A Mother and her Two Daughters

03 March 2010

Laughter As Medicine

In 1964, I remember seeing the movie Mary Poppins with my parents.  I was only four, but to this day, there were two scenes indelible in my mind.
  • With just a spoonful of sugar, Mary Poppins, the magic nanny, helps Jane and Michael see that any troublesome task can be made fun.
  • Uncle Albert, played by Ed Wynn, is need of help from his complicated condition – laughter and happiness make him float into the air. The song "I Love to Laugh” makes a strong case for the beauty of laughter.

Chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation are all commonly known treatments for almost any kind of cancer.  However, the medical community has also long believed in a strong correlation between emotional health and physical health.  Thank goodness.  I think I have that, even though my youngest daughter accuses me of being bi-polar when I demand that she clean her bedroom. (If anyone finds that to be a symptom, please let me know.)

After years of prolonged pain from a serious illness, famed journalist Norman Cousins claims to have cured himself with a self-invented regimen of a positive attitude, love, faith, hope and laughter induced by watching Candid Camera and Marx Brothers films. He went on to write Anatomy of an Illness and Human Options. Cousins said, "I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep."

Researchers at Loma Linda University have been studying the effects of laughter on the immune system. Their published studies have shown that laughing lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones and boosts the immune function. Laughter also triggers the release of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers, producing an overall sense of wellbeing.

The bottom line – research shows that laughter is a natural medicine that lifts our spirits and makes us feel happy.  It is also a contagious emotion and can bring people together.  Laughter makes us feel empowered and more alive!!  And to think that all of that great stuff can happen with just a few belly-busting laughs each day.  That’s why many hospitals, like the UAMS Cancer Institute, are offering laughter tips and humor therapy as way to promote overall health and wellness for chronic illness. This therapy instructs patients to use the natural process of laughter to help relieve emotional stress, pain and discomfort. 

When we were small, my brother were the victims of “tickle tummy time".  That time was between tv show segments, during the commercials, and my father would bust our bellies to hear a good laugh from his children.  I owe many thanks to my Dad for giving us both the gift of laughter. 

Many, many years later, my dear friend Kim gave me a beautiful painted sign that has this quote: 
The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.” 
– E. E. Cummings

Every one of us was born with the gift of laughter as a way to enjoy and love, or sometimes simply cope or survive.  What we choose to do with that gift is up to us.  Today I will remember that any task, even chemotherapy, can be made fun with a little bit of laughter.  As Oscar Wilde said, “Life is too important to be taken seriously.” 


  1. I love the E. E. Cummings uote...and totally agree with Oscar Wilde.

    Keep the faith, Stacy....we are all here for you...anytime you need a good laugh!

  2. My family is tired of this joke, but it's one of the few I can remember without spoiling the punch-line. If anyone has a better one (and surely you do) post it. Let's give Stacy (and ourselves) a few belly laughs. Here goes...

    A frog goes into a bank and approaches the teller. He can see from her nameplate that her name is Patricia Whack.

    "Miss Whack, I'd like to get a $30,000 loan to take a holiday."

    Patty looks at the frog in disbelief and asks his name. The frog says his name is Kermit Jagger, his dad is Mick Jagger, and that it's okay, he knows the bank manager.

    Patty explains that he will need to secure the loan with some collateral.

    The frog says, "Sure. I have this," and produces a tiny porcelain elephant, about an inch tall, bright pink and perfectly formed.

    Very confused, Patty explains that she'll have to consult with the bank manager and disappears into a back office.

    She finds the manager and says, "There's a frog called Kermit Jagger out there who claims to know you and wants to borrow $30,000, and he wants to use this as collateral."

    She holds up the tiny pink elephant. "I mean, what in the world is this?"

    The bank manager looks back at her and says...

    "It's a knickknack, Patty Whack. Give the frog a loan. His old man's a Rolling Stone."

  3. The Cummings quote should be more properly written as " the most wasted of all days is one without laughter."

  4. I have the series of "Friends" on DVD (my daughters' actually),and just one episode can tickle my funny bone - and great for distraction as I do PT exercises and such. Keep the laughter idea front and center!


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