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Laughter as Medicine

Posted on October 20, 2012 at 11:10 AM


Laugh Hard! Laugh Loud!

Laugh until you Cry!


Laughter in and of itself cannot cure cancer nor prevent cancer, but laughter as part of the full range of positive emotions including hope, love, faith, strong will to live, determination and purpose, can be a significant and indispensable aspect of the total fight for recovery."

-Harold H. Benjamin, PhD From Humor Your Tumor (April, 1999) - By Paul McGhee, PhD

"The art of medicine consists of keeping the patient amused while nature heals the disease." -Voltaire

There are few sources of stress in life greater than the words, "You have cancer." And we have known for decades that any kind of stress - especially chronic stress that's there day after day - has a suppressive effect on the immune system. You are more vulnerable to becoming ill when constantly stressed precisely because your immune system is not operating as well is it normally would - if you were under less stress or were coping with it more effectively.

Your sense of humor provides a powerful antidote to immunosuppressive effects of stress in two ways through:

1) direct effects of humor and laughter upon the immune system, and

2) indirect effects resulting from humor's ability to help you cope on the tough days. In this column, we'll focus only on the direct immuno - enhancement effects of humor.

Research has looked at both humoral (immunoglobulins) and cellular immunity. In the case of the former, most of the studies have focused on immunoglobulin A (IgA). IgA resides in the mucosal areas and helps protect you against upper respiratory infections. Seven studies have shown significant increases in concentrations of IgA in response to comedy programs designed to produce a lot of laughter.

While many different investigators have completed the IgA research, Lee Berk and his associates at the School of Medicine at Loma Linda University has obtained similar findings for many additional components of the immune system. The rest of this column is based on findings from his research.

Mirthful laughter also increases levels of IgM and IgG. IgM antibodies are the first to arrive at a location within the body as a part of the humoral immune response. After IgM does its initial work, IgG takes over. It is IgG antibodies that are produced in the greatest amount in the body, and that are responsible for long-term immunity. When you are immunized, for example, it is the IgG antibodies that are tested to see if the procedure was successful.

Laughter also increases levels of Complement 3, a part of your immune system that helps antibodies pierce through defective or infected cells in order to destroy them.

With respect to cellular immunity, watching a one-hour comedy video has been found to produce

1) increased number of B cells,

2) increased number of, and activation of, T cells,

3) increased number of Helper T cells (the cells attacked by the AIDS virus),

4) increased ratio of Helper/Suppressor T cells,

5) increased number of, and activity of, Natural Killer (NK) cells, and

6) increased levels of Gamma Interferon.

The increased number of B cells is not surprising, given the increased levels of IgA, IgG, and IgM, since B cells are responsible for making all the immunoglobulins.

The findings for NK cells and Gamma Interferon are especially important for cancer patients. NK cells are designed to seek out and destroy tumor (cancer) cells (they also destroy virally infected cells, even with no prior exposure). Gamma Interferon plays an important role in the activation of NK cells. It also contributes to the growth of cytotoxic T cells and the maturation of B cells. It is best thought of as a kind of orchestra leader that regulates the level of cooperation between cells in the immune system, and tells different components of the immune system when to turn on and off.


There is something about humor and laughter, then, that causes the immune system to "turn on" metabolically and do more effectively what it is designed to do. This is one reason there is no so much interest in the therapeutic benefits of humor in oncology centers across the country. It's also responsible for the increased interest in having speakers on the health and coping benefits of humor for National Cancer Survivors Day Celebrations for those who are living with cancer.


While these data are exciting, they do not mean that laughter will cure you from cancer, or any other disease. Humor and laughter are not a replacement for the treatment you or your loved one are undergoing. But there's now every reason to believe that the patient makes an important contribution to his/her own treatment by managing their frame of mind or emotional state. Building more laughter into your life helps assure that you'll have all your body's own natural healing resources fully available to you.

