Sunday, August 1, 2010

Laughter, good for your health!

     There have not been a lot of studies but there are some that suggest that laughter might have some health benefits. The problem is that studies on this subject are difficult to do to provide complete reliability. Even if laughing people enjoy better health or feel better or more happy, deal better with disease, etc, it is difficult to tell whether it is the laughter that has this benefit or whether these are just people who deal more cheerfully with life's challenges, or have a more positive attitude. Also since laughter usually occurs while with other people, it is difficult to attribute benefit only to the laughter, when it might be the presence of a strong support group that really provides the better health.
     However there are some baseline studies that seem to indicate benefit.
     Studies have shown that we raise pulse slightly and blood pressure and stretch muscles, and breath faster with laughter, sending more oxygen to our tissues. Laughter is like a short and mild workout but granted it would take a lot of laughter to approach the workout we get when we exercise aerobicly.
     Another study has shown that blood vessels contract and expand normally when the person is laughing while watching tense drama restrict blood flow. Some studies suggest that the ability to use humor might raise infection fighting antibodies in the body and increase immune cells that produce antibodies. Another study showed that a group of 19 people who watched a tedious lecture after eating had higher blood sugars than when the same group watched a comedy after eating the same meal.
     Sounds like there could be some benefit, and we all know that we feel better when or after laughing.

Bacon in the Makin

     I included the photo of "Makin' the Bacon" above to provide a sample of my father's sense of humor.  When Mom and we two daughters were getting Mom ready to move to town and cull some of both she and my father's collections from a lifetime, we found a number of funny items in Dad's office. This tiny room was built onto the barns where he weighed the hogs that he purchased for Patrick Cudahy Packing Plant in Cudahy, WI. He usually needed to do some paperwork there to ensure that the farmer got his proper payment for the hog shipment. I know that often Dad and the farmer would sit in the office and "chew the fat" a little bit. I am sure that these farmers provided Dad with some of the humor that we found tucked away in the drawer of the old roll top desk that sat against one wall in this room. I think that desk is where we found the ceramic pictured above, called "Bacon in the Makin". I suspect also someone gave Dad this ceramic of pigs as a gift to the hog buyer.

     Dad always had a strong sense of humor. He was a practical joker. When he was a teenager in high school in 1934, and he got his first wheels, being already a handyman and mechanic, he wired the car as a practical joke so that anyone who touched it got a mild electric jolt. He loved his birthday on July 4 and setting off fireworks to celebrate. Every Fourth of July morning we girls awoke to the sound of his homemade cannon going off. He had taken a thick walled pipe with a small bore, about 10 inches long and drilled a place for a fuse at the bottom. He packed this full of gun powder, rocks and cottons. He had welded a spike to the bottom and he pounded this into the ground out in the middle of our truck yard. Then he lit the fuse and ran and a few seconds later his cannon woke us up. Once he set the cannon off at his friend's farm, but failed to notice that there was an electric wire above his site. He shut down the electricity at that farm for a day before repairmen could get out there. I am not sure how this loss of power was explained.

     In spite of all this, Dad, being the Deacon of the Congregational Church and Sunday School Superintendant, we ladies of the family seldom heard a curse word from him. In fact I am told that he once almost fired a hired man because that man had cursed in front of me as a young girl. You never heard any risque or off color jokes emerge from Dad's mouth in mixed company or among family. Still I think he enjoyed those types of humor in private or amongst the men who came to the office. The following slightly off color or scatological humor items were found typed up and stored away amongst many of the papers, old cards, letters and accounting papers in boxes stored away by Dad and Mom and found years later when discarding things and going through things to make sure there were no treasures hidden away. A few days ago I read these papers to 93 year old Mom and she laughed out loud as we all would at these items and then just shook her head and said, "That's awful."

     Here are some examples of humor we found in that old office desk. I can only presume that various farmers brought these typed out jokes into that office and they all had a good gaffaw over them.

     When tourists drive through Columbus on their way to Kansas City, and stop at the local gas station, the following conversations are typical.
     Cadillac drives up. Driver says, "How far is it to Kansas City?"
     Answer: One hundred and forty miles.
     "Give me twenty gallons of gas and gallon of oil."

     Buick drives up, driver says, "How far is it to Kansas City?"
     One hundred and forty miles.
     "Give me ten gallon of gas and 1/2 gallon of oil."

     Ford drives up, driver says, "How far is it to Kansas City?"
     One hundred and forty miles.
     "Give me two quarts of water and a can of three-in-one oil, and hold this son-of-a-gun 'til I get in."

The following scatological writing would have definitely prompted a pig farmer to bring this in to the office for MJB, the pig buyer, to read and laugh. 

     If a pig drinks a quart of buttermilk before he starts
     And runs a mile before he farts
     And the faster he runs the farther he gets
     How far can he run before he Shits?

     Now in order for me to win this bet,
     I must take you to where the fart was let.
     The farmer by the road saw the pig pass,
     With the buttermilk squirting out of his ass,
     Now the farmer was a mile from where the pig started,
     And the pig passed the farmer just as he farted.
     It was so funny that the farmer had to laugh
     While the pig ran nearly a mile and a half,
     If the pig is lucky and can hold his gas
     And run a mile with a puckered ass
     It seems to me if he holds his wits,
     He can run five miles before he shits.

Read this one out loud to get the full affect.

                             MIXED UP
     The Hotel Aster hired a new bus driver and instructed him to meet all of the incoming trains at the Pennsylvania Station and announce in a loud voice, "Free bus to the Hotel Aster"
     Enroute to the station the new driver kept repeating to himself to practice, "Free bus to the Hotel Aster"
     Upon arrival of the first train, he became a bit confused and suddently started yelling------
     "Free ass at the Hotel Buster  -- I mean bust your ass at the Hotel Freezer --- I mean Freeze your ass at the Hotel Bastard, Free Hotel Ass Buster --- I mean kiss my ass you Bastards and take the street car!!!

My favorite is still Arkansas Mother to Arkansas Son, which should also be read out loud. I have already posted it on 4/5/2010. Find it and read it out loud  in order to laugh out loud.    

Back to seriousness about laughter: How can we help ourselves to see the lighter side of life and enjoy some of the likely health benefits of laughter? Well number 1) Laugh at yourself. Be willing to share some of your embarassing moments. We can take ourselves less seriously by letting times we took ourselves too seriously be the source of others laughter a well as our own. Even look at the humor in bad situations and the irony in daily life. 2) Surround yourself with reminders to lighten up. Keep a toy on your desk or in your car, or collect them like I do. Put up a funny poster in your office. Choose a computer screensaver that makes you laugh. Frame pictures of you and your family and friends laughing and having fun.   3) Keep life in perspective. Let's face it -- many things in our life are out of our control especially the behavior of other people. Don't let what others do bring you down. 4) Pay attention to children and emulate them. They are the experts at playing, taking life lightly and laughing. Have you recently heard the giggling of a year old child? If not seek it out and I guarantee laughter will occur.

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