Karyn Buxman

Catching Up With Karyn

Archive for November, 2008

Ha! 5 Ways Laughter Makes You Healthy

“I died laughing!” my friend told me, recounting her evening at the comedy club the night before. She described how she laughed until her sides ached and mascara ran down her face.

Wow—a pretty scary picture. And yet people don’t really die laughing—quite the opposite. Laughter is one of the healthiest tools we have.

Remember when you were a child and everything was oh-so-funny?  When the silliest of remarks would send you and your friends into gales of laughter?  When did that stop?  What does it take now to make you pause long enough in your busy life to process humor?

Do you laugh much, or have you noticed a distinct lack of laughter in you life lately?  If you are not laughing, you are failing to take advantage of one of the healthiest natural activities available.  So in between all the busy-ness with which your days are filled, take some time to laugh – and you may just find yourself healthier in the process.  Here are five ways that laughter can improve your health.

1. Provides aerobic exercise for your cardiovascular system

You can get exercise from laughing. Don’t believe it? Take your pulse for 15 seconds and multiply by 4. (This will give you your resting heart rate for one minute). Now laugh. It doesn’t matter if it’s a real laugh or a fake laugh. Try laughing for as little as 30 seconds or up to 2 minutes if you’re in good shape. Stop and take your pulse again.

Typically you’ll notice an increase in your pulse, your face will appear more flushed and your breathing will be faster and deeper than before, as well. While it’s not the same as running for a mile, it has its benefits, nonetheless. As a matter of fact, psychoneuroimmunology (mind-body) expert, Dr. William Fry, noted in one of his studies that (in adults over 50) laughing for 2 minutes provided the equivalent aerobic response as 10 minutes on a rowing machine (also known as an expensive sweater hanger for some of us).

The beauty of laughter as exercise is that it can be done without any special equipment, doesn’t require advanced skills or coordination, and can be done any time of the day in just about any setting, as often as desired.

And laughter begets laughter.  Loosening up those laughter muscles will help make laughter a more regular part of your daily life!

2. Decreases muscle tension

Have you ever doubled over laughing? Have you ever laughed so hard that you had to hang onto a desk or a chair to hold you steady? (This may be accompanied by snorting milk out your nose—but that’s another article.) There’s a physiological reason for this.

When we laugh, our skeletal muscles (the ones that help us move) go into a state of tension. Then they relax. We usually feel this in our abdomens, but it’s actually occurring in muscles all over our bodies. And at times, when taken to extremes, this effect can actually become detrimental. Some of you know where this is going… You can laugh so hard that you lose bladder control (a.k.a laughing until you leak!). But this relaxation can be beneficial to the rest of your body—especially if you’re suffering from a tight neck or tight shoulders from a long day at work.

3. Improves your oxygen levels

When you laugh, the contraction of your diaghram forces air out of your lungs. Then when you inhale you pull fresh air and oxygen down deep into your lungs. This “exercising” of your lungs can cause coughing in someone who has a cold, who has a mild respiratory ailment, who is a smoker—or someone who is so stressed that she just hasn’t had a deep breath in a really long time!

Scientists have measured oxygen levels in people before and after laughter and found that arterial blood gas levels have risen significantly. More oxygen in your lungs means more oxygen to your cells throughout your entire body—definitely a health booster.

4. Laughter Energizes!

It’s mid-afternoon and you’re starting to slump. You could grab a $4.00 cup of coffee for a shot of caffeine. Or you could try laughing for a minute or two.

When we laugh, our sympathetic nervous system responds by producing more catecholamines (a hormone), which increases our levels of alertness and memory, as well as enhancing our learning and creativity. Combine this with the benefit of more oxygen (mentioned above) and you’ve got the formula for an energized and productive day.

5. Strengthens your immune system

We’ve known for years that stress can weaken our immune systems. You put too many items on your schedule and realize your throat is getting scratchy. Then the boss adds another project and you develop bronchitis. Your spouse gets a promotion that requires a move and you develop walking pneumonia. If one more person adds one more item to your overloaded plate, you could wind up on a ventilator!

Scientists now have the technology to examine the cells in our body that comprise our immune system. It’s more complicated than we ever imagined, but we can see that when people incorporate humor and laughter into their routines, their bodies’ immune systems respond positively short term (immediately), mid-range (days to weeks) and even long term (weeks to months). This isn’t to say that laughter will cure anything, but it’s a great adjunct to any medical therapy.

Laughter isn’t the be-all end-all, but it’s easy, it’s abundant, and doesn’t cost you anything. It can improve your health, it’s fun and it feels good. With so much to gain, laugh it up!

Posted in: Healthcare

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When Funny Means Money: Sales

I know what some of you left brain logical people are thinking. Humor: It’s cute. It’s entertaining. But it’s just not practical.

Hey, you don’t have to take my word for it. You can ask the people at American Express or Jell-O. These companies understand that while people use logic to justify their buying decisions, emotion is what sells. And one of the quickest connections to emotion is humor.

