A Merry Heart – Still the Best Medicine

“Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing”
– Mark Twain

In my early career as a surgeon, I began to keep a journal filled with the painful experiences of my work. I carefully kept it out of sight, but one day accidentally left it where my wife, Bobbie, found it. Her observation was direct, as she said “Honey, there is nothing funny in it.” I defended myself by saying that “My life isn’t funny.” But the astute and perceptive person that Bobbie is, she wasn’t going to let me off the hook that easily, and she began to remind me of the many humorous things I had shared with her, but had not put in my journal. One of her favorite stories was the time a capped, masked, and gowned man came into my patient’s room—a patient who was in isolation. She started undressing thinking that he was there to examine her. He hesitated for a moment and then said, “You don’t have to do that for me; I’m here to mop the floor.”

puppies-laughingWe can see, feel, and enjoy the experience of laughter, but what we don’t see is how beneficial it is for our internal body chemistry. I like to say that your feelings are your chemistry. I see love and laughter as the twin building blocks that hold life together. It seems to make a lot of sense that the pleasant feelings and images that emerge through laughter alter your body chemistry in a good way—supporting your immune system.

There are now many resources available that promote the healing power of humor. Some healthcare organizations have embraced the idea and made it an option for patients to choose in conjunction with their medical care.  Studies show that cancer patients who laugh several times a day for no reason live longer than those who do not laugh. So every few hours treat yourself to a laugh and those around you will thank you too because laughter is contagious and he who laughs, lasts. Bobbie did stand up one liners comedy at my presentations and I saw the physical change in the audience when she was done.

Humor, joining the other wonderful human emotions of love, hope, and faith, can fill the body with joy that uplifts the spirit right along with the all-important immune system. It will help whether you are ill or well. I believe we can, and should, use all these terms together, whether they are words like “love” or words like “immune system.” These words describe all that is within us, to be cared for and cherished.

I’ll leave you with my Soulution for the Day from my book 365 Prescriptions for the Soul: Daily Message:

“Choose to find things to laugh about. You will change, and so will all the people you meet. You will not burn out when you can laugh at life.”