Karyn Buxman

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If Seal Is Broken… (Might as Well Laugh)

Everywhere I look, there is some reminder of the election. (There’s a job I won’t be signing up for!) But then it struck me-sometimes, being a nurse is like being President.

No.  Air Force One won’t be stopping by this morning to bring you into work. The odds are that you don’t have a detachment of Secret Service personnel guarding you around the clock. There isn’t a brass band that plays “Hail to the Chief” every time you walk in the room (but wouldn’t that be cool?).

However, there are some similarities. For one, as a nurse, you are almost guaranteed to share this experience with the President: something will go wrong when you least expect it.

The event was Fortune’s Most Powerful Women summit and President Obama began his address. And then-THUD! The Presidential Seal on the front of the lectern fell off-and hit the floor!

“Oh, goodness,” he said. “That’s all right.” There, with the eyes of the world upon him, President Obama smiled and said, “All of you know who I am.”

The audience – both those people who were in the room and those who caught the incident any of the hundreds of times it aired on the news – laughed. The moment passed, and the President moved on.

I have to say, on some small scale, I know how he feels.  Nurses always have an audience watching their every move-and sometimes things go wrong.

Have you ever been hurrying through your day-moving as fast as you can because apparently hourly rounds means seeing the patient once an hour, not taking an hour every time you make rounds! (Who knew?)-only to step in what is known as a Spill-of-Unspecified-Origin and go slip-sliding across the room?

I know I have. (More than once, actually.)

President Obama demonstrated the perfect technique to use in these situations: acknowledge what happened, address it with humor, and move on.

Which is why the best thing to do in these situations, after you’ve made sure nothing was injured in the incident besides your dignity, is to stand up and announce, “It’s tough, training for the World Acrobatics Competition. I have to work in all the practice I can get!”

Your patient will surely appreciate your commitment to the tumbling arts, but that’s not the only benefit of using humor in potentially embarrassing situations.

First, the use of humor can disperse the tension and discomfort that arise when something goes wrong. Patients know they don’t have to be worried about what happened: by joking, you’re assuring them that the situation is not serious. Considering the fact that patients are carrying at least some tension and stress with them just by the very nature of being in the hospital, that’s a relief.

Second, like the President, a nurse is a leader. And while the fate of our country does not lie on our shoulders, the fate of our patients and their families is something we do carry with us, often long after our shift is over. Our patients look to us for many things: information about what’s going to happen next, insight about what their experience is going to be like, and guidance about the best way to deal with what’s coming.

Sometimes the nature of our work necessitates emotional distance between us and our patients. But when we laugh, and we make it safe and appropriate for our patients to laugh too, both parties are reminded of their larger roles: members of the human race, in a world seemingly determined to throw petty obstacles in our way. What can we do but laugh?

Well, laugh-and make sure our seals are firmly affixed to the lectern at all times!

©2016 Karyn Buxman.  All rights reserved.  Reprint rights  granted so long as all links are made live.

Karyn Buxman, neurohumorist, is the author of the book Lead with Levity: Strategic Humor for Leaders and creator of an 18 (or 30) day online program to help leaders authentically, consistently and strategically use humor to enhance communication, build resilience and boost engagement. Click here to listen to 3 sample lessons.

She can also be reached via:

Twitter: @KarynBuxman
Facebook: FB.com/KarynBuxmanSpeaks
LinkedIn: Linkedin.com/in/KarynBuxman
Candy-grams: 1465 C St. #3318 SD, CA 92101
Smoke signals: avoid when prohibited by fire season!

Posted in: Healthcare, Humor

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Humor May Be Hazardous To Your Illness

Many of you may be too young to recall the story of Norman Cousins. The 60-second version: When diagnosed with a degenerative disease (ankylosing spondylitis) he checked himself into a hotel across the street from his hospital, and with the support of his doctor and his friend, Allen Funt (Host of Candid Camera-are you too young to remember that, too???), he basically laughed himself into remission. He wrote a book about his experience, Anatomy of an Illness, and a new era-psychoneuroimmunology began.

Scientists began to study the healing power of humor and validate that there really is truth to the saying, “Laughter’s the best medicine.” Benefits to your cardiovascular system, your respiratory system, your musculoskeletal system, your immune system, your endocrine system, your nervous system, your digestive system-the evidence grows leaps and bounds daily! But here’s my suggestion: Don’t wait for further proof. Do a little self-experimentation. Incorporate humor into your daily routine. Make humor a habit and enjoy a healthier you!

