps us cope.
Consider Janet, who wanted to impress a small group of couples with an elaborate dinner. She cooked all day and enlisted her husband's help to serve the meal. All went well until the main course. As her husband was bringing in the crown roast, the kitchen door hit him from behind and the platter flew across the room. Janet froze, regained her composure, then commanded, "Dear, don't just stand there. Pick up the roast, go in the kitchen, and get the other one!"
No doubt about it, humor helps us cope — not just with the trivial but even with the tragic. Psychoanalyst Martin Grotjahn, author of Beyond Laughter, notes that "to have a sense of humor is to have an understanding of human suffering."
Charlie Chaplin could have said the same thing. Chaplin grew up in the poorest section of London. His mother suffered from serious mental illness and his father died of alcoholism when Charlie was just five. Laughter was Chaplin's tool for coping with life's losses. Chaplin eating a boiled leather shoe for dinner in his classic film Gold Rush is more than a humorous scene. It is an act of human triumph, a monument to the coping power of humor.
One does not need to be a professional comedian, however, to benefit from comedy. Viktor Frankl is another example of how humor can empower a person to contend with horrendous circumstances. In Frankl's book Man's Search for Meaning, he speaks of using humor to survive imprisonment during World War II. Frankl and another inmate would invent at least one amusing story daily to help them cope with their horrors.
A Nazi prison camp is a dramatic backdrop to underscore the value of humor, but it may help you remember what a good laugh can do for you and your marriage on stressful days. Let's be honest, every marriage has its difficulties. When the checkbook doesn't balance, when the kids can't seem to behave, when busy schedules collide, when you can't remember your last date-night, not to mention your last vacation. For these times, and dozens of others, humor is invaluable.
Take it from the professionals: Legendary comedian Bob Hope says laughter is an "instant vacation." Jay Leno says, "You can't stay mad at somebody who makes you laugh." And the great Bill Cosby says, "If you can find humor in anything, you can survive it." Researchers agree. Studies reveal that individuals who have a strong sense of humor are less likely to experience burnout and depression and they are more likely to enjoy life in general — including their marriage.