Monday, April 08, 2013
Health can be a laughing matter
My exercise buddies and I were talking after Jazzercise class one day. They said they faithfully read my health columns, but one friend admitted she looked for the ones with humorous stories in them. She confessed that when I get “too preachy” she skims over the column, or just skips it entirely. Another friend agreed, and added, “We’re all going to do what we want to anyway.” Well, that stung a little bit, but they were just doing what real friends do: telling me the honest truth, whether I wanted to hear it or not.
I read somewhere that a child laughs 400 times a day on average, while the typical adult only laughs 15 times a day. That is a puzzling statistic because everyone agrees laughter feels so good. But is it really good for us? In my quest to provide accurate health information, I did a little research on laughter and humor. The Mayo Clinic Health Letter reports that laughter aids breathing by disrupting your normal respiration pattern and increases breathing rate. It can even help clear mucus from your lungs.
Laughter is also good for your heart. It increases circulation and improves the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to tissues throughout the body. A good laugh helps strengthen the immune system, fighting off colds, flu, and sinus problems by increasing the concentration of immunoglobulin A in the saliva. And it may help control pain by raising the levels of certain chemicals in the brain called endorphins.
Possibly most important in these stressful times, laughter is a natural stress reliever.
Some days it’s difficult to find humor in our lives. But it’s not impossible. Front page news is rarely humorous or even uplifting, but newspapers devote a page to cartoons, jokes, crossword puzzles and other entertaining games. A Google search of “Funny videos” yielded 109 million hits. Laughter is contagious. If you watch a funny video or read cartoons with a friend or family member, it is nearly impossible to resist when the other person is howling with laughter. If children can find something to laugh about 400 times a day, maybe we need to hang around them a portion of each day.
Health care is serious business, but I promised my friends to try to consider the lighter side when I write my health columns.
So forgive me, friends, if I am “too preachy” but let’s all make a concerted effort to find a bit of humor in our lives every single day.
Alice Facente is a community education nurse for the Backus Health System. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.backushospital.org/backus-blogs or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at firstname.lastname@example.org.