Remember to take you illness seriously, but take yourself lightly in dealing with it on a day-to-day basis. So lighten up! Jest for the health of it.

From Humor Your Tumor (February, 1999) - By Paul McGhee, PhD.

A nurse recently told me of a Methodist minister who had been in a serious accident and had to spend several weeks in the hospital. He had a lot of pain, and was given shots to reduce it. The procedure was always the same. When the pain got bad enough, he would ring a buzzer near his bed, and a nurse would soon come to give him the shot. One day, he rang for the nurse and then rolled over on his side (with his back to the door), pulled his hospital gown up over his exposed backside, and waited for the nurse to come in. When he heard the door open, he pointed to his right bare buttock and said, "Why don't you give me the shot right here this time?"

After a few moments of silence, he looked up. It was a woman from his church! Following a brief embarrassing conversation, the woman left, and the minister--realizing what he had done - started laughing. He laughed so hard that tears were coming out of his eyes when the nurse arrived. When he tried to explain what had happened, he began laughing even harder.

When he was finally able to tell the nurse the whole story, what do you think he noticed? His pain was gone! He didn't need the shot, and didn't ask for one for another 90 minutes.


At some point following their diagnosis of cancer, many cancer patients find themselves thinking, "How will I deal with the pain?" The last coping resource they consider is their sense of humor. And yet there are many stories like the one above, along with a growing body of scientific research, showing that humor and laughter can play a significant role in reducing pain.

The idea that laughter has analgesic properties is not new. Dr. James Walsh, an American physician, noted in his 1928 book, Laughter and Health, that laughter appeared to reduce the level of pain experienced following surgery. This observation then disappeared from the medical literature until the publication of Norman Cousins' 1979 book, Anatomy of an Illness.

Cousins was suffering from ankylosing spondylitis, a degenerative spinal disease which left him in almost constant pain. With the consent of his doctors, he checked himself out of the hospital and into a hotel across the street. He invited friends over and watched a lot of comedy films--and laughed a lot! He discovered that as little as 10 minutes of laughter would give him 2 hours of pain-free sleep.

Several studies have now documented the pain-reducing power of humor and laughter. In one study, watching or listening to humorous tapes increased the length of time participants were able to keep their hand in ice water before it became painful. Another study showed that those who found the comedy material funnier were able to endure the ice water longer than those who found it less funny.


In a study of 35 patients in a rehabilitation hospital, 74% agreed with the statement, "Sometimes laughing works as well as a pain pill." These patients had a broad range of conditions, such as spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, arthritis, limb amputations, and other neurological or musculoskeletal disorders.

The explanation for why laughter reduces pain is not yet clear. While most people assume that it's because of the production of endorphins (one of the body's natural pain killers), there is still no scientific evidence to support this view. The reduced pain may also be because of the muscle relaxation that occurs from laughter, or because humor and laughter distract us from the source of pain.

If you're a chronic pain suffer, it doesn't really matter why humor and laughter ease your pain. The important thing is that it does. So you can just accept it as a gift on the days when you manage to find something to laugh at.

While laughter clearly helps ease pain for many individuals, it doesn't do so for everyone. It is not clear at this point just what kinds of pain a good laugh can and cannot soothe. The best advice at this point is to just build more laughter into your life and see whether it works for you. What do you have to lose? Even if it doesn't eliminate your pain, it will boost your spirits and bring more joy into your life on the difficult days.

Laughter increases the level of endorphins, which are natural pain killers found in your body.

Laughter brings about well-being by combating destructive stress, depression, rage, and insomnia. It provides an overall liberating effect. Distraction from oneself, from one's physical and other concerns, plays a beneficial role too.

Humor is infectious. The sound of roaring laughter is far more contagious than any cough, sniffle, or sneeze. When laughter is shared, it binds people together and increases happiness and intimacy. In addition to the domino effect of joy and amusement, laughter also triggers healthy physical changes in the body. Humor and laughter strengthen your immune system, boost your energy, diminish pain, and protect you from the damaging effects of stress. Best of all, this priceless medicine is fun, free, and easy to use.