Create a humor habit

Norman Cousins created a humor habit by watching reels and reels of Candid Camera (that was before VCRs and TiVo). Below are a few techniques to help create your humor habit:

Jokes and Anecdotes

I think everyone ought to learn at least one joke. Something short, easy to remember, and non-offensive. But better than jokes are stories. What’s most personal is most universal. Those who know and love me will understand why I so enjoyed the story sent to me by my angel, Jim Brown. I hope you enjoy it half as much as I did!

Several days ago as I left a meeting at a hotel, I desperately gave myself a personal TSA pat down. I was looking for my car keys. They weren’t in my pockets. A quick search in the meeting room revealed nothing. Suddenly I realized I must have left them in the car. Frantically, I headed for the parking lot.

My wife had scolded me many times for leaving the keys in the ignition. My theory is that the ignition is the best place not to lose them. Her theory is that the car will be stolen. As I burst through the door, I came to a terrifying conclusion. Her theory was right! The parking lot was empty. I immediately called the police. I gave them my location, and confessed that I’d left my keys in the car and that it’d been stolen.

Then I made the most difficult call of all. “Sweetheart,” I stammered. (I always call her sweetheart, especially in times like these.) “I left my keys in the car and it’s been stolen.” There was a period of silence. I thought the call had been dropped, but then I heard her voice. “Are you kiddin’ me?!” she barked, “I dropped you off at the hotel!!!”

Now it was my time to be silent. Embarrassed, I said, “Well, please come and get me.”

She retorted, “I will… as soon as I convince this cop I didn’t steal your car!”

Manipulate your environment

Increase your likelihood of experiencing humor by keeping things that amuse you within arm’s reach. Books, audio clips, games or pictures-what brings you a smile, or better yet a chuckle?

Create Your Humor Habit:

Jigsaw Puzzles-for your computer!

Putting together a puzzle can be relaxing, fun, and good for your brain! But perhaps you’re a bit short on time or table space. Checkout Mindjolt.com for puzzles and lots of fun games. Dr. O. Carl Simonton of the Simonton Cancer Institute determined that play is crucial to our well-being, and that we’d all be healthier if we slated 15-30 minutes of play into our day. Schedule some time for puzzles in your repertoire of recreation!

Karyn Buxman, neurohumorist, is the author of the book Lead with Levity: Strategic Humor for Leaders and creator of an 18 (or 30) day online program to help leaders authentically, consistently and strategically use humor to enhance communication, build resilience and boost engagement. Click here to listen to 3 sample lessons.

She can also be reached via:

Twitter: @KarynBuxman
Facebook: FB.com/KarynBuxmanSpeaks
LinkedIn: Linkedin.com/in/KarynBuxman
Candy-grams: 1465 C St. #3318 SD, CA 92101
Smoke signals: avoid when prohibited by fire season!

Posted in: Healthcare, Humor

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Nurses Week 2014: Moving Forward with Joy

You got a minute? Let’s talk nursing. And I want to talk about nursing as it exists right now – not the almost-magical image of the profession you may have had before you started nursing school; certainly not the world of nursing that the public only knows from Scrubs – don’t you wish it was that fun? – but the actual day-to-day conditions we’re functioning in as we try to help people get and stay healthy.

It’s not easy out there. The hours are long. There are fewer and fewer of us being asked to do more and more with less and less. Sometimes our patients don’t appreciate us. Sometimes our colleagues don’t appreciate us. And when we come home with our scrubs covered in stains of dubious origin and shop-talk stories that would make a dockworker lose his lunch, sometimes our own families don’t appreciate us.

What keeps us hanging in there?

Some people say that answering that question is best accomplished with some serious therapy, but I don’t think that’s the case. I believe that nurses stay in nursing because they know we’re the front line of healthcare. We’re the people who are in the best position, with the best skills and most amazing commitment, to make a real difference in the lives of our patients. And sure, sometimes they don’t appreciate it – but sometimes they really, really do.

Whether it’s saving a life or getting an excruciating splinter out of an uncomfortable location, healthcare couldn’t happen without you!

Knowing this is great – but it’s not enough. We need a little help along the way to stay motivated. It’s hard to maintain our emotional resiliency. I’ve even heard of  nurses abandoning the profession for trades that offer less stress and more glamor: Things like teaching teenagers or becoming an air traffic controller!

But there is an answer designed to keep good nurses in the field: Laughter. The strategic use of humor means more than cracking a few jokes. It’s a systematic way to approach every single aspect of your career. Learning how to identify the lighter side and use humor to bolster up your emotional reserves will make you happier. It will make you healthier. Most important of all, it will make you a better nurse.