Whey else would American Express spend millions of dollars to feature Jerry Seinfeld in their ads? (He now also has a $10 million deal from Microsoft!)

Why would Capitol One present David Spade in their commercials?

Why would Jell-O hire Bill Cosby as their spokesperson?

These companies understand that humor fosters connection, and that this connection, in turn, affects people’s buying decisions.gitomer When Funny Means Money: Sales

My buddy and Sales Guru, Jeffrey Gitomer, author of The Little Red Book of Selling (and dozens of other books!) says that humor “is the best tool for relationship sales I have found… Laughing is tacit approval. Make the prospect laugh.”

Funny advertisements have evolved into a genre all their own. Super Bowl commercials draw as much attention as the game due to their humor and creativity. You can now watch commercials strictly for their entertainment factor on sites like TBS and The Video Vault. Madison Ave research indicates that ads which leave potential customers smiling have lasting positive impacts.

Humor and sales can make for some serious profitability as Bayer Pharmaceuticals can attest. They are the makers of Levitra (an erectile dysfunction medicine). Sales in Hong Kong were limp, so to speak, as this was a touchy subject to address in advertisement.

The company decided to inject some humor with commercials that included balloons (use your imagination). The result, sales rose (among other things) in a three month period a whopping 244% from the year earlier period.

Staples created a cool little product: a button that when pushed announces, “That was easy.” This humorous little gadget is so quirky and fun that people are willing to pay good money to have one of their own and/or to give to someone else. Think about how marvelous this is! A company has found a way to get people to pay for and advertise their marketing device. Ha!

When it comes to sales, funny means money.

Posted in: Business

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Life in the Fast(food) Lane

A wise person once said, “Wherever you are, be there.”

Have you ever found yourself collapsing into bed at the end of an exhausting day wondering, “What did I do all day?”  Think about it for a second…  How many ‘hats’ do you wear in a 24-hour period?  For instance there’s the parent or grandparent hat, spouse hat, the hats of chauffeur, parishioner, volunteer, friend… just to name of few.  For some of you, the list may go on and on.  Think I’m exaggerating?  Perhaps your day goes more like this:

Waking up from a peaceful sleep, you begin the day sipping a piping hot cup of coffee in bed while scanning the morning newspaper.  Then you follow a tantalizing aroma to the kitchen where your significant other has prepared and serves a delicious but low-fat breakfast that you consume at your leisure.  Next, you slip on your sharpest outfit, stroll to your luxury car and breathe in the smell of fresh interior.  Noting your teenager left you with a full gas tank, you ease out of your driveway, cruise to work, and relax to your favorite music.

Seated at your immaculate desk, you dive into your work.  Then, after a productive morning, you take a well-deserved lunch ‘hour’ with a few favorite colleagues.  Returning to work, the company president pats you on the back, gives you a knowing wink, and says something about the bonus coming up in your next paycheck.

Once home, your family rushes to greet you, asking, “How was your day?”  You pick up the newspaper, settle into your overstuffed chair, kick off your shoes, and channel surf to your favorite television station, while the family prepares your favorite dinner.  After a mouth watering meal, you retreat to your spot in the den and enjoy three hours of television while the family cleans up the kitchen, straightens the house, completes homework, and puts laundry away. You complete your busy day with a leisurely hot bath, surrounded by scented candles while you sip a glass of wine in complete silence.  Feeling refreshed and energized, you slip into the bedroom for an hour of passion and romance, then after a restful night’s sleep, you leap from bed and enthusiastically greet another day.

Yeah, right… As for me, the average American*, reality looks more like this:

I toss and turn throughout the night, struggling to organize tomorrow’s schedule. After fumbling with the snooze alarm twice (the average American spends 24 years sleeping), I shuffle to the bathroom mirror, bleary eyed and grateful that America does not see me like this.  I then stumble to the kitchen where I microwave the remains of yesterday’s coffee (the average American spends $35 on sleeping pills and $3,342 on coffee). Kids scramble around sticking papers in my face that need to be signed… what’s this note from the teacher thanking me for packaging candy this afternoon?  The chaos continues as the family trips over one another in and out of the bathroom (the average American spends 7 years in the bathroom) and into the kitchen where they grab granola bars and cold cereal.  Snippets of conversation go something like this:
“Do I have any clean underwear?”
“No.  Just turn yours inside out.  It’ll last another day.”

“Can you iron this shirt for me?”
“No, we retired the iron years ago.  Throw it in the dryer on fluff.  If that doesn’t work, you’ll have to throw it in the wash and start over.”

“My t-shirt’s inside out.”
“That’s the way I found it in the laundry basket.  You have 2 choices: Start turning your clothes inside out before passing them on to me; or wear them inside out– then the next time you pull them off, they’ll be right side out again!”

