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 Good Humor, Good Health 
The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Mind Body Health by . View all columns in series

Researchers also found that watching a funny tape of Richard Pryor Live temporarily boosted levels of antibodies in saliva (they help defend us against infections like colds). Those who reported using humor frequently as a way of coping with stress had consistently higher baseline levels of these protective antibodies. And finally, people with a strong sense of humor tend not to have the expected drop in immune function following exposure to stress.

How to Use Humor to Stay Healthy
Babies start to laugh when they are 10 weeks old: six weeks later they are laughing about once every hour. Four-year-olds laugh once every four minutes. The average American grown-up is said to laugh only about 15 times per day. Sadly, our culture tends to inhibit humor. We learn to associate growing up with "getting serious." And being "serious" is somehow equated with being solemn and humorless. We are ordered to "wipe that smile off your face" and told that things are "no laughing matter." Sometimes we repress our good humor, because we're afraid that others will think we're frivolous or foolish. Our funny bone gets broken. Fortunately, a laughter prescription is not a bitter pill to swallow. Here are some suggestions for repairing your sense of humor and regaining healthy laughter.

"Seven days without laughter makes one weak."

Expose Yourself to Humor
There's a lot of funny material around. Actively seek out things that make you laugh:

  • Take in regular doses of funny films, joke books, and comedians.
  • Browse through the humor section of a bookstore or library.
  • Make a point of looking at the cartoons in the newspapers and magazines. Cut out the ones that appeal to you, and keep them posted in places where you can see them: on the refrigerator, bulletin board, or in your wallet, and change them regularly.
  • Laugh at other people's jokes: you'll feel better, they'll feel better, and they'll like you more.
  • Expose yourself to different styles of humor. If you hate the Marx Brothers, it doesn't mean you don't have a sense of humor. Try political cartoons or dry British humor. The more you tune in to how much that's funny in this world, the more you will enjoy yourself.
Keep a Humor Journal
Get into the habit of listening for the unintentionally amusing remark and note it down in a diary. Watch for the wonderfully funny things young children spontaneously say or write. Listen for the amusing slips of the tongue, or the amusing error or the clever pun. Watch the newspapers for humorous newspaper headlines. Write down clever bumper stickers, license plates, witticisms, funny events that happen to you or a friend.

Find (or make up) some funny saying to repeat to yourself whenever the going gets rough, or you start feeling stressed or disappointed. For instance, "When you get to the top of the ladder, you find it is leaning against the wrong wall," or as Charlie Brown said, "I have a new philosophy. I'm only going to dread one day at a time." The saying will give you a wry smile and serve as a pick-me-up. The saying can become an old friend reminding you to see the humorous side, even when things don't feel very funny.

Tell a Joke
Having a good sense of humor doesn't mean you have to have a store of jokes or tell them perfectly. Lots of people who know a good joke say they can't tell them properly, so they keep them to themselves. Or they forget them the moment after they hear them.

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 About The Author
David S. Sobel, M.D., M.P.H., is a practicing physician in adult medicine and Medical Director of Patient Education and Health Promotion for Kaiser Permanente Northern California. He is physician lead for the......moreDavid Sobel MD
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