Laughter is Strong Medicine for Mind and Body. Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens your burdens, inspires hopes, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert.

With so much power to heal and renew, the ability to laugh easily and frequently is a tremendous resource for surmounting problems, enhancing your relationships, and supporting both physical and emotional health.


Laughter is Good for Your Health Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after. Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins.

From a purely physiological standpoint laughter creates increased relaxation and oxygenation. Endorphins, the body's homegrown "narcotics," go to work. The body's immune system is stimulated as well. New evidence suggests that you may want to consider laughter as part of your comprehensive wellness programme. It not only boosts your mood, but it also revs up your immune system, protects your heart, lowers blood pressure, reduces pain, improves lung capacity and provides a general sense of well-being. A good belly laugh also reduces stress hormones in your body.

Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

The Benefits of Laughter Physical Health Benefits:

  • Boosts immunity
  • Lowers stress hormones
  • Decreases pain
  • Relaxes your muscles
  • Prevents heart disease
  • Mental Health Benefits:
  • Adds joy and zest to life
  • Eases anxiety and fear
  • Relieves stress Improves mood
  • Enhances resilience Social Benefits:

  • Strengthens relationships
  • Attracts others to us
  • Enhances teamwork
  • Helps defuse conflict
  • Promotes group bonding

A good giggle makes patients feel better, not only emotionally but also physically. It temporarily makes their pains, even severe cancer pains, disappear.

Laughter makes you feel good. And the good feeling that you get when you laugh remains with you even after the laughter subsides. Humor helps you keep a positive, optimistic outlook through difficult situations, disappointments, and loss.

More than just a respite from sadness and pain, laughter gives you the courage and strength to find new sources of meaning and hope. Even in the most difficult of times, a laugh–or even simply a smile–can go a long way toward making you feel better. And laughter really is contagious—just hearing laughter primes your brain and readies you to smile and join in the fun.

The Link Between Laughter and Mental Health

Laughter dissolves distressing emotions. You can’t feel anxious, angry, or sad when you’re laughing. Laughter helps you relax and recharge. It reduces stress and increases energy, enabling you to stay focused and accomplish more. Humor shifts perspective, allowing you to see situations in a more realistic, less threatening light. A humorous perspective creates psychological distance, which can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed. The Social Benefits of Humor and Laughter Humor and playful communication strengthen our relationships by triggering positive feelings and fostering emotional connection. When we laugh with one another, a positive bond is created. This bond acts as a strong buffer against stress, disagreements, and disappointment.

Laughing with others is more powerful than laughing alone.

Creating opportunities to laugh Watch a funny movie or TV show.Go to a comedy club.Read the funny pages.Seek out funny people.Share a good joke or a funny story.Check out your bookstore’s humor section.Host game night with friends.Play with a pet.Go to a “laughter yoga” class. (See Below)

Goof around with children.Do something silly.Make time for fun activities (e.g. bowling, miniature golfing, karaoke). Shared laughter is one of the most effective tools for keeping relationships fresh and exciting. All emotional sharing builds strong and lasting relationship bonds, but sharing laughter and play also adds joy, vitality, and resilience. And humor is a powerful and effective way to heal resentments, disagreements, and hurts. Laughter unites people during difficult times.

Incorporating more humor and play into your daily interactions can improve the quality of your love relationships - as well as your connections with co-workers, family members, and friends. Using humor and laughter in relationships allows you to:

Be more spontaneous. Humor gets you out of your head and away from your troubles. Let go of defensiveness. Laughter helps you forget judgments, criticisms, and doubts. Release inhibitions. Your fear of holding back and holding on are set aside. Express your true feelings. Deeply felt emotions are allowed to rise to the surface. You have probably noticed that you feel a lot better after a good belly laugh. The problem is that your sense of humor generally abandons you just when you need it the most - when you get sick.



