A fair amount of time is spent in my "Stress Management" classes exploring the effects of humor on the stress response of humans (in other words we laugh a lot). I justify this laid back method teaching by quoting a Professor at Loma Linda University in California. "It's time we in the health-care arena realize how the individual can help him or herself with humor." Lee S. Berk, research professor of pathology and preventive health, began his career by studying the effects of several negative emotions on the human immune system, but has more recently examined the flip side of the coin by examining the effects of positive emotional states, on physical well-being.
Through blood assays run on people before, during and after viewing humorous videos, Berk found that mirthful laughter enhances immune functioning in several important ways: 1) Levels of cortisol, which suppresses the immune system, drop significantly. 2) Levels of infection-fighting immunoglobulins, which serve as the body's most important defense mechanisms, increase. 3) The activity of natural Killer cells, which seek out and destroy abnormal cells, increase significantly. 4) Levels of plasma cytokine gamma interferon, which enhances immune-system functioning more than double.
When asked then "Is laughter good for you?" Berk replies "You're damn right it is. Laughter is hazardous to your illness."
Even if we don't understand the medical findings cited above, we all know that laughing just helps us feel better. Many of us learned at a young age "If you chance to meet a frown, do not let it stay, quickly turn if upside down and smile that frown away". Although many people might resent the simplicity of such advice, feeling that it demeans or down plays tragedy, Norman Cousins did not. In his 1979 book Anatomy of an Illness, he describes using Marx Brothers movies and "Candid Camera" episodes to laugh away the life-threatening collagen disorder "Ankylosing Spondylitis".
Whatever our level of belief on this matter, it certainly wouldn't hurt any of us to "lighten up" and laugh a little more. After all, STRESSED, is just DESSERTS spelled backwards!!
Submitted by Kim Andersen, Wellness Committee