Laughter really is the best medicine

Every time I pick up the telephone to make a call, I’m greeted by a smiling face.
A tiny half-inch yellow smiley face with a huge mouth turned up at the corners and jolly smiling eyes.
The same is true when I begin work on my computer or put on makeup in the morning. And then later, when I go to the refrigerator to start lunch.
Everywhere, little yellow faces smile at me and make me feel good. They smile at me because I stuck them there precisely for that purpose.
I certainly can understand why Harvey Ball might wish he had put a trademark on that little yellow face when he first drew it 30 years ago to cheer up the employees of an insurance company.
Instead of getting paid just $45, Harvey Ball could be a rich man today.
Just think of all the royalties he could have collected on Frisbees and lunch boxes, mugs and alarm clocks, snack trays and yo-yos. And most of all, on little yellow stickies to paste on hard surfaces.
But, on the other hand, can you really put a trademark on a smile–even if you are the first one to draw it? Shouldn’t happiness and the fun of life belong to all of us equally!
Take a smile, for example. It’s a first-class, feel-good exercise. Experts say a big smile uses 13 different muscles of the face.
What’s more, a smile is good for your immune system and good for your health. It even can reduce your stress and release endorphins that help decrease pain.
But a smile is nothing compared to a laugh. There’s a reason why laughter has long been called “the best medicine.” And the vernacular is full of quotes like “he who laughs lasts.”
One of the advances of late 20th-century medicine is recognizing the interconnectedness of mind and body. And the effect of laughter on good health is a growing research area.
The claims for laughter are phenomenal. According to researchers, laughter can reduce coronary risk, soothe pain, lower blood pressure, diminish depression, lower heart rate, boost the immune system, calm jangled nerves, improve breathing, and help digestion.
In addition, laughter is the perfect full-body exercise and a 10-second belly laugh is said to be as good as three minutes on a rowing machine. Some researchers call laughter “internal jogging.”
The trouble is sometimes life gets difficult, and we just don’t feel like laughing. But that may be exactly when we need the healing power of laughter most.
“We do not laugh because we are happy,” says Dr. Ken Glinter. “We are happy because we laugh.”
So how should you get started?
Laugh at other people’s jokes. Chuckle at a political cartoon. Watch Laurel and Hardy move a piano up a hill. Read a Dave Barry column. Stick a little yellow smiley face on your stationery bicycle.
Or if worst comes to worst, just make funny faces in the mirror. You always can find a reason to laugh—if you choose to.
And given the brevity of life, why would you miss the chance to laugh whenever you can? It’s the easiest medicine you’ll ever take.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at or visit

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