Laughing Our Way to Optimal Health

Mark Twain once said, “Humor is tragedy plus time”. Just go to any stand up comedy show, and you’ll see how true this is.

But why is it that laughing makes us feel better? According to the researchers at the Mayo Clinic, laughter has the ability to relieve stress, reduce tension, and even stimulate your organs. And that’s just in the short term. The long-term benefits of laughter can do everything from strengthening your immune system, easing pain, increasing and enhancing your connectivity to others, improving your mood, and can even lead to an increase in your self-esteem.

But what exactly is laughter?

According to author Frederic Rudolph Stearns, in his book Laughing: Physiology, Pathology, Psychology, Pathopsychology and Development, “Laughter is a physical reaction consisting usually of rhythmical, often audible contractions of the diaphragm and other parts of the respiratory system. It is a response to certain external or internal stimuli. Laughter can arise from such activities as being tickled, or from humorous stories or thoughts.”

Fair enough, but what about a sense of humor? Two people can go to see the same stand up comedian perform, and one will laugh until they cry, and the other will hate it until they cry.  So what’s that all about? This, scientists say, can come down to a variety of things, ranging from one’s age, culture, experience, political affiliation, gender, and on and on. It can also be defined as a personality that gives someone the ability to say funny things and/or see the funny side of things in life.

 When it comes to mental illness, there’s certainly nothing funny about that…or is there? John Moe, the author of “The Hilarious World of Depression,” and host of the popular podcast of the same name, has made a career out of open and honest conversations with funny people, about mental illness. Having struggled with depression himself, John is able to have insightful, meaningful, helpful…and funny, conversations about mental illness. Funny? That’s right. The comedians he talks to are hilarious people, that are living with mental illness, and laughing despite it all.

Laughter and a sense of humor are by no means a cure for mental illness but combined with proper treatment, they certainly can help. Humor reminds us that we are not alone. We all have problems. And we all have stories…and some of them are funny. It reminds us that we are survivors, and have the capacity to endure and overcome so much. It helps connect us to others, and to ourselves. And…well, it’s just plain fun to laugh.

 For more information on The Hilarious World of Depression, and information on comedians that talk about mental illness, check out

 Not into listening to stand up comedians talk about mental illness, or in watching stand up comedy? No problem! There are so many funny movies and tv shows out there, just make a little effort, and you’re sure to find some.

Not into funny shows or movies? Not a problem! Watch a funny animal video. Just go on youtube, and you’re guaranteed to laugh at the funny cats, dogs, chipmunks, bears, and more.

Not into stand up, funny shows, funny movies, or funny animals videos? Well, that’s not a problem either. Just call up a funny friend. Or find one. They are all around us. They may even be members of your own family.

Bottom line. Laugh more. It’s good for you, and for everyone around you.

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