It’s no joke: Laughter linked to better health

It’s no joke: Laughter linked to better health

Maybe it’s just me, but it doesn’t feel like there’s enough levity in life right now. I’m having a hard time recalling the last time I laughed long and hard at … well, anything.

So I intend to change that. And I’m taking you with me. Let’s began by watching a YouTube replay of the decades-old “Dick Van Dyke Show.” We could start with the episode involving live baby ducks. I watched the whole thing just now and must admit it lightened my mood.

So I decided to watch another episode: the one where Dick pretends he’s a concert pianist with a hard-to-reach itch in the middle of his back. The laugh track and the accompanying piano music, coupled with a cavorting-while-seated Dick Van Dyke was absolutely hilarious. I found myself lost in laughing. Gosh, that felt good.

Later that day I read that Dick Van Dyke, at age 96, had just started attending a fitness class. Not a laughing matter — just impressive. It made me smile. I offer him a tender salute. And my commitment to calling him up on YouTube again soon.

Stay attuned to the simple fact that the laughter we seek is warmhearted, sincere and full of joy. I am concluding it requires a certain amount of planning.

For example, we would laugh more often, I suspect, if we were always surrounded by children. A child’s laughter at any age is spontaneous and frequent. It involves giggles, chortles, an occasional har-de-har and some amount of tittering. Even an occasional teehee.

Adult laughter is less frequent, more measured. Here’s the moment for a self-test.

When is the last time you laughed long and hard? Be honest.

Was it when your grandson read you almost every joke in his new joke book, including the one where he asks, “What do you have if you put 11 apples in your left hand and eight oranges in your right hand?” And then he prompts you to say, “Big hands.”

Or maybe you found yourself unexpectedly laughing with the small children you witnessed frolicking in a newly opened spray park.

Our bodies relax when we smile and laugh. And there is evidence to support that we “reduce the risk of heart disease, hypertension, strokes, arthritis and inflammatory disease.” Laughter is reportedly good medicine for diabetes too; “blood sugar regulation can be impacted by mood.”

A well-told joke makes me laugh. Psychologist Richard Wiseman believes there are several themes needed in the creation of a good joke. The first is “incongruity.” As illustration: “I went to my doctor for shingles. He sold me aluminum siding.”

Sometimes it’s “superiority,” and that happens when people tell us funny stories about their personally embarrassing foibles. Like if you told a group of friends that you put your car keys in the refrigerator. Twice.

When it comes to jokes, there’s also something called “pattern of three” An example would be if you said your favorite books were “Moby Dick,” “Great Expectations” and “Rock-Hard Abs in 30 Days.”

Any of the above examples make you chuckle just a little? Hope so.

Sharon Johnson is a retired health educator. Reach her at

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