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Humor Can Heal

Humor yourself. It’s no joke that laughter is good for your mind and body.
by Melissa Abramovitz

I
t’s been a rotten day for Laughter Is the Best Medicine it puts us more in control of
Kara. She’s soaking wet Over the past several our lives. This increases self-
because the rain and wind decades, researchers have been esteem since it means you con-
thrashed her umbrella to able to prove scientifically trol how you react to events,
shreds. She just finished taking what many of us know even when you can’t control
a history test that took her by through experience: A good these events. Everyone experi-
surprise. Then her friend Ellie laugh can work wonders in ences bad or unpleasant
comes along and asks, “Trying getting us through stressful things. Some let these bad

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to win the stringy hair contest situations and even serious things drag them into a chasm

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today?” illnesses. of self-pity, while others take

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Kara looks at Ellie’s shiny, Dr. William Fry, a psychia- control and make a bad situa-
blond, perfectly styled hair and trist at Stanford University, tion better.
is tempted to give an angry was one of the first researchers Humor also enhances
reply, but decides the day has to study how laughter affects mental health by linking us to
already been dismal enough. physical and mental health. He other people and providing a

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Instead she answers, “I already says of the mental health positive and healthy way of
won that contest—plus the one aspect, “I believe humor is sharing ideas and emotions.
for the most mildewed socks.” both a contributor to and man- Victor Borge, humorist and
Kara and Ellie both break ifestation of our mental health. entertainer, once said, “Humor
into huge grins and laugh their It reflects a positive orientation is the shortest distance be-
way to the cafeteria. The day to life and a sense of tween two people,” a remark
suddenly doesn’t seem so bad. well-being.” that has been proven to be true
Why do humor and laugh- Studies have shown that a over and over again.
ter help people climb out of the good sense of humor helps our Take the example of Jason,
doldrums? mental health, in part because 16, who was tired of having

Copyright © by Weekly Reader Corporation • Current Health 2


It’s No Joke!
Did you know that…
• Laughing 100 times amounts to the same exercise
as riding a stationary bike for 15 minutes.
problems such as heart disease
and high blood pressure. Now
scientists also have found the
converse to be true—the body
responds to humor the oppo-
a!
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reasons, scientists now have
proof for comedian Groucho
Marx’s famous line, “A clown
is like an aspirin, only he
works twice as fast.”
make you laugh and post them
in strategic places like your
locker, bulletin board, or
refrigerator.
• Share good jokes with others.

