Mike Bellah

"It seems laughter is still the best medicine." --Gael and Patrick Flanagan





"When we grew up, somehow we lost a few hundred laughs a day." --Gael and Patrick Flanagan





"He who laughs lasts." --Gael and Patrick Flanagan

Laughter, Still the Best Medicine

"It seems laughter is still the best medicine," say Nobel Prize nominees Drs. Gael and Patrick Flanagan. The Flanagans point to researchers at California's Loma Linda University who tested blood samples from people subjected to an hour of video-and-comedian-induced laughing.

When compared to a control group, the laughers showed increased levels of good hormones (endorphins and neurotransmitters) and decreased levels of stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline), conditions which, according to the researchers, strengthen the body's immune system.

The Flanagans also have discovered that adults, including midlifers, don't take advantage of this natural way to stay healthy. "Adults laugh approximately 15 times a day, while children laugh about 400 times a day," say the Flanagans. "When we grew up, somehow we lost a few hundred laughs a day."

So to get back some of that merriment, I've written a list of things that make me laugh. Maybe putting them down on paper will help me remember to do what comes naturally to children. I offer them to you as a way to prompt your own list and perhaps, at the same time, to increase your own longevity. For, as the Flanagans put it, "He who laughs lasts."

Things That Make Me Laugh

  • Retelling funny stories --like the time Leslie Mullis Hail got King my horse confused with King my dog in a story about moving him (the dog) to Phoenix ("He kept knocking over neighborhood children?" "You let him swim in your pool?").
  • Contagious laughs --such as my cousin Rob's, my daughter Janet's, or my granddaughter Taylor's.
  • Parties --big or small, formal or informal.
  • Reunions --with high school or college buddies, with family, or with friends from my years at summer camp.
  • Funny movies --including "Mad, Mad, Mad World" with Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Jimmy Durante, Mickey Rooney, and others; Chevy Chase's vacation movies; all the Pink Panther movies with Peter Sellers as Chief Inspector Clouseau; and any movie starring both Tim Conway and Don Knotts.
  • Classic cartoon characters --such as the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote, Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Daffy and Donald Duck, Sylvester, and Yogi Bear.
  • Favorite monologues --I like Bill Cosby's piece on raising children, Erma Bombeck's discussion of the "prime time" moms of '60s television, Garrison Keillor's stories of Lake Wobegon families ("How do you explain to people that your uncle is not really a senator, that his mother just named him that?"), Dave Barry's critique of '50s television shows (Perry Mason lived in a city where exactly one homicide occurred every week, and DA Hamilton Burger was so stupid that he never charged a guilty person with the crime.), and Abbot and Costello's (OK; it's not a monologue) "Who's on First" routine ("No, what's on 2nd." "I don't know." "Oh, he's on 3rd base." "Who is?" "No, he's on 1st." "Who is?" "Yes.").  

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