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Program 2: Laugh for the Health of It
The Value of Humor in Healthcare

Although the Bible says "A merry heart does good like a medicine," and Reader's Digest has featured "Laughter, the Best Medicine" for decades, few medical researchers took humor seriously before 1980. Since then, however, many studies have shown that laughter is physically and psychologically healthy. There's a new medical field studying the relationship between emotions and health (with the unfunny name of psychoneuroimmunology). The Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor is thriving. And over 100 hospitals in the U.S. have created "comedy carts" for patients and their families.

As an editor of both Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, and the International Journal for Humor and Health, Dr. Morreall has kept up with the research on humor. As an entertaining speaker who has done presentations for dozens of hospitals and medical schools, he has lots of funny stories and useful techniques for putting more humor into healthcare. His audiences quickly experience how exhilarating it is to laugh and learn at the same time.

We'll explore the effects of laughter on the circulatory system, lungs, muscles, and immune system. We'll see how laughter is linked to relaxation and pain reduction. If it's not too close to lunch or dinner, we'll even consider the laxative benefits of laughter.

The greatest medical benefit of humor is its reduction of stress, which is at epidemic proportions and rampant among healthcare professionals. The good news is that humor is the opposite of stress, physically and psychologically. Chemicals in the blood which increase in stress, decrease in laughter. The immune system is boosted in laughter but suppressed in stress. Psychologically, humor gives us a feeling of control, while stress induces feelings of helplessness. We'll learn the basic features of stress, how humor counteracts them, and some fun ways to use humor to block stress.

Humor in healthcare, like humor anywhere, can be inappropriate, and so we'll learn some guidelines for using humor in different settings. We'll distinguish between humor that's acceptable between colleagues and humor that's acceptable with patients, examining cases like the newspaper story "Pair sues hospital for calling child "'Smurfette.'"


© 2018 John Morreall