Laughing to Live Longer


Story Number: NNS020610-02Release Date: 6/10/2002 2:29:00 PM
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By Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class James Botkin, Behavioral Health, Naval Hospital Yokosuka

YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- Laughter research (yes, there is someone out there researching this) has shown that humor and especially laughter can help keep our bodies strong and disease resistant.

Humor is equally helpful to our mental health and the way we deal with stress and worry. A good laugh exercises many muscles of the body and causes the brain to release endorphins.

These "feel good" brain chemicals raise both our mood and our coping abilities. Sometimes things don't seem as bad when looked through the eyes of humor.

The average adult laughs approximately 17 times a day. Some reports have even stated that laughing can be a great workout too. It is estimated that a healthy laughing session can be equal to several minutes on the rowing machine or the exercise bike. Besides using your diaphragm, abdominal, respiratory, facial, leg and back muscles, your blood pressure is lowered, and your heart rate increases as well. Ever laugh so much that it hurts? Now you know why. You are actually exercising!

The real power of humor and laughter shows up when you learn to use it under stress. It keeps things in perspective, helps dispel negative emotions, and puts you in the frame of mind to cope with the situation. You'll always have stress in your life. To use humor effectively to deal with stress, you need to understand your own humor and how willing you are to laugh, have a humor plan, and practicing using humor skills until they are comfortable. Some tips to using humor and laughter effectively are:

1. Find the funny in life -- You don't have to laugh out loud to find something funny, but you do need to recognize the types of humor you are comfortable with.

2. Make a humor plan -- Make a list of things that happen regularly that almost always set off your stress response. Write these things down so you have a good idea of the types of things you need to combat with humor. You'll also need a "happy" list -- anything that makes you happy or makes you laugh. When you have to deal with one of your stressors, combat it with your tools of humor.

3. Add more humor to your life -- try to surround yourself with humorous things. If there is a particular person in your life that tends to make you laugh, spend more time with them. If you feel better after seeing a comedy film, go see more comedy films; make it a point to read the comic strips in the newspaper. Find what works for you!

Also, we need to recognize the difference between healing humor and harmful humor. Humor is the ability to see what is comical or funny. Humor uses meaning, movement, position, size or association to express the amusing. But not all humor facilitates wellness and is healing. Harmful (or sick) humor is insensitive, malicious and exclusive. It ridicules, slanders, belittles and puts people down. The expression "laugh with someone instead of at them" is a good rule to live by.

Remember, even in the most difficult of times, a laugh or a smile can lift your spirit and work wonders in helping and healing you and those around you.

Make laughing a daily exercise... You'll be glad you did!

For more information about Naval Hospital Yokosuka, go to www.nhyoko.med.navy.mil. To see more news about Naval Hospital Yokosuka, go to their Navy NewsStand Web page at www.news.navy.mil/local/nhyoko.

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