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• “Twenty seconds of guffawing gives the heart the
site way that it responds to • Keep a humor journal of
same workout as three minutes of hard rowing,”
stress. Laughter directly lowers The Humor Rx things you find funny and read
according to expert Dr. William Fry.
blood levels of the stress hor- Given the many mental and it when you’re down.
• You use 13 muscles to smile and 50 to frown. mones cortisol, epinephrine, physical health benefits, it • Put on a happy face, even
Using those 50 frown muscles leads to wrinkles a and dopac. This can result in makes sense to try to include if you don’t feel like it.
lot faster than using the 13 smile muscles. lower blood pressure and less more humor in your life when- Sometimes just smiling makes
• People are 30 times likelier to laugh in a group than strain on the heart. ever possible. Although people you—and those around you —
alone. Other research shows laugh- don’t have to learn to laugh, feel better.
• Women tend to laugh more than men do—except ter helps the cardiovascular sometimes it helps to be
when listening to other women. system by giving the heart and reminded of ways to increase A Time to Laugh
lungs an aerobic workout. It your daily dose of funnies. Even though it’s healthy to
causes the heart to beat faster Laughter is a natural behavior increase your daily dose of
other kids at school call him mental and physical health. influenced by your emotions, and empties stale air and car- that tends to decrease as we humor, keep in mind that
“brainy boy” because he con- “Your sense of humor is one of and in turn these neuropep- bon dioxide out of the lungs age. In fact, studies show humor is not always helpful or
sistently got the highest grades the most powerful tools you tides can affect your health. and replaces it with oxygen- that babies and small
in every class. For a while, have to make certain your Laughter and positive emo- rich air that benefits the whole children laugh a lot
Jason got angry at the teasing daily mood and emotional tions in general help stimulate body. For this reason, some more than teens
and retaliated with nasty state support good health,” neuropeptides that strengthen experts call laughter “internal and adults do.
replies, like “At least my IQ is says Dr. Paul McGhee, presi- your body in ways that can jogging.” Somehow,
over 25.” This didn’t stop the dent of The Laughter Remedy reduce the risk of or prevent Laughing also exercises growing up
other kids, even though Jason’s and an internationally known common colds, flu, depression, other muscles besides the and getting
replies did contain an ele- expert on the healing power of and even cancer. heart. The abdominal muscles, serious go
ment of derogatory Another way laugh- diaphragm, shoulders, facial together, but
humor. In fact, this ter influences your muscles, and even the arms you can still
type of response
probably made the
“A c“A
loclown
wn iiss like
like an health is by directly
stimulating your
and legs get a workout. After a
bout of laughter is over, mus-
find time for
more laugh-
kids tease him more,
since they saw it got asan
piraspirin,
in, ononlyly he immune system to
fight invading viruses
cles throughout the body
become more relaxed.
ter if you try.
Here are
him upset. and cancers. Dr. Lee Research with severely ill some tips for
Then Jason tried a new woherkworks
s twtwice
ice as Berk and his associates patients shows that the effects upping your
approach. He started as fast.” at Loma Linda Univer- of laughter and humor can daily humor
responding with humorous
fast.” sity Medical Center found reach beyond everyday fitness exposure:

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rejoinders that poked fun at —Groucho Marx that laughter increases the and health improvement. One • Collect funny

a
himself instead of reflecting number and activity of anti- study found people who sur- books, comics,

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anger. When Jason said, “Yeah, humor. “It is through the emo- bodies that fight different vived one heart attack could and videos to
it’s a good thing I’m smart, tions you experience in connec- types of infections. It also cut the risk of a second heart read or view when you need a appropriate. The type of
since I’ll never play in the NFL tion with your thoughts and increases the amount of attack by 20 percent just by laugh. humor that involves sarcasm,
with my skinny arms,” the daily attitudes—actually, gamma interferon, a hormone watching 30 minutes of come- • Act goofy at a party by wear- put-downs, and insensitive
other kids started laughing through the neurochemical that fights viruses and controls dy videos per day. Other ing a clown nose and seeing jokes directed at others is not

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with him instead of at him. The changes that accompany these cell growth; the number of nat- research finds that laughter how many people laugh. good or healthy for anyone.
“brainy boy” taunts went emotions—that your mind ural killer cells, T-cells; and significantly reduces pain for • Create a funny poster or Web Humor directed at yourself or
away. acquires the power to influence Complement 3—all important people with painful diseases site with your friends. a situation is generally OK, but
whether or not you get sick or elements of the immune such as arthritis and cancer. • Don’t take yourself too seri- use common sense if there’s a
The Mind–Body Connection remain well.” system. Part of the reason for this is ously—learn to laugh at your- possibility of hurting someone.
Besides doing great things Your body cells communi- that humor is a distraction self if you make a mistake. Sometimes, laughter must wait
for your immediate mood and cate with each other through Humor Helps from pain; another part is that • Hang out with people who for the right moment.
self-esteem, research shows molecules called neuropep- Medical research has proven laughter causes muscle relax- have a good sense of humor— But remember, laughter is
humor goes a long way in tides. The type of neuropep- that stress and negative ation, which reduces pain in it’s contagious! contagious. Try spreading it
improving your long-term tides that the cells receive are emotions contribute to health general. But whatever the • Cut out comics that really around more! ✦

Current Health 2 • Copyright © by Weekly Reader Corporation Copyright © by Weekly Reader Corporation • Current Health 2