My, how time slips away. I continue to be amazed at how short the days are, how quickly the seasons pass, and I sometimes get a breathless feeling that I must hurry with my work and not waste a minute of my life. My generation has been trained by the work ethic – and that is a good thing – but there should be a balance between work and leisure. We need some “downtime.”

Gretchen Rubin, the author of “The Happiness Project,” recommends downtime. She says, “The important thing is to find time for leisure activities and to use your leisure time wisely, doing things you really love to do.”

Julia Cameron, the author of “The Artist’s Way,” says, “The artist who forgets how to play soon enough forgets how to work.” She recommends an hour or longer each week of time spent on yourself, doing something festive. Living in New York City, Cameron has a wide variety of places to choose from each week, museums, shops, the theater, and walks in Central Park. She says these kinds of activities bring us optimism and awaken in us a sense of potential. However, small towns offer public libraries, bookstores, antique shops, art museums, flea markets, and other interesting places to visit. A trip to the library, browsing in Books-a-Million, or a day of shopping with a friend is fun for me. I have a friend who says that after a day of shopping in Hobby Lobby, garden stores, and quaint shops, she is then energized to go home and work in her yard or clean her house.

Golda Meir, the late Prime Minister of Israel, once said, “I like to be able to live without a crowded calendar. I want to be able to read a book without feeling guilty, or go to a concert when I like.”

The Bible recommends “downtime” and rest — our minds and bodies must have adequate rest and relaxation. It is also a good thing to add a lot of laughter to our leisure times. Ecclesiastes says, “There is a time to laugh and a time to cry.” Proverbs tells us, “A happy heart is a good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing.”

Norman Cousins, the editor-in-chief of the Saturday Review for more than three decades, was told that he had only six months to live because of a painful, crippling disease. While doctors administered medications, Cousins decided to fight his illness with a change in attitude by employing a simple strategy — laughter. While in the hospital, Cousins asked the nurses to read him funny stories, and he told his friends to call him every time they heard a funny story. “I made a joyous discovery,” he said, “that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep.” Apparently, daily laughter enabled Cousins to live another twenty years.

Studies have shown that laughter produces endorphins — happy brain chemicals, that act as natural pain killers. A Harvard study revealed that the more a person laughs and approaches life positively, the fewer chronic diseases that person will develop because laughter boosts the immune system. Studies have also shown that laughter can help those suffering from depression and that it can improve one’s overall outlook on life.

Charles Swindoll wrote a book called “Laugh Again,” in which he says, “Tough times are upon us, no question. The issues we all face are both serious and real. But are they so intense, so all-important, so all-consuming that every expression of joy should be eclipsed? Sorry, I can’t buy that.”

Leisure and laughter — we need both. They prepare us for accomplishing the work we’ve been assigned.

Virginia Dawkins is the author of Stepping Stones: Steps from Shackles to Freedom, available at Amazon.


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