After kissing everyone and scooting them out the door, I throw on an outfit and scramble for 2 matching shoes (the average American spends 1 year and 6 months getting dressed).  I look in the mirror, then the clock, and decide to settle for a bad hair day.  I race to the car and breathe in the essence of cold fries, spilled milk shakes, and an obscure dirty sock.  A quick check of the gas gauge confirms my fears.  Maybe if I coast down hill, I can make it to the nearest gas station.  Realizing breakfast is a figment of my imagination, I fly through the fast food lane, juggle a cup of scalding hot coffee between my knees (the average American drinks 56,044 cups of coffee), and stop at the first intersection where I finally apply my lipstick (the average American spends 4 years traveling in the car; of that time 6 months is waiting for the light to turn green). Thank God for traffic lights or I’d never finish putting on my makeup!

At my desk, I struggle to find where yesterday’s paperwork ends and today’s begins. The computer beeps constantly with reminders of tasks unfinished and projects yet to do.  I stay at my desk through lunch, savoring my healthy meal of stale leftover Halloween candy (the average American eats 1,483 lbs of candy, including 801 pounds of chocolate, 240 Hershey kisses and 11,113 M&Ms) and wash it down with a soda that has no calories, no caffeine, no sodium, and no taste.  Dashing to the restroom, I spy a memo from the boss tacked to the bulletin board, displaying a nebulous message about possible restructuring and right-sizing.  Great…

At the end of the workday, it’s time for the ‘second shift’ (i.e., duties performed after work, women usually putting in approximately 31 hours per week, about twice as many as their male counterparts**).  With my mom/chauffeur hat in place I begin the after-school shuffle: football/baseball/weight lifting practice, karate lessons, and religion classes, etc. (the average American makes 42, 481 automobile trips).  Finally back home, I attempt to serve a meal that doesn’t come in a bag or a box (the average American eats out at restaurants 14,411 times including 1,811 trips to McDonald’s).   While nibbling on an Oreo (the average American eats 35,138 cookies; of those, 10,532 are sandwich style), I snag various leftovers from the refrigerator, whisk them together, dump the contents into a greased pan and crumble onion rings over the top.  Voila! A casserole that defies all logic (move over, Julia Child).

I prepare to sit down to eat with the family (the average American spends 17,307 hours eating meals at home) only to find everyone else wolfed down their meal and they’re already headed for homework and channel surfing (the average American, while watching TV, changes the channel 325,393 times).  Three hours later, after finishing dishes (the average American spends 16,961 hours preparing meals and cleaning up), laundry, and helping with homework, I discover it’s already time for bed.  There’s a vain attempt for a quick hot bath when I hear a quiet tapping on the door.  “Mom, I forgot, I’m supposed to bring 27 cupcakes in the morning to school ‘cause I’m the student of the week this week… okay?”

Easing out of the tub, I throw on my favorite flannel pajamas (the average American man has 166,148 sexual fantasies; the average American woman has 83,074 sexual fantasies), kiss everyone goodnight, and head back to the kitchen.

What did I do today? In its proper perspective, it was the best day yet, with many magic moments. However, with so many places to go, people to meet, and tasks to coordinate, it’s easy to lose touch with the miracle of now, to get sucked into life’s fast lane and miss the scenery along the way.  I don’t know how many hours the average American spends replaying mistakes from the past (I should’ve said… If only…), or how many hours the average American wastes worrying about what might go wrong tomorrow… or the next day.  But I do know that if I take a mindful step outside the fast lane and take a moment to be still, I become aware of all the gifts that surround me.  Life is an amazing journey. Live each day amazed and amused and take time to enjoy the trip.

Sources: * In An Average Lifetime, by Tom Heymann; ** ABC’s PrimeTime

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Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar

Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar

They met as freshmen at Harvard 51 years ago! Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein have been longtime friends and colleagues. Not too long ago, they checked into a hotel with a pile of joke books and a pile of philosophy books and the result: Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar… Understanding Philosophy through Jokes. (Well, actually the original title was An Existentialist and A Horse Walk into a Bar—no joke, but I digress…)

Forty publishers rejected their book. Fortunately, the forty-first, Abrams Image, was savvy enough to spot a winner. A New York Times Best seller, as a matter of fact.

For those of you, like me, who managed to escape taking Philosophy in college (nurses aren’t encouraged to philosophize, especially while performing CPR), you would be pleasantly surprised at how the great insights of philosophers such as Kant, Aristotle, Descartes, Nietzsche, and Marx (Karl and Groucho) can be explained in such an understandable and hysterical way. The wit and charm of this book make it a must have for your library (even if your library is in your bathroom).

But as great as the book is, it cannot compare to seeing these two guys live and in person. I had the pleasure of laughing with them as they did a reading and signing at Warwick’s in San Diego. Fortunately for me, these guys are not aspiring to be full time speakers and entertainers (whew!). Fortunately for you, they are aspiring authors and have one sequel completed (Aristotle and an Aardvark Go to Washington… Understanding Political Doublespeak through Philosophy and Jokes) and another on the way.

Check out their humor and their website where you can buy their book and tell them I send laughs from San Diego!

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