Talk with the Doc: Laughter truly is good medicine

Dr. Jim Surrell, Journal columnist

Laughter is a normal and natural physiologic response to certain stimuli with widely acknowledged psychological benefits. Current research shows us that laughter may also have serious positive physiological effects for those who engage in it on a regular basis. The words laughter and humor, though often used interchangeably, have different definitions. Humor refers to the stimulus, such as a joke, which evokes a response. In contrast, laughter refers to a physical reaction characterized by a distinct repetitive vocal sound, certain facial expressions, and contraction of various muscle groups.

I am sure we have all heard the term that “Laughter is Good Medicine”, and this is certainly true. The following information has been reported by the United States National Library of Medicine. First, where does laughter come from? Our laughter is stimulated from two different sources. Most of our laughter would be considered spontaneous laughter that is triggered by an external source. That is, we laugh at something that we heard or saw, or somebody says or does something that makes us laugh. This would be our reaction to seeing a good comedy show or hearing a comedian that we thought was really funny. The second and much less common source of our laughter comes from within. This laughter is triggered by our thinking of or recalling something that just makes us laugh.

With regard to whether our laughter is triggered from an outside source, or from within, our brain is not able to distinguish between these two sources. Therefore, scientists who have studied laughter believe that similar benefits occur, regardless of the source of the laughter. They also conclude that the benefits of laughter are many.

Here are just some of the beneficial side-effects of laughter. Laughter has been shown to offer physiological, psychological, social, spiritual, and overall quality-of-life benefits. There really are no negative effects of laughter and it should go without saying that laughter is really good for us. Scientifically speaking, there are absolutely no medical reasons not to laugh, and as stated in strict medical terms, there are no contraindications to laughter.

Medical specialists at the Mayo Clinic and elsewhere have studied the effects of humor with regard to medicine and healing. They all agree that laughter does provide multiple healthy benefits. First, it is clear that laughter can be a great form of stress relief. As more and more scientific studies are being done to look at the effects of laughter and one’s health, the evidence continues to confirm the many positive things that laughter does for all of us. For example, when we have a good laugh, we tend to breathe more deeply so we take in more oxygen. This stimulates our lungs, our heart, and our muscles. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and this will help with muscle relaxation, which helps reduce many of the physical symptoms of stress. Laughter may also ease any pain we may be experiencing by causing our body to produce its own natural painkillers, known as endorphins.

Let me close with a few of my summertime jokes to hopefully get some healthy laughter from you.

* When should you go on red, and stop on green? When you are eating your summer watermelon.

* What did Lake Superior say to the beach on the first day of summer? Nothing, it just gave a wave.

* Why do fish stay in school and never graduate? Their grades are always below “Sea Level”.

* The cow was thrilled as she just delivered her summer baby. She was “decaffeinated”.

* Why do summer Seagulls avoid flying around the bay? So they won’t be called Bagels.

Let us all recall that there are many health benefits to laughter and humor and I sincerely wish you all a most joyful Upper Peninsula summer with all your family and friends.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Jim Surrell is the author of “The ABC’s For Success In All We Do” and the “SOS (Stop Only Sugar) Diet” books.Contact Dr. Surrell by email at sosdietdoc@gmail.com.


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