The Body as a Garden

Posted on October 20, 2012 at 10:40 AM


The Body as a Garden

"When plant goes to seed, its seeds are carried in all directions, but they can only live and grow if they fall on congenial soil." -Stephen Paget, MD

"Nature designed the body to work harmoniously, and for human live long, healthy lives... But you cannot constantly violate Nature's requirements - poor eating habits; overeating or under-eating; inadequate, inadequate elimination of wastes; unnecessary high - risk behaviour; and letting negative emotions rule your life. If you continue to subject your body to excessive behaviour, abuse and neglect, sooner or later the results will be a breakdown in some vital life process."

"To develop a new relationship with your body begins by seeing your body as a garden that needs nurturing and care, as well as sufficient space and sunshine to heal and to grow. Your body is not a machine that was created simply to carry out the will of its owner. The idea that your body must do the bidding of the human ego rarely works in the journey through cancer - in fact, it can be counterproductive.

Your body is a living, breathing organism, a focal point of energy, information, intelligence and growth. And healing from cancer is ultimately an organic process that requires many ingredients. An element of mystery also accompanies this process. Consciously connecting with that mystery can be healing of itself.

The idea of the body as a garden opens new ways of thinking about ourselves - and about medicine and healing. It opens up tremendous opportunities for us all to play genuinely positive roles in the healing process. It gives us a chance to ask, "What can I do to cultivate the garden of my being in such a way that the fruits and flowers of health, well - being and self - knowledge can blossom and grow? What can I do to fertilize and till the soil of my being in order to accomplish this?

When a garden is carefully tended, weed or parasites may still appear, but they are much less likely take over or affect the plant. They can be dealt with while they are still in an easily manageable form. Making a garden healthy also requires giving it adequate nutrients and water, turning the soil so the earth mixes with fresh air. Removing toxins and other harmful substances from the environment is essential, along with making sure that the garden has plenty of sunlight. By tending to all these things, a gardener gives nature the fullest possible opportunity to come into congruence with his or her wishes.

If a garden is neglected, another side of nature is likely to assert itself. Weeds are just as natural as roses, but they're out of sync with our ultimate interests. They are also out of sync with all the other plants in the garden. They can quickly usurp the space and nourishment of the other plants, often killing them in the process. The weeds can also eventually choke off one another and cause their own death."

This is as close to a perfect analogy with cancer as we are likely to find. Good nutrition, exercise, and a life that is emotionally and spiritually fulfilled is not a guarantee that cancer will be prevented, let alone cured. However, actively pursuing all these can help - sometimes significantly."

Any person with a little "gardening" experience knows that when you plant a vegetable seed, the "fruits" of the seed will totally depend on how you prepare the soil, and how you nourish and support the growing seedling into adulthood.

Life's Golden Ticket

Posted on October 13, 2012 at 2:30 AM

By Brendan Burchard


WHEN YOU WHERE BORN a golden ticket was slipped into your soul's pocket by your Creator. The ticket gave you privileged access to a world of choices - it granted you permission to be whoever you wanted to be and to do whatever you wanted to do. You may not have known you were carrying this ticket all your life, but you were. Life's golden ticket is now in your hands. And now is your moment of truth. You can either stand still and live in the yesterday or you can step through the gates of possibility into life you were mend to live.

The only price of admission is to release any anger, hurt, worry, or resentment tied to your old story and to have the clarity and strength to start anew. You can make new choices. You can live more fully. You can love more completely. You can make a greater difference.

Every moment is a second chance to unleash and claim the life of purpose and contribution that is your destiny. But be aware. The only promise in life is that soon the gates will close, as there are only so many moments left to live, love, and matter.

Stand still or step forward? The choice, as it always has been, is yours. 

If you could sum up the secret to living a happy and meaningful life in 1-2 sentences, what would it be?


Posted on October 13, 2012 at 2:05 AM


We are literally God exploring God's Self in an infinite Dance of Life. Your uniqueness enhances all of life.

