Thursday, March 1, 2012

More than just bad jokes

So I did a little research (note the emphasis on the “little” part of that sentence).

According to a June 7th, 2009 article by Sam McManis of the McClatchy/Tribune Newspapers, “Research looking at the connection between mind and body suggests that repeated doses of laughter can indeed lead to positive physical changes.”

Well, you might ask, what kind of changes are you talking about?
For starters the article reports that, “building on the lay research by 1970s best-selling author Norman Cousins, who eased his autoimmune disease by watching ‘Candid Camera’ episodes, doctors at Loma Linda University in Southern California have documented the effects of laughter in double-blind studies.” I’ve also read that he took massive amounts of vitamin C.  His book, Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient is credited for being at the vanguard of the whole mind-body movement. See for more info.

As much as I like to make joke or pun about my own blindness or the “Man in the Hathaway shirt ad” as my avatar, the impact of humor isn’t funny, it’s actually quite serious (or “ironic” depending upon your point-of-view).

How so? 

Well, for starters, a press release from the American Psychological Society on 4/7/2008 reported that, “In 2006 researchers investigating the interaction between the brain, behavior, and the immune system found that simply anticipating (italics added) a mirthful laughter experience boosted health-protecting hormones. Now, two years later, the same researchers have found that the anticipation of a positive humorous laughter experience also reduces potentially detrimental stress hormones. According to Dr. Lee Berk, the study team’s lead researcher of Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA, “Our findings lead us to believe that by seeking out positive experiences that make us laugh we can do a lot with our physiology to stay well.”

In addition, an article on reports that “Humor is a great tool for sustaining optimum intellectual function.” The posting further stated that “…it benefits physical, emotional and social well-being—which are three important building blocks of brain health. Beyond those benefits, humor also can give our brains a good workout.” And here’s the part I really like, “Despite its reputation as a low or even childish mode of thinking, humor can actually be a highly developed mental exercise, training us to approach ideas in different, inventive ways. Even the lowly pun requires the brain to shift perspective.”

Well, that’s all fine and good you might say, but I’m in pain and how can laughter help that?    

Patients with chronic pain have found some relief in laughter, even unspontaneously forced laughter (yes, I know that unspontaneously isn’t a word). Want to know more?  Follow this link:

You might be surprised, but people always ask me, “Does it matter what color of humor it is?”  For instance, “Does this have to be black humor?” you may ask?  On this point, the research is murky. The last time I went to Second City, though, almost everything was “off-color” or “blue”, so I’d stick with that. 


PS – My favorite clean joke is “Why don’t zombies eat clown brains?”.  Answer: “Because they taste funny.”

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