A few years ago I wrote the following tongue-in-cheek column for Jeff Brown’s satirical publication Real Alaskans:
Scientists and Doctors who study longevity say that reducing calories has extended the life span of every type of animal they have tested. The less you eat, the longer you live. Sounds good, but is it really true?
We've all heard of eating like a mouse. How long does a mouse live? Not long in my house if Buster, our cat, has anything to say about it. Even if Buster gives them a break, I can't imagine they live more than a year or two.
Elephants on the other hand, all they do is eat all day. Something like 200 lbs a day. Maybe more. I don't know, I'm not a Zoologist. Besides, I always make up statistics. Anyway, we all agree an elephant eats a lot and they live to be about 75 years old.
So, the science is clear. If you want to live a long time, eat 200 lbs of grass every day. And don't forget to floss your tusks.
Yours in good health, Corey"
Now, before we have a War of the Worlds reaction to my article, let me reiterate that this was all written as a spoof for a humorous publication. Health is a serious issue but, paradoxically, humor and laughter are important for health. So is a sense of community.
My hat's off to Jeff Brown who always finds a way to bring humor and good times to our community.
When Norman Cousins wrote Anatomy of an Illness in the late 60s, the idea that our emotional state affects our health and our immune systems was largely unheard of. Now, of course, the mind-body connection concept is well established and accepted.
Cousins used laughter, among other unconventional treatments, to recover from a chronic and potentially fatal disorder.
Laughter alone didn’t cure him, but it’s hard to argue that is wasn’t a significant factor.
The physical benefits of laughter include improved immunity, lower level of stress hormones, decreased pain and decreased muscle tension.
Laughter has mental health benefits as well. These, of course, further the positive physical benefits. Laughter relieves stress and eases anxiety and fears. It improves our mood and simply adds joy and enthusiasm to our lives. Part of how laughter does all this is by triggering the release of endorphins, our natural opiates or “feel good chemicals.”
Endorphins are also released when we exercise and I’m not backing off on my stance that exercise and activity are imperative for mental and physical health. So is eating healthy foods and limiting health destroying ones. None-the-less it’s also important not to get too serious or dogmatic about these things either.
It’s been said that laughter is the best medicine and I’m convinced that it’s right up there with diet and exercise. Try renting a good comedy, reading a funny book, or playing a favorite game with good friends and see if you don’t feel happier and healthier.