So did you hear the one about the school kids lined up in the cafeteria for lunch? At the front of the line was a large pile of apples with a sign that read: “Take only one. God is watching.” At the end of the line was a large pile of chocolate chip cookies where a child had written a note, “Take all you want. God is watching the apples!”
Watching what we eat and how much we consume is becoming a national pastime. Proper diet and exercise is getting the lion’s share of attention when it comes to the means of maximizing health. In fact, recent data reveals that 1/5 of healthcare costs are attributable to the side effects of obesity.
Often lost in the discussion about means to health and healing are the mental and spiritual components that contribute to wellness.
Take laughter. April is National Humor Month. And April 14th is International Moment of Laughter Day. We all like a good laugh. It turns out that your funny bone is connected to your health.
Laughter as medicine gained national attention after the release of Patch Adams, the movie starring Robin Williams. The real life Adams founded the Gesundheit! Institute over 40 years ago. Its mission includes care infused with fun and play and uses clowns and other funny approaches in a fairly unique healthcare approach.
Adams writes, “The idea that a person was healthy because of normal lab values and clear x-rays had no relationship to who the person was. Good health was much more deeply related to close friendships, meaningful work, a lived spirituality of any kind, an opportunity for loving service and an engaging relationship to nature, the arts, wonder, curiosity, passion and hope.”
Research into the role of humor in health shows benefits, including pain reduction, easing tension, enhancing heart health and immune systems, boosting the quality of life, and even giving toddlers a head start in life skills.
I remember my dad using humor to get me to laugh at times when things seemed pretty serious. It was contagious. I could not help but feel better whether it was a physical or emotional issue I was dealing with. Laughter is good for what ails you.
Karen Williams is a believer in the health benefits of humor too. The Cleveland stand-up comic started the International Institute of Humor and Healing Arts, otherwise known as the HaHA Institute. The organization “is deeply committed to the study and active use of humor in the healing process — personal, societal, and planetary.” Her message – encouraging the potential for compassion, wisdom and life force through the daily use of humor and healing – has taken her around the globe.
Are you familiar with laughing clubs? The brain child of Dr. Madan Kataria, 6000 clubs have sprung up in over 60 countries since their inception in 1995. He realized the “tremendous power of laughter and its efficacy as the best prescription for wellness.” In an NBC report Kataria goes so far as to say that laughter could be the answer to the U.S. health care dilemma.
Humor and other “mindfulness” methods to health – everything from relaxation techniques to prayer – are gaining wider acceptance. Laughter’s “outside the Jack-in-the box” approach to healing is one of those surprising treasures putting smiles on many faces.
Goodness knows the world could use more comic relief. I remember the song Uncle Albert (played by Ed Wynn) sings in the movie Mary Poppins as he floats around the rafters of his living room:
We love to laugh
Loud and long and clear
We love to laugh
So ev’rybody can hear
The more you laugh
The more you fill with glee
And the more the glee
The more we’re a merrier we!