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A Cheerful Heart
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"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones" (Proverbs 17:22).

Three or four times a week I walk around my country neighborhood. I pass horse farms, a goat farm, and a llama farm. I take exercising seriously, so to get my quota of movement I usually am rushing to make sure I cover four-plus miles. After my walk-run, many times I still feel tense as I rush to my next activity or appointment.

One day I decided to slow down and enjoy my walk. As I passed the goat farm, three goats were standing like statues on an old broken-down table left in the yard. I giggled at the odd sight. The horses were frisky at the next farm, chasing each other in glee. I smiled. The expression on the llamas’ faces made me laugh as they stared dolefully at me. By this time I was in a great, relaxed mood.

The chipmunks were scampering all around me in the trees as I walked down our long, wooded driveway, and they made me chuckle. I reflected on the difference of how I felt after this walk—relaxed and ready to slow down and share some joy with others. Had I actually gotten more out of my exercising by enjoying myself than by pushing to reach my four-mile goal?

Crossover Effect

The part of the brain that enables us to exercise, the motor cortex, lies only a few millimeters from the part of the brain that deals with thought and feeling. Could there be a crossover effect? I know exercising helps with depression, but if you’re happy and laughing, do you get more out of your exercise, as well? In a study at Loma Linda University, 50 students were put on a high-cholesterol diet and then asked to choose an exercise program they enjoyed—volleyball, tennis, swimming, or running. Within three days the cholesterol level of every student had dropped. But when the students were asked to exercise on treadmills, no reduction in cholesterol was found. No enjoyment—no cholesterol benefit. Interesting!

I think that’s what God meant in Proverbs 17:22—when you laugh and are cheerful, you feel better, you get more out of your exercise , and your joy is contagious. It ends up being good medicine for yourself—and for those around you.

Start a joyful fad today—slow down and start laughing. You’ll be surprised  at how many smiles you’ll get and how much better you’ll feel.

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By Sandy Clay. Excerpted from Fit Forever, compiled by Kay Kuzma, copyright © 2005 by Review & Herald Publishing. Copyright © 2012 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®.

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