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January 3, 2010

Humor and Health
Ernest H. Rosenbaum, MD, Malin Dollinger, MD and Stu Silverstein, MD

Courage, home, faith, sympathy and love promote health and prolong life. A contented mind, a cheerful spirit is health to the body and soul. A merry rejoicing heart doeth good like a medicine.
-- Proverbs 17:22

In order to live longer, one needs a variety of supportive techniques and programs. Humor and laughter have been found to have a positive effect on the body's physiology as well as induce relaxation. It helps people cope and produce improved relations among family members and friends. By having a light hearted attitude, one can reduce the chance for illness, reduce depression and thus promote longevity. Humor and laughter from jokes or gags, or seeing a comedy, or play, can increase the level of happiness and enjoyment in life.

Humor reduces stress almost immediately. It also helps alleviate pain. Laughter has even been used as an aid in the treatment of disease and as Norman Cousins stated, "I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic affect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep." He found that laughter from watching funny movies such as Groucho Marx or The Three Stooges was therapeutic. Norman Cousins stated in his book, Anatomy of an Illness; (1979), that he tried to promote laughter to help improve health.

There is an old joke that a man was wondering what the meaning of life was, and he became morbidly depressed over this question. He even tried to shoot himself in the head, but missed. Finally in desperation he wanders randomly into a movie theater where the Marx Brothers are showing. There he realized that as long as there is laughter there is meaning to life.

Thus humor can do wonders to help light up the spirits. Some, studies have shown that if you just smile, the body's response is positive one. Try it and see what happens. At the least the man with the clever mustache sitting next to you on the bus will wonder why you are smiling.

Humor-- how it works
Humor usually results in laughter which arouses the emotions,resulting in body changes. These include an increase in the heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory rate. It can be considered good exercise by increased muscle activity.

The Physiology of Humor and Laughter
Laughter stimulates the brain to produce endorphins (morphine-like relaxants which result in a euphoric or analgesic effect). The result is muscle relaxation with a resolution of stress and anxiety, an improvement in mental and spiritual well-being and often a decrease in hostility and anger. Laughter also prolongs several benefits on the physiology of your body. In the long run it lowers blood pressure, and it also serves as a mini-aerobic workout, all without the added expense ofjoining a health club.

Laughter from jokes, speeches or a humorous event, play, or opera is a socially accepted way of getting a message across. It is sometimes a means of getting through a personal tragedy or crisis.

People often tell jokes about themselves or about subjects such as sports, lawyers, doctors, religious or ethnic jokes. There is Jewish humor, Black humor, Irish, Italian, or Polish jokes.

Humor Has Many Benefits
l. It can help others expand our perspective on life, as well as enhance our creativity.
2. The more we promote enjoyment in life, the better chance a person has to decrease depression and promote the healing process. Promoting the laughter-factor will inject more happiness into your daily life.
3. Humor can improve family relations and help communications.
4. It can help inspire cooperation and provide energy, both physical and mental, through emotional relaxation. It helps people communicate, as well as decreases anger, fear and anxiety.
5. Humor can promote a will to live, promote energy, improve self esteem and increase one's perception of his/her self worth.
6. Humor is sometimes spontaneous and sometimes it is specifically created, but no matter how it evolves, it can make a difference to your life. It is a healing power for both body and soul as well as a help in sustaining oneself through some of the depressing episodes of life.
7. Humor is considered by many to be one of the great medicines of all time. It helps in physical and mental rejuvenation.
8. Humor an help create an ambiance, improve the atmosphere or solidify the level of enjoyment of eating or dining as a social experience.

There is an old Dutch saying that humor often comes from telling a tragic story after enough time has passed. In this way you can laugh at many hard times in your life. It was not funny at the time, but after you triumph over the tribulations of life the stories can later be uproariously funny.

Recommendations To Make Humor Work For You
- 1. Keep anecdotes, mementos, cartoons, and jokes to improve your emotional energy and revive sagging spirits.
2. Promote programs such as art, music, hobbies and humor to improve the quality of your life.
- 3. Humorous cards and cartoons can be created and utilized to promote many laughs a day. Often telling personal or family stories about life may be means of sharing humor and funny events.
- 4. Try to continue to improve your sense of humor by telling jokes or showing funny pictures or articles.
- 5. Keep humorous items available such as books, articles, cartoons and use them frequently, to help enhance your quality of life.
- 6. Try to avoid frequent contact with depressing people who will take away your emotional energy. Associate with positive people who use humor.
- 7. Promote joyous events-a birthday party or a social event. You need to make it happen.
- 8. Keep a log of funny items and stories.
- 9. Arrange a get together with friends or relatives to tell jokes, recall happy and funny events, or share with them a funny video or movie.
- 10. Make a compendium of humor and philosophy which can be expanded by adding on a fun project to reduce isolation, anger, despair, or loneliness as well as improve communication.

Living a funny life might be exampled by George Burns who was booked to perform on his 100th birthday.

There are current scientific studies to determine if laughter, mirth and a humorous perspective can have a positive impact on our health and possibly increase our longevity. Laughter can promote better health and longevity by reducing stress.

By using vignettes, jokes, philosophical or practical sayings or words, you can improve your coping skills and reduce despair. A bit of humor, if appropriate, can make a sad event a little lighter and more positive. For grave or serious situations you can decrease your level of unhappiness. Apply the techniques of Norman Cousins in laughter therapy by watching funny movies. Cousins gained psychological, physiological and medical benefits, possibly from endorphin production, which promotes the feeling of well being.

We need to take serious steps to bring humor into our lives. Go out and buy a notebook and write down one joke a week. Go to a comedy club or take a class on joke telling or writing. Don't leave it to chance. Actively seek humor in your life.

By emphasizing events in life through humor you use laughter to relax, reduce stress, improve communications. When we promote health through laughter we may promote longevity.

He who laughs last, lasts!

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