Monday, April 12, 2021

Laughter is good medicine

| April 8, 2021 1:00 AM

Chugging vitamin C isn’t the only way to give your immune system a boost. Comedy helps.

“Knock knock.” “Who’s there?” “Control freak.”


"Now say, ‘Control freak who?’”

Feel that lovely little wave of happy? (Yeah, you smiled.) Those are the endorphins that laughter triggers. But beyond a momentary mental lift, research has proven that laughing is also good for physical health.

While that old exaggeration that a mere minute of laughter can “boost the immune system for 24 hours” is unsupported by a broader review of research, don’t dismiss it entirely. It is true that laughter decreases stress hormones and can increase production of infection-fighting antibodies, improving disease resistance.

Anger and stress, not surprisingly, have the opposite effect. So when life hands you lemons, remember the guy fired from the lemon juice factory. He couldn’t concentrate.

My favorite humor story — anecdotal though it may be — happened just as we started law school. While the rest of us were buying casebooks and sweating school loans, 30-year-old classmate Bill was fighting for his life.

Doctor: “Your cancer is too advanced. Gather your friends and family; it could be a matter of days.”

Bill: “Blast that and blast you!!” (Only he didn’t say blast.)

Feisty Bill loves to laugh, so he asked everyone he knew to keep the jokes coming — corny, off-color, morbid — any kind of humor, every single day. That was 1994, and he’s still laughing.

No, laughter doesn’t cure cancer. But it must have helped him fight it. At minimum, laughing reduced the stress of his illness.

Scores of studies indicate stress is a big factor in health and recovery. It’s no longer unusual to see hospitals and treatment centers incorporate laughter therapy in treatment plans.

In addition to boosting immune response, studies have also linked laughter with:

• Better oxygen consumption

• Epinephrine changes, decreased stress hormones, and an adrenaline “rush”

• Muscle relaxation

• Lower anxiety

• Increased serotonin production (reducing effects of stress)

• Increased pain tolerance or reduced pain

So check out the daily Ghastly Groaner in the Press, and take every opportunity to giggle – especially when it seems hardest.

Why don’t scientists trust atoms? Because they make up everything.

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Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network married to the King of Groaners. Email