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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Power of Mirthful Laughter

Mirthful laughter, once you have experienced it you want more. Say what! Mirthful laughter is positive and friendly, caring and empathetic, sensitive, constructive, supportive, inclusive and creates bonds. It leaves you feeling optimistic, less stressed, relaxed and helps to keep us healthy. Just the mere anticipation of mirthful laughter has been shown to reduce the levels of three detrimental stress hormones, cortisol, epinephrine and dopac. A constant release of these stress hormones can be harmful to your immune system. A recent study of 20 high risk diabetic patients were divided into two groups. Group L (laughter) and Group C (control). The researchers followed the groups for 12 months. Both groups were given the standard medication for diabetes. Their blood was tested for the stress hormones. Group L watched comedy videos of their chosing for 30 minutes daily while Group C only received the medication for diabetes. By the end of the second month Group L had lower stress hormones suggesting lower stress levels. Plus Group L increased their good cholesterol and had lower levels of inflammation. At the end of the twelve months,Group L had increased their good cholesterol by 26% wile Group C showed a mere 3% increase. The researcher concluded that a daily dose of mirthful laughter coupled with the standard medication for diabetes may lower stress and increase good cholesterol. Another important finding of this study was that mirthful laughter may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease often associated with diabetics. So in conclusion, a daily dose of mirthful laughter is worth a "shot" for patients with diabetes.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Laughter, Don't Work Without It!

Are you leaving work stressed and exhausted? Are you waiting for the weekend to have some fun? If you answered yes to these questions, then you need to replace the coffee break at work with a "humor break." Yes I said a humor break. Awaken that 'inner child" that wants to come out and play. The all work and no play mentality is so played out. Sorry for the pun. But it's true. Stop twitting, stop tweeting, stop texting, stop facing, stop e-mailing, stop faxing and start laughing with your co-workers, friends, clients, patients, or at yourself. Norman Cousins, in his book Anatomy of an Illness, stated that joyful laughter is a catalyst that causes your brain to create endorphins that relieve stress and balance the immune system. The immediate benefit of this is a spike in your energy level. Work overload, and stressful situations at work increase the production of stress hormones and cause the flight or fight syndrome. Our bodies constant exposure to these stress hormones result in accelerated heartbeats, increase in blood pressure, an inability to think clearly, shallow breathing and less oxygen to the brain. We cannot change our work environment but we can utilize humor and laughter to change our response to the stress that is inherent in our workplace. Some ideas to make work fun are:
  • Create a humor library at work
  • Show funny appropriate video clips prior to a staff meeting
  • Put cartoons on inner office memos
  • Play a game of human tic tac toe
  • Create a fun slogan for your department
  • Establish a fun committee
  • Have a joke du jour day
These are a few examples of ways to lighten up your work environment. What other ways can you think of that would be fun or have heard about?

Monday, June 21, 2010

What's a Duchenne Smile?

Have you ever looked at someone smiling and thought to yourself that he/she was not really smiling? Well then, you have the makings of a humor detective!! That's right, people can and do smile for no reason. As a matter of fact a French neurologist, Dr Duchenne conducted several hours of research on the difference between a fake smile and a genuine smile by observing patients who had severe brain trauma or strokes. His findings revealed that two parts of the brain control smiling. Voluntary smiles are controlled by the motor cortex. The types of smiling that is intentional and brings good feelings to your body (receiving gifts, getting an A in a course, etc). Smiles that are spontaneous and the result of some emotion (daughter's wedding, surprise birthday party, etc) are controlled by the cingulate cortex. Patients who had a stroke or a brain injury can appreciate a joke and smile if the cingulate cortex wasn't damaged. Dr Guillaneume Duchenne further defined the differences in smiles. A true genuine smile stimulates the zygomatic major muscle and lifts the corners of the mouth in an upward movement and the muscles around the eyes (the orbicularis oculi) to wrinkle up, also known as crow's feet, by pulling on the cheeks. Dr Duchenne noticed that "fake" smiles or smiles not attached to any specific emotion, engages the zygomatic muscle but not the orbicular oculi muscle. This is why true, voluntary and intentional smiles are referred to as Duchenne Smiles.

