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Prescription: Laughter

   By: Susan Ryder

"They" say that laughter is the best medicine. And whoever "they" are, I'd have to agree.

In fact, studies have shown that when we laugh we...

* lower our blood pressure.

* promote relaxation and reduce stress.

* increase the oxygen level in our blood giving us more energy.

* increase the endorphin activity in our body resulting in a sense of well being.

In addition, laughter seems to have a positive effect on our *healing and recovery processes, as some physicians like Patch Adams and other medical professionals are beginning to understand.

And all I can say is, IT'S ABOUT TIME!

When my mother was first diagnosed with cancer in 1993 she did all of the things the doctors told her to do, which included, among other things, surgery and radiation. She also did some things that I told her to do, including guided meditation and visualization. And she did some things that my sister told her to do, like taking vitamins and herbs with names I can't even pronounce, let alone spell.

And she did something else, something she came up with on her own without the help of all of us bossy people in her life.

Mom laughed .............. A LOT!

Already a very optimistic person by nature, she was convinced (as I am) of the importance of the mind/body connection in relation to healing and health. So she believed that a large part of her recovery, whatever the final outcome, would be found in a positive attitude with lots of laughter.

She took to heart what Norman Cousins said in "Anatomy of an Illness" - that we who laugh...last - and put it into practice in her own life and illness by self-prescribing a variety of movies, tapes, and books that made her laugh. And I mean really laugh - the kind of deep belly laugh that is sometimes embarrassing - the kind that might make you snort, or might cause liquids to come out of your nose if you happen to be drinking at the same moment something strikes you as incredibly funny.

(Warning: drinking Coca Cola while laughing hysterically CAN lead to a very painful situation - carbonation and sinus cavities do NOT mix!)

Oddly enough, my mother's favorite motion picture medication was a VERY SILLY movie - one that remains close to her heart even now, nine years since her original diagnosis, and five years cancer-free since a recurrence in 1997.

I say "oddly enough" because my mother isn't typically amused by pratfall or physical humor. She always considered herself to be sophisticated and maybe even somewhat snobbish about what tickled her funny bone (okay maybe it was the rest of us who considered her to be that way, lol). But she rarely agreed with the rest of us about what was humorous. For instance, she never really understood why we kids enjoyed Monty Python as much as we did.

So, since we all figured that her idea of comedy was limited to programs like "Upstairs Downstairs" on Public Television - imagine our shock and delight when we discovered that a little film called "Weekend at Bernie's" had captured her comedic heart. Yes, Mom, Bernie, Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman laughed their way through months of cancer treatment together - and for that I am truly grateful (and highly amused).

For those of you unfamiliar with this 1989 comedy, "Weekend at Bernie's" is about two guys invited to spend the weekend at the beach home of their wealthy boss (who is actually planning to murder them because they've uncovered an embezzlement scheme of which he, the boss, is a part). When they arrive, they find him - well, to put it delicately - they find him dead - and they end up dragging him around with them all weekend, pretending he's alive, so that they aren't blamed for his death.

Confused? Sorry about that, it's really quite simple, and silly. The movie is full of juvenile pratfalls and predictable sight gags, including water skiing with the deceased Bernie and other zany antics and madcap hijinks, lol. But for whatever reason, Mom found "Weekend at Bernie's" to be just the right prescription for her laughter regiment, with a little "Grumpy Old Men" thrown in on the side.

Sometimes she laughed so hard that she cried when she watched "Weekend at Bernie's" - and all the while she told herself that no matter what, even if cancer were to ultimately be the cause of her death, she'd go out laughing.

That is a legacy she's given to me as well - and I do my BEST to make sure I laugh, HARD, several times a day. And I am always amazed at how better I feel after a good robust laugh!

So here is my prescription for a healthier, happier life - a good hard belly laugh at least five times a day, the harder the better! And if "Weekend at Bernie's" isn't your cup of tea, find out what IS, plug it in, and LAUGH!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

*When I speak of "healing," I am talking about something entirely different from "curing." For me, people who end up dying of a disease may still have experienced healing in their life - it just may not have come in the form of a cure. Healing for me means becoming whole again and experiencing a sense of oneness and peace in spite of any physical or emotional trauma. To my way of thinking, a person can be cured without being healed - and a person can be healed without having been cured.

Susan likes to laugh, and is an author on a site for Writers http://www.Writing.Com/)

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