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  Home  > Personal Wellness (Lite)  > 14. Lighten up with Humor, Play, and Pleasure

14. Lighten up with Humor, Play, and Pleasure

The arrival of a good clown exercises more beneficial influence upon the health of a town than twenty asses laden with drugs.—Thomas Sydenham, seventeenth-century physician

The process of becoming healthier can be presented as such serious business that you lose much of the humor and joy of living that characterize wellbeing. Many books about health are filled with predictions of dire consequences for failure to follow particular methods, horror stories of what certain foods or lack of foods can do, or warnings about the cancer causing qualities of everything. It’s enough to make you crazy!

Recent studies indicate that humor is an effective stress reducer and that it may actually increase antibody production, which means a stronger immune system. In 1964, Norman Cousins, then editor of Saturday Review, helped to heal himself from a life threatening disease through a regimen of vitamin C, renewed self responsibility, and humor. His reading of several classic books on the subject of stress convinced him that disease was fostered by chemical changes in the body produced by emotions such as anger and fear. He wondered whether an antidote of hope, love, laughter, and the will to live would have the opposite effect. Encouraged by watching Marx brothers movies and Candid Camera TV sequences, reading humorous books and stories, and listening to jokes, he found that short periods of hearty laughter were enough to induce several hours of painless sleep. Years later, Cousins recommended laughter to others, claiming that this “inner exercising” was beneficial in stimulating breathing, muscular activity, and heart rate.

Worldwide interest continues to grow in establishing the benefits of laughter and humor in health, supported by wide-ranging scientific research. The Humor Project Inc., based in Saratoga Springs, New York, one of many associations dedicated to tickling the funny bone, publishes Laughing Matters Magazine in twenty countries, and offers Daily Laffirmations through its Web site,

Therapeutic humor is any intervention that promotes health and wellness by stimulating a playful discovery, expression or appreciation of the absurdity or incongruity of life’s situations. This intervention may enhance health or be used as a complementary treatment of illness to facilitate healing or coping, whether physical, emotional, cognitive, social, or spiritual. —The American Association of Therapeutic Humor

Raymond Moody Jr., MD, the author of Laugh after Laugh: The Healing Power of Humor, has used this approach with his patients for many years. Humor works, he claims, because laughter helps take your mind off pain and problems, and catalyzes the basic will to live.

Take a Seriousness Break Right Now
Redefining Play
What's Your Pleasure?

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   Part I: Starting Points
   Part II: Loosening Up
   Part III: Taking Action
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