Surrender into your deepest yearning for awakening, realization (of self, true nature, ultimate truth, reality), freedom, aliveness or wholeness – and then let that yearning take you home.

An "awakening" is a moment of clarity in which a new insight or understanding is gained. With this new awareness the experience of life is seen differently, and new possibilities are opened. Changes in patterns of thought, emotions, and behavior occur. An awakening allows the possibility of growth to new levels of psychological and spiritual maturity. 

“Open my minds eye so I may see and feel Your shinning light presence close to me.
 Give me inner strength for my stumbling feet as I battle the crowd on life's busy street.
 And widen the vision of my unseeing minds eye so in passing faces I'll recognize not just a stranger, unloved, and unknown, but a friend with a heart and soul that is much like my own.”

There comes a time in your life when you finally get it ... When in the midst of all your fears and insanity you stop dead in your tracks and somewhere the voice inside your out "ENOUGH! Enough fighting and crying or struggling to hold on." And, like a child quieting down after a blind tantrum, your sobs begin to subside, you shudder once or twice, you blink back your tears and through a mantle of wet lashes you begin to look at the world from a new perceptibility.

You realize that it is time to stop hoping and waiting for something or someone to change, or for happiness safety and security to come galloping over the next horizon. You realize that it is time to stop hoping and waiting for something or someone to change, or for happiness safety and security to come galloping over the next horizon. You come to terms with the fact that there aren't always fairytale endings (or beginnings for that matter) and that any guarantee of "happily ever after" must begin with you. Then a sense of serenity is born of acceptance.

So you begin making your way through the "reality of today" rather than holding out for the  "promise of tomorrow. " You realize that much of who you are and the way you navigate through life is, in great part, a result of all the social conditioning you've received over the course of a lifetime. And you begin to sift through all the nonsense you were taught about:  How you should look and how much you should weigh,
- what you should wear and where you should shop, 
- where you should  live or what type of car you should drive, 
- who you  should sleep with and how you should behave,
- who you  should marry and why you should stay,
- the importance of bearing children  or what you owe your family.

Slowly you begin to open up to new worlds and different points of view.  And you begin re-assessing and re-defining who you are and what you really believe in. And you begin to discard the doctrines you have outgrown, or should never have practiced to begin with.You accept the fact that you are not perfect and that not everyone will love appreciate or approve of who or what you are... and that's OK... they are entitled to their own views and opinions. And, you come to terms with the fact that you will never be a size 5 or a "perfect 10".... Or a perfect human being for that matter... and you stop trying to compete with the image inside your head or agonizing over how you compare. And, you take a long look at yourself in the mirror and you make a promise to give yourself the same unconditional love and support you give so freely to others. Then a sense of confidence is born of self-approval.


And, you stop maneuvering through life merely as a "consumer" hungry for your next fix, a new dress, another pair of shoes or looks of approval and admiration from family, friends or even strangers who pass by. Then you discover that it is truly in "giving" that we receive, and that the joy and abundance you seek grows out of the giving. And you recognize the importance of "creating" and "contributing" rather than "obtaining" and "accumulating."

And you give thanks for the simple things you've been blessed with, things that millions of people upon the earth can only dream about - a full refrigerator, clean running water, a soft warm bed, the freedom of choice and the opportunity to pursue your own dreams.

And you begin to love and to care for yourself. You stop engaging in self-destructive behaviors, including participating in dysfunctional relationships. You begin eating a balanced diet, drinking more water and exercising. And because you've learned that fatigue drains the spirit and creates doubt and fear, you give yourself permission to rest. And just as food is fuel for the body, laughter is fuel for the spirit and so you make it a point to create time for play.


Then you learn about love and relationships - how to love, how much to give in love, when to stop giving, and when to walk away. And you allow only the hands of a lover who truly loves and respects you to glorify you with his touch.


