Tuesday, March 30, 2010

#64 - The Best Medicine

With the ongoing debate regarding health care reform, I originally intended to weigh in with my opinion. Then I decided to take a different approach and explore one of the best things we can do for our health: laugh.

As the old proverb says, "Laughter is the best medicine." Who among us has not immediately felt a little better after a good laugh? Unless, of course, you start laughing while drinking a soda or some other liquid which then begins to exit from places it was never meant to travel. In that case, everyone else feels better after a good laugh at your expense.

Here are some notable quotes regarding laughter:
  • "Laughter is part of the human survival kit." - David Nathan
  • "Laughter is the shortest distance between two people." - Victor Borge
  • "Laughter is a tranquilizer with no side effects." - Arnold Glasgow
  • "Seven days without laughter make one weak." - Joel Goodman
  • "Laughter is an instant vacation." - Milton Berle
  •  "the most wasted of all days is one without laughter." - e.e. cummings

I got to thinking about the power of laughter after reading replies to a  Facebook post I made, in jest, wondering whether people understood my sense of humor. I decided to write this after reflecting on the heated and borderline hateful exchanges that take place on a seemingly daily basis between those on the left and those on the right. What these people need is a good pie in the face.

To paraphrase e.e. cummings, there have been many wasted days in my life, days when I did not laugh. Those days do not occur as often these days. That is partly due to having a five-year old beagle with the spirit of a puppy. Part of it is simply due to learning to see the humor around me.

Laughter has a number of benefits. It lowers blood pressure. It increases coordination of brain functions. It can even serve as a more enjoyable alternative to exercise. One doctor says 20 seconds of unrestrained laughter has as much benefit for the heart as three minutes of hard rowing. Laughter is no laughing matter.

Then again, it is. I find my days and evenings are more enjoyable if, at some point during the day, I find something (or someone) that makes me laugh. I daresay that a great many of the issues confronting us would seem less daunting and easier to solve if we could find a sliver of humor in them or if we simply took a laughter break.

Research also indicates that laughter increases production of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers. As Groucho Marx once said, "A clown is like an aspirin, only he works twice as fast." So make a point to laugh, even if it's at my expense. I don't mind.

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