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M
ind Body Health
 

Good Humor, Good Health

© David S. Sobel MD

The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Mind Body Health by David S. Sobel MD. View all columns in series

Make up a Comedy Routine
Imagine sitting at a table on which an old tennis shoe, a drinking glass, and an aspirin bottle have been placed. Now make up a comedy routine for three minutes describing the objects on the table in as humorous a manner as you can.

Research shows that the funnier monologue you are able to produce, the less likely you are to become tense, depressed, angered, fatigued, or confused when confronted with stress in your life. And it can be freeing, enabling us to get detached from our problems. After watching funny movies, people solve problems with more ingenuity and innovation.

Hang Out with Happy People
Make sure there are people in your life whom you find it fun to be around - ones who lighten the atmosphere and make you feel good about yourself.

Often people who aren't especially witty as a rule can be razor-sharp when they get together with someone who inspires them, amuses them, or just loosens them up. Certain people make you feel relaxed and happy.

Others are too full of gloom and doom, or are just relentlessly serious. Try to avoid getting brought down by those who are negative. Spend more time with people whose presence gives your mood a boost. If you don't know such people, seek them out.

Put On a Happy Face
Research has shown that just changing your facial muscles can set off different physiological changes. It can also trigger different thoughts that affect moods of sadness, happiness, and anger. So when we "put on a happy face" in times of adversity, or say "have a nice day" or "smile at a camera and say cheese," we are actually changing our neurohormone levels, and they change our moods. A smile-like pose produces pleasant feelings, whereas a pout produces feelings of unhappiness. So even when you don't feel particularly cheerful and you smile, blood flow to the brain increases, and the production of positive neurotransmitters are stimulated. In other words, if you look happier, you might actually start to feel happier. So if you can't laugh, smile. And if you can't smile, fake it.

Humor can be a powerful medicine, and laughter can be contagious. It's reassuring in these days of deadly epidemics and sometimes painful, expensive medical treatments that laughter is cheap and effective. And the only side effects are pleasurable.

For More Information:
American Association of Therapeutic Humor, 222 S. Merrimac, Suite 303, St. Louis, MO 63105 (314-863-6232)

Baim, Margaret and La Roche, Loretta: "Jest 'n' Joy" in Herbert Benson and Eileen Stuart, The Wellness Book, New York: Carol Publishing, 1992.

Blumenfield, Esther and Alpern, Lynne: The Smile Connection: How to Use Humor in Dealing with People. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1986.

Hageseth, Christian: A Laughing Place: The Art and Psychology of Positive Humor in Love and Adversity. Fort Collins, CO: Berwick Publishing Co., 1988.

Klein, Alan: The Healing Power of Humor. Los Angeles: Jeremey P. Tarcher, Inc., 1989.

Metcalf, C.W. and Felible, Roma: Lighten Up: Survival Skills for People Under Pressure. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1992.

The Humor Project. 110 Spring Street, Saratoga Springs, NY 128666 (518-587-8770). Publishes Laughing Matters Magazine, Humor Resources Catalog, and a clearinghouse for theory, research, and practical ideas related to humor.

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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 national initiative in Self-Care and Shared Decision-Making for Kaiser Permanente. He is coauthor of Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions, The Healing Brain,......more
 
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Disclaimer: The information provided on HealthWorld Online is for educational purposes only and IS NOT intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek professional medical advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.