Karyn Buxman

Catching Up With Karyn

Archive for September, 2012

What’s So Funny About Invisible Disabilities?

On Thursday, September 27, I’ll be proudly participating in the Invisible Disabilities Association and Allsup’s Live Chat with the Experts. Join us to learn how humor can make life with a chronic illness or invisible disability a little easier and a whole lot more fun.

Humor and Healing: What The Science Tells Us

Psychoneuroimmunologists are doing amazing research on the ways our bodies and minds interact with each other, and the role our emotional state has on the way we feel.  This is critical information to have if you’re dealing with a condition that causes chronic pain and elevates your stress levels. Both chronic pain and high stress levels can contribute in a negative way to high blood pressure, elevated blood glucose levels, and other conditions that can complicate an already challenging health situation.

Humor is an all-natural, safe, proven, and effective way to lower stress levels and reduce the impact of chronic pain upon the body. During the chat, we’ll be talking about the biomechanics of how that works, as well as sharing some practical, easy ways you can start enjoying the healing benefits of humor.

It’s More Important To SEE Funny Than To BE Funny

In my role as a humor researcher, nurse, and professional speaker, I can tell you that many people who live with illness or disability on an every day basis try to laugh as often as possible. The healing power of humor may only just now be being recognized by the medical field, but folk wisdom  has long held that a laugh a day keeps the doctor away.

That doesn’t mean you need to start training to be a stand-up comic! The health benefits of humor are yours to enjoy if you’re initiating the humor – or just appreciating it! Building the Humor Habit means taking steps to create an environment where you’re  more likely to encounter funny things on a regular basis. Something as simple as signing up for a Joke of the Day e-mail or joining a funny Facebook group can make it easy to enjoy laughter on even difficult, low-energy days.

Tune in to learn more. Sharing the stories and experiences of life with chronic illness and invisible disabilities helps build connections between individuals and counter the feelings of isolation that can be very overwhelming.  You can register for the event here.

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The Neurohumor Notebook

In terms of scientific discovery, we’re living in one of the most exciting times ever. Researchers are doing more and more each day to uncover the relationship between the human experience and our physical well-being.

There are complex biochemical responses – things changing within our bodies, most particularly our brains – when we’re exposed to external stimuli that triggers strong emotional reactions. In other words, when we read a thrilling novel or look at a beautiful painting, something happens inside our brain.  It turns out that that something has a significant impact on how healthy we are.

Ready for some link soup?

This CNN article, What the Brain Draws From: Art and Neuro-Science, takes a long look at how the brain responds to different types of art, and why we may be hard-wired to prefer some patterns to others. Smiling human faces are the most popular type of image in the world – almost everyone loves them. I know I do!

This is Your Brain on Jane Austen looks at the types of brain activity generated when people were reading the world’s greatest novelist for pleasure, and then intently, as if studying for an exam. Stanford researchers are suggesting the intent reading does more to stimulate the brain, and can perhaps even promote cognitive health.

The topic of brain fitness and flexibility is becoming increasingly interesting as we, as a culture, look forward to increasing numbers of people facing Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia. As a proponent of humor and healing, I have to say knowing there are steps we can take to keep ourselves healthy is good news.  Knowing those steps are fun and enjoyable? That’s even better.

Today’s Joke:

A vampire bat came flapping in from the night covered in fresh blood and parked himself on the roof of the cave to get some sleep.

Pretty soon all the other bats smelled the blood and began hassling him about where he got it.

He told them to go away and let him get some sleep but they persisted until finally he gave in.

“OK, follow me” he said and flew out of the cave with hundreds of bats behind him.

Down through the valley they went, across a river and into a forest full of trees.

Finally he slowed down and all the other bats excitedly milled around him.

“Now, do you see that tree over there?” he asked.

“Yes, Yes, Yes!” the bats all screamed in a frenzy.

“Good” said the bat, “Because I sure didn’t!”


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Humor & Healing: Time & Taboos

“Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh.” George Bernard Shaw

You know what day it is today.  You know it, despite the fact that it’s been 11 years.  You know it, despite the fact that the New York Times and the New York Post aren’t treating the anniversary as a front page story this year.  You know what day it is today.

Is it a day to laugh?