To test your ability to spot a fake smile or a Duchenne smile cut and paste the url below and go to the website and take the short but very interesting test on smiles. Return back to my blog and let me know how you did. It's only a test but oh so very powerful!!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Humor: A Preventive and Maintenance Rx

The connection between your sense of humor and your health is vital to the quality of your life. Recent studies have shown that emotions, attitudes, what you think, and your mood have a significant impact on how well you deal with stress or a chronic illness. In 1936 Dr Selye, a Canadian physician and research scientist was the first medical clinician to suggest that stress might be associated with disease. He also suggested that stress has a negative effect on patients heart and their immune system. That was 74 years ago!! According to other studies , 70% of all disease are associated with stress and 85% of office visits to a doctor are related to stress. Candace Pert said, "The chemicals that are running our body and our brain are the same chemicals that are involved in emotion. And that says to me that...we'd better pay more attention to emotion with respect to health." (Check out Candace Pert at Many research studies abound that supports and documents that our sense of humor is one a preventive tool and two a maintenance tool we have that if used consistently and appropriately works for us and not against us in our daily battle with stress!! So when life starts to get you down reach for the prescription bottle of giggles and get your laugh on!!

Thursday, June 10, 2010


I was just thinking about life and how we limit ourselves when it comes to humor and laughter. Think about it? As babies, adults could control us until we learned how to walk. Once we started to walk we began to explore the world and laughed, giggled and smiled at everything that was new to us. That was what we wanted to do, all day long!! One day we woke up and our ability to play was limited because of the playpen. Why did they call it a playpen? Most toddlers hate the playpen. They scream, cry, yell, throw everything adults put in for them to play with out! Our natural instinct to explore was often taken away from us. And yet as adults some of us act like we are still in the playpen. Some adults don't take the time to find something funny to laugh at. Babies create their own humor and laughter. Some of us have lost that ability. Our barriers and challenges come from the world via our values, beliefs and standards about humor and laughter. Your VBS 's are being held hostage by the stress of surviving the day, the week, the month, etc. Your sense of humor can give you a new lease on life. Take a few minutes to view the video to see how babies get their giggles on!! Then ask yourself when was the last time I produced that kind of humor and laughter?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Humor in Education

Humor helps students learn especially when it comes to teaching adults. I am referring to those students who do not go directly to college from high school. Their value, beliefs and standards about humor and education are intertwined with their varied life experiences. Humor can be used to engage students in experiencing something they don't know in a safe and non-threatening environment. A good percentage of adult students at UCB are preoccupied with the demands of working full time, going to school part time, child care issues, chronic illnesses, and language barriers to name a few. It's based on embarrassment. What's a teacher to do??? Well if you were in the Health & Life Fitness class you would practice your "verbal humor skill" via tongue twisters. Yes, tongue twisters!! By encouraging the students to practice their verbal humor skill using tongue twisters they have learned a very valuable lesson. You have gotten their attention. They are able to understand and articulate certain words better. Additionally, they have gained an enormous amount of confidence. At the end of the activity it is no longer a language barrier but a wonderful humorous experience. When you put together the letters that are in bold they spell "LAUGH." If you say the following tongue twisters you too can laugh at yourself. Come on, give it a try. Practice makes perfect!!

I saw Susie sitting in a shoe shine shop.
Where she sits she shines, and where she shines she sits.

Six sick hicks nick six slick bricks with picks and sticks.

I was born on a pirate ship
Say it while holding your tongue!!

Monday, May 24, 2010

What UCB HLF Students Are Saying

"The more I came to this class the more I laughed and it made me feel good about myself. It gave me a good feeling."
P. Carrion 02/27/10

"I liked the way the students were talking about how their lives have changed from this class."
C. Smith 3/21/02

"I am very happy with this class. It really changed me. Now I am able to take things that happen not to serious and always look for the funny side of things."
J. Road 12/15/05

"I came to class very sad and I went home very happy because of so much humor used in class."
M. Figueroa 3/31/05
"I was really stressed out before I started this class. Now I am not stressed. Laughing has really help me cope with stress."
D. Brison 6/14/04

"I came to class with a headache. In fact I had that headache all day. Before leaving class I was fine. I laughed and relaxed in class. Laughter is the best medicine."
C. Capitolia 9/24/03

"After my day with my son I was going to drop this class but I'm so very glad I was able to get someone to watch him. This class has taught me how good it is for me to laugh and to make sure my son laughs and stays happy."
A. Spencer 2/05/04

"I like this class because I found some good techniques of humor to confront with tragic situations."
J. Hung 02/02/03

"I enjoyed every minute of it. I observed how you can make something out of nothing and really find it humorous."
B. Rodriguez 9/22/05

