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Gelotology? No Joke! It’s National Humor Month

How LOL'ing can improve your immune system

April 2011 is the 35th anniversary of National Humor Month. Founded in 1976 by humorist and author Larry Wilde, Director of the Carmel Institute of Humor, the aim of this program is to promote the value of humor in improving health and enriching the quality of life. 

“There ain’t much fun in medicine, but there’s a heck of a lot of medicine in fun,” said Josh Billings who lived in the late 1800s. In a 1985 National Safety News article, “Laughter Could Really Be the Best Medicine,” one psychiatrist posited that laughter could be the simplest and surest way to reduce stress and improve physical and mental health. 

You will recall in “Anatomy of an Illness” that the late Norman Cousins, perhaps more than most, popularized the value of humor and showed us how he laughed his way to better health. He called laughter “internal jogging.”  

Whether you use a) puns, b) exaggeration, c) surprise, d) silliness, or e) put-downs, the five types of humor that professional humorists describe, you can alleviate stress, reduce depression and enhance mood, and even increase activity of immune cells like T-cells that attack tumors and viruses. Laughter has been shown to improve antibody activity, exercise muscles and lungs, oxygenate blood, and improve digestion. Research at the University of Maryland Medical Center has shown that constantly laughing may also help prevent heart disease. 

Is it time to put down the chicken soup and turn on Saturday Night Live? Well, if you believe the research, and Proverbs 17:22, “A cheerful heart does good like a medicine, but a broken spirit makes one sick,” then you just might reach for the remote control and get ready to laugh your way to a healthier sense of wellness.

Did you know that adults laugh about 15 times a day while children laugh hundreds of times a day? As we mature, or at least as we grow older, life’s issues can seem mighty overwhelming. National Humor Month, and the growing body of research on laughter, is telling us not to take it all so seriously, to laugh much more, and we will be better able to deal with it all. Humor therapy, laughter therapy, laughter meditation, laughter yoga and laughter clubs can teach us how to deal.

Mark H. McCormick, author of What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School, once said, "Laughter is the most potent, constructive force for diffusing business tension. If you can point out what is humorous or absurd about a situation or confrontation, you will be guaranteed the upper hand."

Wilde offers these three tips to use humor to relieve stress in your life:

1.     Take a humor break

2.     Laugh at yourself

3.     Create a funny file all your own

Voltaire said, “The art of medicine consists of keeping the patient amused while nature heals the disease.” Wonder what insurance he takes?


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About This Blog

Edit ModulePsychologist Michael Mantell tackles San Diego’s psychological well-being, from reducing stress and anxiety to creating closer bonds with family to the importance of physical fitness.

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