One of the questions that comes up often in discussions about therapeutic humor – leveraging the healing power of laughter to help us cope better and more effectively with trauma and stress – is if there are any topics that are off-limits, where laughter is taboo.  It’s a question that comes up especially at this time of year, when people are confronted, once again, with the memories of a uniquely painful event.

Humor & Healing: What’s The Relationship

Before we talk about whether or not it’s appropriate to laugh about the events of a particular day, it helps to understand why people want to. The urge to laugh about horrific events is deeply ingrained human behavior. Researcher Bill Ellis discovered people joking about 9/11 within a day of the event – a time at which much of the world wasn’t even certain what had happened yet. Most of the humor was targeting those who attacked us.

This use of humor is, among other things, a demonstration of people’s determination to regain and exert a sense of personal control and autonomy in a world where suddenly everything had changed. In an environment where people feel uncertain and uneasy, you will see a significant portion of them use humor to make themselves feel better.

That use of humor can, however, make other people feel worse about the situation. Comedian Gilbert Gottfried got hostile responses multiple times throughout his career when he told jokes about traumatic events, including 9/11 and the Indonesian Tsunami. It was, his critics said, too soon.

Time & Taboos: Humor Research That’s Changing Our Understanding

Researchers from the Humor Research Labs at the University of Colorado at Boulder are investigating the relationship between time and humor, particularly as it relates to traumatic events. What they’ve found is perhaps not entirely surprising: It takes more time to laugh at severe events than minor events. Joking about stubbing your toe is a lot easier and more intuitive than laughing about the fact your house burned to the ground.

The researchers were working with individuals, examining traumatic events in their personal lives. However, not all tragedies play out on a solitary stage.  Some events impact many people – entire nations, if not the entire world – all at once. Not all of those people have the same emotional distance from the event. For some people, who lost loved ones that day, it may never be possible to enjoy any humor related to 9/11. They are too close; the trauma was too severe. Other people, at a greater distance physically and emotionally, may find that humor makes it easier to process some of their emotions about the day.

Should you laugh on a day now stained with the memories of tragedy? The private use of humor, for your own entertainment and stress-relief, is most certainly appropriate.  Should you share that humor with others? That decision needs to be made on a case-by-case basis. Be mindful of your audience’s relationship with the events of 9/11. If humor is going to hurt, it’s really not funny. If humor is going to help, embrace it.

I’d like to end with these words from Dr. Deepak Choprah, speaking about this day last year. “For me and my family personally, September 11 was a reminder that life is fleeting, impermanent, and uncertain. Therefore, we must make use of every moment and nurture it with affection, tenderness, beauty, creativity, and laughter.”

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What’s So Funny About Blood Sugar Control?


For a long time, we’ve heard that too much sugar can make you larger. But did you know that too much sugar can also make you smaller? Researchers from the Australia National University have found that people who consistently experience high blood sugar levels (although not necessarily high enough to trigger concerns of diabetes or even pre-diabetes) are more likely to experience shrinkage of the hippocampus and amygdala.The health and size of these two brain structures has significant bearing on the development of many cognitive concerns, including Alzheimer’s and dementia.

In other words, blood sugar control’s not just for diabetics anymore! Keeping your blood sugars in the ideal range (this varies, of course, with individual circumstances, but numbers between 80-100 are good to see!) is great news for anyone who wants to protect their mental health and intellectual agility.

There are many ways to control your blood sugar. Watching your diet and exercising regularly can do great things for your blood sugar control.  It’s also a good idea to do lots of laughing. Humor benefits our physical and emotional health. Laughter lifts the mood and helps restore emotional resiliency. It can also play a significant role in blood sugar control.

Check out this story from the Huffington Post highlighting the healing power of humor as an effective way to achieve better blood sugar control. Researchers have found that laughing heartily after a meal can help control blood sugar spikes. That means if you’re out for dinner and a show with your sweetie, choose a comedy – you’ll have a great time laughing while managing your blood sugar!

Staying in? Watch a funny movie at home.  Some of our favorites:

Clue: The Movie

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Bride of the Monster

A Christmas Story

We can’t always eat a perfectly healthy diet. There are days when it’s really hard – almost impossible – to get a workout in.  Laughter, on the other hand, is always available, 1005 portable, and totally free.  Make a point of enjoying humor every day. It’s one of the best things you can do to control your blood sugar levels – good for your health now and in the years to come!

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