The old cliche, “laughter is the best medicine,” may actually have some truth to it. In a recent article by Marlene Cimons from The Washington Post, some people who have done a lot of laughing in their lives are living proof that it may well be the case.
According to legendary funny man Carl Reiner, “there isn’t anything more important than being able to laugh. When you can laugh, life is worth living. It keeps me going. It keeps me young.” Laughter is his first priority, and he always makes sure he finds ways to make himself laugh throughout the day. “There is no greater pleasure than pointing at something, smiling and laughing about it,” he says. He even wakes up by tickling himself every morning. Reiner also believes that some famous comedians are all in good health because they enjoy humor and stay funny. These include Mel Brooks, who will be 93 this month; Dick Van Dyke, 93; TV producer Norman Lear, who will be 97 next month; and actress Betty White, 97.
Reiner may be onto something. Several studies suggest laughter can improve health and even help ward off illness. Laughter has many health and life related benefits. Sven Svebak, a professor emeritus who has studied the health impact of humor for more than 50 years, says laughter eases stress, helps the ill cope with their sickness and pain, and reduces the risk of dying early. “A friendly sense of humor acts like shock absorbers in a car, a mental shock absorber in everyday life to help us cope better with a range of frustrations, hassles and irritations,” Svebak says. Svebak isn’t the only researcher who has found some truth in the cliche. The Mayo Clinic also discovered, “Laughter stimulates the body’s organs by increasing oxygen intake to the heart, lungs and muscles, and stimulates the brain to release more endorphins.” Laughter also helps to ease tension, relaxes the muscles, lowers blood pressure, relieves pain, improves mood, strengthens immune system, and reduces levels of cortisol, which is a stress hormone.
However, the benefits of laughter are not all related to medicine and longevity. According to Edward Creagan, a professor at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science, “When people are funny, they attract other people, and community connectedness is the social currency for longevity.” Laughter can also improve our personal lives and social sphere. “Nobody wants to be around negative, whiny people. It’s a drain. We’re attracted to funny people,” says Creagan. Clearly, making an intentional choice to include laughter in our lives, is not only free, but also has no bad side effects.
Additionally, laughter can help take away pain from sick people. It enables them to have a sense of control and allows them to take their minds off of their troubles. Humor can also delay or prevent life-threatening diseases depending on your sex. For example, in a 15-year Norwegian study of 53,556 participants, conducted by Svebak and his colleagues, women who found something funny in most situations had a reduced risk of death from cardiovascular and infectious diseases. On the other hand, men who were able to find something funny had a reduced risk of death from infections.
Furthermore, humor improves mental sharpness and stimulates memories of the elderly. For example, according to Bernie Warren, professor emeritus in dramatic arts at the University of Windsor and founder of Fools for Health, a Canadian clown-doctor program, “clown therapy for hospitalized pediatric patients is well-established, but elder clowns are now also helping seniors in residential settings.” Clown therapy is used to lift the spirits of pediatric patients and can aid the elderly by invoking memories through humor. Clowns help greatly with memory, language and communication, as well as awareness of self and the present. Many researchers believe that when people enjoy humor with others who have similar experiences, the benefits of laughter increase. Svebak explains this phenomenon by saying, “Your sense of humor is anchored within your personal experiences and, therefore, changes throughout your life. The safest place for sharing humor is among those whom you share experiences.” Reiner’s overall friendly message is, “keep laughing…you’ll live forever.”
So, how can you bring more laughter into your life? Here are a couple ways”:
1. Make humor a priority by reading a funny book, watching a comedy, or listening to your favorite comedian.
2. Share laughter with friends. Spend more time with people who have fun.
3. Practice “Laughter Yoga.” Yes, there really is such a thing. Look it up on YouTube.
4. The ability to laugh at yourself relieves stress. Focus on finding moments in your day that you think are funny, and then tell a friend since sharing funny things is good for you, too.
Finally, at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology, Michael Miller, M.D., of the University of Maryland offers a simple prescription. “Thirty minutes of exercise three times a week and 15 minutes of laughter on a daily basis is probably good for the vascular system.”
To help jump-start your laugh machine, try these:
• Did you hear about the fire in the shoe factory? 10,000 soles were lost. The police said some heels started it.
• What is the biggest lie in the entire universe? “I have read and agree to the terms and conditions.”
• Knock. Knock.
Voodoo you think you are asking all these questions?
Provided by MDB Communications, a Capitol Communicator sponsor.