"I like that this class is teaching, encouraging people to laugh because people don't do it as much as they should."
E. Rosa 10/29/03

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Sixth Sense

As children we are taught about the importance of our senses. We are socialized to believe that as human beings our five senses sets us apart from the animal kingdom. Our sense of hearing is important. The sense of hearing is very important. The ability to hear what is going on around you and to respond appropriately is key to communication in all of our relationships! The sense of sight is a beautiful thing. To see the beauty of nature is awesome. The picture of the baby shows us this. Our sense of taste is vital to our existence. Nature provides us with the necessary natural foods to sustain our bodies. We have an infinite bounty of food on this planet. Our sense of smell allows us to be ever alert to dangerous odors that may be offensive, deadly or toxic. We are taught a very early age the dangers of the smell of smoke which could lead to fire. So we are very cautious around fire and smoke. Our sense of touch is totally undeniably something to treasure. We long to be touched by our loved ones and friends we haven't seen for a long while. We can be touched by a poem, a song, a story or the kindness of a stranger. But the one sense we are not encouraged to cultivate and nourish is our sense of humor. Why not? Isn't the ability to laugh just as important as seeing, hearing, tasting, touching and smelling? I bet you could remember something funny that happened when you used a particular sense. I know I can. So I am encouraging you to use humor and laughter when you are facing a challenging time in your life that may be frustrating, frightening, or stressful.

"From here to here and there to there, funny things are everywhere"
(Dr. Seuss)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Laugh Those Pounds Away

Take two chuckles, a belly laugh, a few giggles and you too can lose weight. Don't believe me. Read the following article.

By Kate Devlin, Medical Correspondent 
Published: 11:23AM GMT 12 Jan 2009

Laughing 'can help you lose weight' Laughing intensely for an hour can burn as many calories as lifting weight for 30 minutes, scientists have found. Laughing out loud also makes the chest rise and fall, which in turn means that stomach muscles have to work harder, which can help to tighten them. Laughter gives the body a "mini aerobic workout", they believe. It causes the heart to beat faster, sending larger amounts of blood around the body. Laughing out loud also makes the chest rise and fall, which in turn means that stomach muscles have to work harder, which can help to tighten them. The act of laughing can even help the skin, by using up to 15 facial muscles, helping to give the face a work out. Laughing can also bolster the immune system, aiding the body to fight off infections like coughs and colds. Dr Helen Pilcher, a neuroscientist who also works as a comedian, who carried out the research, said: "We're not advocating you watch sitcoms 24 hours a day, but laughing away excess Christmas weight is a great way to stay in shape. "But you've got to avoid the temptation of consuming extra calories whilst you are laughing - chomping on a Kit Kat or supping a quick half whilst watching your favorite sitcom." Her research, commissioned by UKTV Gold, found that an hour of strong laughter burns off around 100 calories, the equivalent of a small bag of crisps or small bar of chocolate. The same amount of calories could be worked off through half an hour of weightlifting or by vacuuming for almost three quarters of an hour, the research found.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

UCB/HLF Photo Gallery

Laughter is The best Medicine

I want to devote this section to affirming that laughter, smiling and your sense of humor are very therapeutic. There is evidence from studies and research on the benefits of laughter. But I want you to seriously take at look at how you can truly create the quality of life you so richly deserve. I want to borrow a powerful quote from Charles Swindoll about attitude and its importance. He said:
"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me is more important that the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures,than successes, than what other people think or say or do. it is more important than appearances, than giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company..a church..a home. The remarkable thing is we have a chance every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past...we cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play the one string we have, and that is our attitude...I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you...we are in charge of our attitudes."

If you approach life with the attitude that you are going to make every effort to enjoy life, to laugh at life, to embrace life and use your "gift" of laughter to survive and cope with the stress of everyday life, you will be a much more productive, happier and healthier person. I will endeavor to challenge your values, beliefs and standards about humor and laughter. But your attitude is key, tee hee, ha, ha!

The humor quote for this week is: "An optimist laughs to forget; a pessimist forgets to laugh."
The question for this week is "What is one thing you can do to remind yourself to laugh on a daily basis?

Friday, April 30, 2010

Humor Your Stress

Did you know that humor and laughter can be used to help you cope with stress? Quietly as it is has been kept, research has been going on for the last 50 plus years that laughing enhances your immune system. I would like to introduce you to the ways that laughing can help you to cope with the stress of every day as well as on-going chronic illnesses.