Laughter is No Joke

Laurel_Hardy-300x266Valentine’s Day. I hope you had a chance to lighten up. To laugh mirthfully. To enjoy the moment, with family, friends, a lover, a partner or a pet. Truth be told, the lighter side of life could extend your life.

Laughter as Medicine

Facts are mounting that laughter is serious medicine for a long life. Clearly, I am dating myself, but George Burns, a stand-up comic, was actually booked to perform on his 100th birthday in London, but didn’t make it. Bob Hope performed stand-up comedy well into his 90′s. And Phyllis Diller was still performing in her late 80′s. What gives? Consider the following before you pooh-pooh this idea:

  • The more humor in your life, the higher your chance of survival. As the old adage says: “You don’t stop laughing because you’re old. You grow old because you stop laughing.”
  • Laughing induces positive emotions and optimistic feelings, it increases oxygen intake, stimulates the circulation and relaxes muscles. It triggers brain endorphins, neurotransmitters that make you feel happier, and reduces pain.
  • Laughter can help you forget, even for a moment. In the words of author Milan Kandera: “Joking is a barrier between man and the world.”
  • “Clown doctors” now visit pediatric hospitals in 4 continents (US, Australia, South America and France). It’s not clear whether kids benefit from a feeling of superiority, empathy (as allies), a sense of control or hope generated by the clowns.
  • Surgeons have used humor to distract patients from pain since the 13th century. But trust me, modern anesthesia is much better.

A Giggle Guide

Here’s how to add this exceptionally valuable and widely available free medicine to your life:

1. Spend time around kids; remember laughter is contagious (apologies to infertile couples here)
2. Find positive, light-hearted people and catch the laughter flu
3. Go see a stand-up comic
4. Follow a comedy series on TV, preferably one without canned laughter.
5. Laugh at yourself
6. Cut out a cartoon joke you like and tack to the wall at work. Look at it a lot.
7. Join a laughter club or laughter Yoga.

So, lightening up not only feels good, it is good, even great, for your life. In the words of Milton Berle (again, dating myself): “Laughter is an instant vacation.”

This article originally appeared on Dr. Turek’s blog,, and has been republished here with permission.

Dr. Paul Turek, Medical Contributor

View posts by Dr. Paul Turek, Medical Contributor
Dr. Paul Turek is an internationally known thought leader in men’s reproductive and sexual health care and research. A fellowship trained, board-certified physician by the American Board of Urology (ABU), he has received numerous honors and awards for his work and is an active member in professional associations worldwide. His recent lectures, publications and book titles can be found in his curriculum vitae.
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