Laughter: It’s an Eight Letter Word with Lots of Power!

May 04, 2013

My husband and I have always had a way of joking with each other. We really have a fun relationship. When we need to discuss our budgets, house repairs, and making other big decisions, we are all about being serious. But…the rest of our relationship is about laughter. I married my husband last April; wow, it’s almost been a year now, and our relationship has encountered some pretty big bumps along the way. One could say we’ve really had some boulders to climb. We both came from our own baggage of sorrow and anger, so it took us a while to work those kinks out.

However, the one thing we have never been short on is laughter. I love when he wakes up and the first thing he says after saying "morning honey," is usually silly. I could repeat some the silly things we say to each other, but you probably would not find it funny at all because you’re not in this relationship. We have comments, quotes and "isms" tucked away all day long. As a matter of fact, as we are aging, laughter is the glue that holds us together most days. Between the two of us, we have six grown kids. Out of the six, four are married and between us we have 13 grandchildren. Now you see why we have to keep laughter alive. Each day usually brings some sort of situation with one of our kids or grandkids. It can be anything from a money issue to a grandchild having an allergic reaction to a shot. And, on the days where we have more than one situation going on, we really need to lean towards our bag of laughs.

Holidays are a hoot. Someone is bound to either be sick, cranky, or has spilled something on themselves.  And on some holidays, someone has either said something they shouldn’t have or made bodily noises that are not claimed. But through it all, we laugh. I laugh because if I get worked up about these things, I would be robbed of the true joy of family and relationships. Here are some quotes from famous people about Laughter:

  • "I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person." ~Audrey Hepburn
  • "If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane." ~Robert Frost
  • "I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t laugh." ~Maya Angelou

I searched MCPL’s Research Databases and found the following information on Humor Therapy in the Health & Wellness Resource Center database. Did you know there was such a thing?

"Humor Therapy
Synopsis: Ken R. Wells; Laurie Fundukian
Source Citation:"Humor therapy." Ken R. Wells. The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. Ed. Laurie Fundukian. 3rd ed. Detroit: Gale, 2009. 4 vols.

Humor therapy is the art of using humor and laughter to help heal people with physical or mental illness.

The benefits of humor therapy were acknowledged as far back as the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament, which contains verses like Prov. 17:22: "A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones." The earliest historical reference to humor therapy is from the fourteenth century, when French surgeon Henri de Mondeville wrote, "Let the surgeon take care to regulate the whole regimen of the patient's life for joy and happiness, allowing his relatives and special friends to cheer him, and by having someone tell him jokes." In the sixteenth century, Martin Luther used a form of humor therapy as part of his pastoral counseling of depressed people. He advised them not to isolate themselves but to surround themselves with friends who could joke and make them laugh. Many of Luther's own letters to other people include playful or humorous remarks.

Modern humor therapy dates from the 1930s when clowns were brought into hospitals to cheer up children hospitalized with polio. In his 1979 book, Anatomy of an Illness, author Norman Cousins brought the subject of humor therapy to the attention of the medical community. Cousins, a physician, details how he used laughter to help ease his pain while undergoing treatment for rheumatoid arthritis of the spine. The benefits of laughter in treating the sick captured the public's attention in the 1998 movie Patch Adams, starring Robin Williams as real-life doctor Hunter "Patch" Adams. The movie is based on Adams' experiences treating the poor in rural West Virginia as related in his 1983 book Gesundheit!"

First of all, I didn’t know that Patch Adams was based on a true story… Ugh, I don’t find clowns funny. They kind of scare me. Here are some of the benefits...

It may seem difficult to measure the benefits of laughter in medicine, but a number of clinical studies have helped verify the adage that laughter is the best medicine. In general, laughter improves the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health of individuals. Laughter appears to release tension in the diaphragm and relieve pressure on the liver and other internal organs. It stimulates the immune system, reduces stress, and helps balance the body's natural energy fields or auras. People who have developed a strong sense of humor generally have a better sense of well-being and control in their lives.

A strong advocate of humor therapy is Dr. Michael R. Wasserman, president and chief medical officer of GeriMed Of America, Inc., a primary care physician management company for seniors. "A few years ago I came down with pneumonia, pulled out videotapes of I Love Lucy reruns and laughed myself back to good health," he said. "Clearly, humor and laughter have a positive effect on one's attitude and health overall. While we don't know all of the specifics, our immune system appears to benefit from these emotions."

Now that’s a great idea…I usually hit the medicine chest right away.

Beth F.
Boardwalk Branch

Tags: laughter


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