[TWO EDITORIAL NOTES: 1. My Gnomedex presentation can been seen live today online at 2:30PM Pacific Time.
2. While I am away, several excellent elderbloggers agreed to fill in for me as guest bloggers. Susan Fisher, who blogs at Suzzwords, is here today with a story titled A Dose of Laughter. Please make her welcome with lots of comments and visit her blog too.]
What is big and purple and swims in the ocean?
Did you laugh? I did when I heard that silly joke from a seven-year-old.
According to Michael Miller, M.D., director of the Center for Preventative Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center, laughter, along with a good sense of humor, may protect you from a heart attack.
"We don't know yet why laughing protects the heart, but we know that mental stress is associated with impairment of the endothelium, the protective barrier lining our blood vessels. This can cause a series of inflammatory reactions that lead to fat and cholesterol build-up in the coronary arteries and ultimately to a heart attack."
A study of 300 participants – half with heart disease, half without – compared their humor responses. Miller said that the most significant finding was that
"…people with heart disease responded less humorously to everyday life situations."
Dr. Miller’s advice to stay healthy includes
“Thirty minutes of exercise three times a week, a healthy diet and 15 minutes of laughter on a daily basis.”
- - Psychology Today, 6 April 2005
Can you just imagine taking a prescription to the video store? “Uh, yeah, says here I’m supposed to check out the Lucy classics, Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein, and that cartoon movie about the Ice Age.”
Laughter can also help reduce blood sugar levels and improve job performance, especially for people in creative or problem solving positions.
Laughter has also been said to be the glue to a happy marriage.
“Laughter is the closest distance between two people.”
- - Victor Borge
Hey, so there really is some truth to that old saying, “Laughter is the best medicine.”
Wait, there’s more good news. Laughter helps you feel better. Laughter stretches muscles throughout our face and body, our pulse and blood pressure rises and our faster breathing sends more oxygen to our tissues.
"I believe that if people can get more laughter in their lives, they are a lot better off," says Steve Wilson, M.A., CSP, a psychologist and laugh therapist. "The effects of laughter and exercise are very similar," says Wilson. "Combining laughter and movement, like waving your arms, is a great way to boost your heart rate."
Picture this: You walk into a high-tech comedy club, but instead of the usual stand-up comic on stage, you are presented a menu. “Okay, honey, what say we start off with a 15-minute stand-up, followed by an entrée of cartoons, topped off with a British comedy like Are You Being Served or Monty Python.
There are a number of other factors that affect our health, including companionship and emotional support from family and friends; laughter is sort of like the sprinkles on ice cream.
Speaking of calories, Maciej Buchowski, a researcher from Vanderbilt University, did a small study that measured the calories burned while laughing. Turns out 10 to 15 minutes of laughter burns 50 calories. Now that’s my kind of research!
- - WebMD via cbsnews.com, 7 April 2006
And sure, there are times in our lives when we just can’t laugh, at least not for a while - maybe later. But with time and healing, the laughter usually comes back.
Just because we grow older doesn’t mean we have to grow up. Every now and then that kid inside us gets out to enjoy a hearty laugh.
“You're never too old to become younger.”
- - Mae West
And what better way to end this piece than with a joke or three.
Psychiatry students were in their Emotional Extremes class.
"Let's set some parameters," the professor said. "What's the opposite of joy?" he asked one student.
"Sadness," the student replied.
"The opposite of depression?" he asked another student.
"Elation," she replied.
"The opposite of woe?" the prof asked a student from Texas.
The Texan replied, "Sir, I believe that would be giddyup."
A highway patrolman pulled alongside a speeding car on the freeway. Glancing at the car, he was astounded to see that the blonde behind the wheel was knitting! Realizing that she was oblivious to his flashing lights and siren, the trooper cranked down his window, turned on his bullhorn and yelled, "PULL OVER!" "NO!" the blonde yelled back, "IT'S A SCARF!"
A guy walks into a bar and there's a horse serving drinks. The horse asks, "What are you staring at? Haven't you ever seen a horse tending bar before?" The guy says, "It's not that. I just never thought the parrot would sell the place."
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, kenju gives some important life advice in How We Achieved 40 Years of Marriage.]