a brain with parts lit up showing endorphins being released

Laughter as Medicine

I remember my dad saying to me when I was a little girl, "I think you have your giggle box turned over!" He would often add, "That's okay. I'd rather hear kids laugh than cry."

It's no joke that we get stress relief from laughter. When you laugh, it increases endorphins in your brain and enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, so it stimulates your heart, lungs, and muscles. Sounds good to me!

Have you ever noticed that the offices where people are laughing seem to be the best working environments? People are more relaxed and like their jobs, so it shows in their work. I worked for one principal during my teaching career who would tell a joke over the intercom each morning. It took only a minute to say a silly knock-knock joke, and the students loved it. Laughter will stimulate circulation and help your muscles relax, which can help with some of the physical symptoms of stress.

Doctor knows best

My pediatrician in the 1960s was Dr. Underwood. Some of my friends also went to him, and he was known for telling riddles. What do a tree and an elephant have in common? They both have trunks! Now, I have always been Miss Crankypants when I'm not feeling well. I just wanted to get my Penicillin shot over with and get home. Dr. Underwood, however, had the right idea. He spent time visiting with his young patients, making them giggle, putting them at ease. I never cared for your jokes, doc, but I know you cared about my health.

My 104-year-old friend, Berta, said the first movie she remembered seeing was The Three Stooges. "We just laughed," my centenarian friend said. Berta was born in 1916. I read that The Three Stooges made a movie in 1930, so the math works. She would have been 14 years old. I haven't been interested in The Three Stooges since I was in elementary school, but I laugh out loud when I watch Carol Burnett's skits.

Laughing through the MDS stress

When we are fighting cancer, it's hard to find things to laugh about, but we must. I have myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). My bone marrow is not working correctly. How can laughter boost immunity? Researcher Dr. Lee Berk discovered in a series of studies at Loma Linda University in California that watching a comedy video can strengthen your immune system!1 So I'm not wasting time when I watch a sitcom? I guess not. Berk's studies revealed significant reductions in cortisol levels (stress hormones) along with increases in antibodies that fight infection when we laugh. Our bodies are amazing!

We, of course, are told to eat healthy foods, get plenty of rest, and avoid stress. Who knew how important laughing is? I get together with a group of my former co-workers each month for dinner. We are like the Red Hatters without the hats. We reminisce and laugh so loudly. At times I'm afraid the restaurant staff will ask us to leave. Hey, we're just building up our immunity!

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