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by Caroline Corser
Cheerleader for Positive Lifestyles

Laugh ‘til your sides hurt and tears roll down your cheeks...‘cause laughter really is the best medicine. It’s truly amazing the positive effects a cheerful attitude and a good belly laugh can have on our emotions and our physical systems. I had living proof of that in my own family.

When I arrived in Florida to visit my 86-year-old father during spring vacation, he was slumped in his chair, chin on his chest, staring vacantly into his lap. At first sight of me, he started to cry. This was a shock to me because I had never seen my tough, ex-sailor dad cry over anything. After three operations in two months, he was weak and obviously depressed, and the first thing he told me was that he knew he was going to die. Using what I knew about the positive effects of humor and laughter, I set out to cheer him up in every way I could.

I insisted that he go outside and sit in the sunshine and urged him to walk at least a little bit. He resisted, but I didn’t give in. The very next day, I went to the nearest book store and brought back several joke books and a silly novel. I started reading the jokes to him, and gradually, he started to chuckle at some of them. Before long, he was telling me a few of his own.

I tried to get him to read the novel, but he wasn't interested, so I started reading it to him. Every day for the rest of the week, I got him outside to walk, a little more each day, and continued reading the novel and telling him jokes. When we weren't doing that, I carried on cheerful conversation with him and my mom.

By the time I left at the end of the week, Dad and I were walking the long block to the bay where we sat and watched white pelicans floating around the little island off shore. When I left, he was cheerful and acting much more alert, and he promised me he would finish reading the novel..

One week later, when my sister and her family visited them, Dad had fully recovered. They were surprised when I acted concerned for his health because he was just as feisty as ever, going out to restaurants and fishing with his granddaughters.

Research has shown that nearly every system in the body reacts positively to laughter, and I ‘m convinced that getting my dad to laugh helped him recover both emotionally and physically.

Laughter helps to produce endorphins, the body’s natural pain killer, and cortisol, which enhances the immune system and the cardiovascular system. It stimulates the production of killer T-cells, which control harmful bacteria, and it causes the major muscle groups to relax while it exercises the internal organs a bit. Laughter also sharpens the brain as it pumps more oxygen through the system. Gerontologists are even proposing that laughter can help you live longer.

Now how could anyone not want to laugh? Laughter has no calories, no cholesterol, no preservatives, and no artificial ingredients. It is free, legal, and absolutely safe. (Adapted from a quote by Dale Irvine.) It definitely is the best medicine. Use it liberally and frequently, and enjoy the positive frame of mind you gain.

Caroline Corser, Cheerleader for Positive Lifestyles, speaks to baby boomers and seniors about filling your life with laughter and play. She can be reached at 661-871-9201 or    caroline@AwesomeAging.com


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