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Laughter Is The Best Medicine
by Roz Trieber
The secret’s out! There is healing power in humor, one of the required skills for surviving life’s challenges. It is very rare that you ever get a prescription “to laugh daily for at least 10 minutes” or to “tell a joke before you complain.” Voltaire said “The Art Of Medicine Consists Of Amusing The Patient While Nature Cures The Disease.” A timeless insight.
Humor Connects The Body Mind And Spirit
The Latin word for healing is Haelen” which means to make whole. The idea is to make the body whole again; to balance our body, our mental thoughts and our spiritual awareness. When we allow ourselves to laugh on a daily basis as well as difficult times we facilitate our own healing. Humor makes us whole again. Humor and laughter keep us living in the moment, in sync with the universe, not having to control anything. We can survive!
The Healing Power Begins
Betsy Catz shifts her weight, getting comfortable in the Lazy Boy while the nurse adjusts the drip rate of her chemotherapy. She picks up the remote control and flips on the video tape she has chosen, “The Best of I Love Lucy.” Sound appropriate? Sure is. Is it beneficial? You bet. Patients and non patients of all kinds are discovering the numerous healthy benefits of humor.
William Fry, of Stanford University in California and one of the leading researchers in the field of humor psychology, states that humor, mirth and laughter have impact on most, if not all, of the major human body systems. While Betsy is laughing at “I Love Lucy,” what’s going on in her body?
During her laughter, Betsy’s heart is exercised by an increased heart rate and blood pressure that is then followed by a relaxation phase. This in turn, results in turn in improved circulation. In Betsy’s gastrointestinal system, the muscles are involved in the act of laughter massage internal organs resulting in enhanced digestion. In the respiratory system, laughter enhances the intake or oxygen-rich air. When Betsy laughs, she inhales more deeply and then forcefully exhales air at rates up to 70 MPH.
Betsy doesn’t experience muscle tension during moments she is laughing. In Betsy’s musculo-skeletal system, her muscles are stimulated and then become relaxed. This explains why individuals frequently lean over or hold on to something during a robust laugh, becoming weak with laughter.
We don’t have to be ill to experience the benefits of humor and laughter. Life’s everyday events are criteria enough to include the use of humor as a daily habit. Humor allows us to distract ourselves from what we cannot control. We are able to see the ambiguities and absurdities of our situations. Body tension is dissolved when we concentrate on looking for the incongruities of life, we can move to the point of what can we do about it. We are not stuck. We can celebrate having a bad hair day or even a no hair day.
Where Do You Start?
Begin with a smile when you feel blue. Smiling is contagious. A smile gains attention, invites interactions and expresses understanding. Look around and see if you can find five things to smile about. No time left to frown. It’s time for that smile to expand. Laughter is a smile that engages the whole body. First the corners of the mouth turn up slightly. Then the muscles around the eyes engage, twinkling in the eyes appear and then noises emerge, everything from snickers to noisy hoots.
With laughter we acknowledge the reality of our own perceived imperfections. If we laugh at ourselves before anyone else does, we have hope; we can tackle the world. If you haven’t laughed today try this. Stand in front of a full length mirror naked and say “I love you!” It’s hard not too laugh! Internal jogging begins!
What’s Your Humor Quotient?
Look for your funny bone in the answers to the following questions:
– How willing and able are you to laugh at life?
– How long do you hold on to misery before letting loose with humor?
– What kinds of things make you laugh, snicker, or giggle?
– Who is your favorite comedian?
Give yourself permission to play. Don’t Get Mad, Get Funny. Try solving that problem as your favorite comedian. What a hoot that would be!
A sense of humor is a perspective on life, a way of perceiving the world and a behavior that expresses that perspective. You need to practice developing a sense of humor that works when life throws you a curve ball. Using humor constructively is not automatic. Begin with a smile and end with a laugh. As Victor Borge said “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people!”
© 2000 Trieber Associates, Inc.