BY STEELE CODDINGTON | APRIL 11, 2012
Laughter – good medicineA while ago the wonderful comic strip that features a retired gentleman named Pickles showed him just sitting quietly on a park bench beside another man reading a newspaper. In the next scene, Pickles simply laughs once, “Ha!” Then with a big grin he breaks out into a, “Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!” The man next to him asks, “What are you laughing at?” Pickles replies, “Myself. I’ve found that life is a lot easier if you learn to laugh at yourself.” And then he loudly goes, “Ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho!” In the last scene, the man has disappeared and Pickles is commenting to his dog that laughing at yourself makes it “less crowded too.”
The strip nudged me into the world of laughter-medicine. And it’s a good thing too, because like everyone else in the world, I’ve become an obese, victim oriented, obnoxious, politically correct, worried, opinionated, overtaxed blob in need of a stress reduction program not mandated by a government agency.
Fortunately, my son sent me a newspaper story about two very special women in Las Vegas, Suzanne Pappas and Betty Evens, who instruct a class once a month on Laughter-Yoga. I decided it was a must and spent an hour being converted into a laughter-is-good-for-you-nut. And discovered there are laughter classes all over the place. The concept of Laughter-Yoga was developed by a physician in India, Dr. Kataria, who sponsors the practice as a Global Movement for Health, Joy and World Peace. Well, it works for laughter anyhow, because “laughter is simulated as a body exercise in a group, with eye contact and child-like playfulness that turns into contagious real laughter,” according to the doctor.
Suzanne and Betty, as enthusiastic practitioners, enjoy the fun they are able to generate for people looking for a distraction from every day worries, arthritis, bills, stress and whatever ails you. It works. The medicine is a “Ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho pill.” No matter how embarrassing it sounds to do the pretend ho, ho, ho as you clap your hands together, you soon can’t help but find your funny bone and join in a room filled with the real stuff. Strange how free from worry you can become by reawakening a childhood blessing like laughing out loud with a bunch of crazy people all doing the same thing.
Maybe Laughter-Yoga isn’t quite like everyday Yoga, but the research gurus say the heavy breathing caused by deep laughter, fake or real, helps to release endorphins – chemicals in our brain known as neurotransmitters. They interact with opiate receptors and make us feel good. Better? Damn good?
But for really convincing evidence, the Center for Neuroimmunology at Loma Linda University in California did a serious research paper confirming the benefits of laughter.
Importantly, at the conclusion of the impressive study, they cite the human elements that lend wisdom to scientific conclusions by referring to an Apache myth. The creator of human beings, the 2-leggeds, endowed them with ability to do everything – talk, run, see and hear. But he was not satisfied until the 2-leggeds could do one more thing – laugh. So men and women laughed and laughed and laughed. Then the creator said, “Now you are fit to live.”
The final paragraph ends by saying, ‘Mirthful laughter and associated eustress emotion may be the intuition and music of the soul that confirms the biblical wisdom of Proverbs 17:22, “A merry heart doeth good as medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” Go forth and laugh. Ho, ho, ho.
James White is a retired mathematics teacher who enjoys sharing fascinating trivia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A woman who had been married three times walked into a bridal shop one day and told the sales clerk that she was looking for a wedding gown for her fourth wedding.
"Of course, madam," replied the sales clerk, "exactly what type and color dress are you looking for?
The bride-to-be said, "A long frilly white dress with a veil."
The sales clerk hesitated a bit, then said, "Please don't take this the wrong way, but gowns of that nature are considered more appropriate for brides who are being married the first time - for those who are a bit more innocent, if you know what I mean? Perhaps ivory or sky blue would be nice?"
"Well," replied the customer, a little peeved at the clerk's directness, "I can assure you that a white gown would be quite appropriate. Believe it or not, despite all my marriages, I remain as innocent as a first-time bride. You see, my first husband was so excited about our wedding he died as we were checking into our honey moon hotel. My second husband and I got into such a terrible fight in the limo on our way to our honeymoon hotel that we had that wedding annulled immediately and never spoke to each other again."
"What about your third husband?" asked the sales clerk.
"That one was a Democrat," said the woman, "and every night for four years, he just sat on the edge of the bed and told me how good it was going to be, but nothing ever happened."