It’s serious business out there. Life. Turn on the news or read a newspaper, we’re inundated with the terrible. I’m sure some of that is simply because the sensational brings the attention of the viewer and more viewers brings advertising dollars. Still, everything about life can seem to be grave, harsh, and cold.
In one verse of his song, “Come On Up To The House,” Tom Waits sang it like this:
Does life seem nasty, brutish and short
Come on up to the house
The seas are stormy
And you can't find no port
Come on up to the house
There's nothin in the world
Pretty stark, isn’t it! We are here for the long haul, a struggle of lifelong certainty. But here’s the real truth of the matter. We have some wonderful tools in our bag of tricks that help us to deal with life, bring it back to a more enjoyable and far more bearable plane.
It is true that a certain level of levity can make everything feel a lot better. We have room for the absurd. We make time for amusement. We take a break for the frivolous. I am grateful for the benefits of levity to make our lives just a little more bearable.
I believe there is little in this world better than that contagious giggle just outside the limits of control. Laughter can make any moment better, improve our outlook and buoy up even the worst of moods. Still, there may be some other benefits that are longer lasting.
Here’s a little something a little levity might be able to do to benefit our physical health:
• Lower blood pressure
• Increase vascular blood flow and oxygenation of the blood
• Give a workout to the diaphragm and abdominal, respiratory, facial, leg, and back muscles
• Reduce certain stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline
• Increase the response of tumor- and disease-killing cells such as Gamma-interferon and T-cells
• Defend against respiratory infections–even reducing the frequency of colds–by immunoglobulon in saliva.
• Increase memory and learning; in a study at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, humor during instruction led to increased test scores
• Improve alertness, creativity, and memory
Even with these benefits, the most important aspect of levity is the mood in which it places me. I am grateful that we have an outlet that helps make everything be all right, a way to bring to my heart a lightness that would otherwise be stuck in a dull, darkness. Jocularity is something we can share with our loved ones that costs so very little yet brings us together and strengthens our relationships. Laughter establishes--or restores--a positive emotional climate and a sense of connection between two people, who literally take pleasure in the company of each other. Of course levity can defuse anger and anxiety, and in so doing it can pave the path to intimacy.
No, folly cannot and will not make the heavier, direr aspects of life go away. Still, when we can engage life with a sense of mirth, the stage is set to tackle our problems together and not feel so alone.