You learn that people don't always say what they mean or mean what they say, intentionally or unintentionally, and that not everyone will always come through... and interestingly enough, it's not always about you. So, you stop lashing out and pointing fingers or looking to place blame for the things that were done to you or weren't done for you. And you learn to keep your Ego in check and to acknowledge and redirect the destructive emotions it spawns - anger, jealousy and resentment.


You learn how to say, "I was wrong" and to forgive people for their own human frailties. You learn to build bridges instead of walls and about the healing power of love as it is expressed through a kind word, a warm smile or a friendly gesture. And, at the same time, you eliminate any relationships that are hurtful or fail to uplift and edify you. You stop working so hard at smoothing things over and setting your needs aside.  You learn that feelings of entitlement are perfectly OK and that it is your right to want or expect certain things. And you learn the importance of communicating your needs with confidence and grace. You learn that the only cross to bear is the one you choose to carry and that eventually martyrs are burned at the stake. Then you learn to distinguish between guilt, and responsibility and the importance of setting boundaries and learning to Say NO. You learn that you don't know all the answers, it's not your job to save the world and that sometimes you just need to Let Go.


Moreover, you learn to look at people as they really are and not as you would want them to be, and you are careful not to project your neediness or insecurities onto a relationship. You learn that you will not be more beautiful, more intelligent, more lovable or important because of the man on your arm or the child that bears your name. You learn that just as people grow and change, so it is with love and relationships, and that not everyone can always love you the way you would want them to.  So you stop appraising your worth by the measure of love you are given. And suddenly you realize that it's wrong to demand that someone live their life or sacrifice their dreams just to serve your needs, ease your insecurities, or meet "your" standards and expectations. You learn that the only love worth giving and receiving is the love that is given freely without conditions or limitations. And you learn what it means to love. So you stop trying to control people, situations and outcomes. You learn that "alone" does not mean "lonely" and you begin to discover the joy of spending time "with yourself" and "on yourself." Then you discover the greatest and most fulfilling love you will ever know – Self -Love. And so it comes to pass that, through understanding, your heart heals; and now all new things are possible.


Moving along, you begin to avoid Toxic people and conversations.  And you stop wasting time and energy rehashing your situation with family and friends.  You learn that talk doesn't change things and that unrequited wishes can only serve to keep you trapped in the past. So you stop lamenting over what could or should have been and you make a decision to leave the past behind. Then you begin to invest your time and energy to affect positive change. You take a personal inventory of all your strengths and weaknesses and the areas you need to improve in order to move ahead, you set your goals and map out a plan of action to see things through.

You learn that life isn't always fair and you don't always get what you think you deserve, and you stop personalizing every loss or disappointment. You learn to accept that sometimes-bad things happen to good people and that these things are not an act of God... but merely a random act of fate.

And you stop looking for guarantees, because you've learned that the only thing you can really count on is the unexpected and that whatever happens, you'll learn to deal with it. And you learn that the only thing you must truly fear is the great robber baron of all time - FEAR itself.  So you learn to step right into and through your fears, because to give into fear is to give away the right to live life on your terms. You learn that much of life truly is a self-fulfilling prophecy and you learn to go after what you want and not to squander your life living under a cloud of indecision or feelings of impending doom.


Then, you learn about money... the personal power and independence it brings and the options it creates. And you recognize the necessity to create your own personal wealth. Slowly, you begin to take responsibility for yourself by yourself and you make yourself a promise to never betray yourself and to never ever settle for less than your heart's desire. And a sense of power is born of self-reliance. And you live with honor and integrity because you know that these principles are not the outdated ideals of a by-gone era but the mortar that holds together the foundation upon which you must build your life. And you make it a point to keep smiling, to trust and to stay open to every wonderful opportunity and exciting possibility. Then you hang a wind chime outside your window to remind yourself what beauty there is in Simplicity.

Finally, with courage in your heart and with God by your side you take a stand, you TAKE a deep breath and you begin to design the life you want to live as best as you can.