Nurses’ Week 2014: The Northeast Tour

This year, I’m planning a special Nurses’ Week tour through the Northeast to teach nurses smart, simple humor strategies they can use to be more effective, happier, healthier nurses. If you’d like to have me appear at your facility, pass this information along to your nurse manager or whoever’s in charge of planning your celebrations. I can’t wait to see – and laugh with!  – you!

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What’s So Funny About Poop? Using Humor in Health Education

It’s no secret: I believe in the power of play.  When we set aside our serious resolve and a little bit of dignity in order to have a good time, we free our minds to absorb information in a fresh and effective way.  Play awakens the imagination and the intellect. “Humanity has advanced,” Tom Robbins said, “when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature.”

That sense of play is on full display at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. Check out this NY Times Article, “Where Children Discover Their Inner Child.” Eat,Sleep,Play: Building Health Every Day is an interactive exhibit that harnesses the power of play to teach children about their bodies, and what they can do to stay healthy.  The exhibit includes the Royal Flush, which uses an over-sized toilet and Mary Poppins style voice to talk about bodily functions.  As you can imagine, it’s a big hit.  Kids find poop inherently humorous. (A trait they share with more than a few health care professionals!)

Using play as a teaching tool is great for kids.  It’s also an effective strategy to connect with adults. We live incredibly busy, scheduled lives.  Our brains are working all of the time.  We wake ourselves up in the middle of the night, thinking of the six million things that need to be accomplished the next day. (Or is that just me?)

Play interrupts.  When we are playing, everything else – work, chores, errands – simply falls of the radar.  (Think back to how hard it was to ‘remember’ to do your homework in fourth grade – especially during kickball season!) Play frees our mind to be receptive and open to new information.  At the same time, play is fun.  Learning information while you’re having fun creates a positive association in the mind.  It is easier to remember things we learn while we’re having fun.

What are some of the best ways you’ve seen the power of play used in education?

Extra Reading from JNJ: Check out Shirley Trout on Humor in the Classroom!

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What’s So Funny About Healthcare?

It might be hard to find an answer to that question.  The healthcare community is facing a plethora of perplexing problems.  There’s a continual pressure to do more with less.  All we have to do is see more patients, cure more conditions, and increase customer satisfaction with fewer staff, in less time, with fewer resources every day.

It doesn’t seem like there’s a lot to laugh about.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Healthcare needs humor.  Humor has incredible benefits for our patients, our health care providers, and for the health care organizations and systems.

The strategic use of humor can transform the health care experience for everyone. Here’s how humor can help:

  • Improve the patient experience, opening the doors to effective communication and alleviating anxiety
  • Create a positive work place environment. Combat the problem of nursing hostility and staff tension
  • Provide staff with an effective, low cost way to reduce stress and avoid burnout
  • Serve as a valuable organizational differentiator: why should patients choose you for their care?
  • Enhance customer service experience, resulting in higher Press-Gainey scores

And there’s more!

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Understanding Why Patients Use Humor When They Talk To Nurses

I work in a neurologist’s office. We try to get really complete histories from every new patient but the patient I was working with, Mr. K, hadn’t checked anything on his intake paperwork. No history of heart disease, no high blood pressure, no cancer scares – not a thing. That’s so rare among our patients (Average Age 78!) that I had to ask him about it.

“Medical history?” He shrugged. “Can’t say there’s much. Of course, I’ve had amnesia as long as I can remember.”

This little grin pushed up the corners of Mr. K’s mouth, and his eyes suddenly started twinkling. I burst out laughing, and so did he. It turns out he did have a little bit of medical history, and he shared that with me after our laugh.

I was dropping off the file when one of the other nurses stopped me. “What was going on in there?”

I shared Mr. K’s joke. “I hate it when they try to be funny,” she said, rolling her eyes. “But they always feel like they have to.”

While I didn’t share my colleagues’ disdain for a quick quip, I did have to agree that there are some patients who seem to constantly be cracking jokes, making puns, or even doing impressions – one of my favorite patients does a Betty White you wouldn’t believe! – whatever it takes to make the nurse laugh. The question is: Why? Why do patients try to make the nurses laugh?

Reasons Patients Try To Make Nurses Laugh

Humor is a powerful social tool. We draw on the ability to laugh, and to make others laugh, in a number of situations. This is especially true when we’re in a place where we’re not exactly sure of ourselves. It’s important to remember that while we, as nurses, are relatively comfortable and at ease in the medical setting, that’s not necessarily true for our patients. The use of humor by patients allows them to:

Maintain Control

Being a patient means surrendering a lot of personal autonomy, at least temporarily. You’re told where to sit, what to wear, and to gracefully comply with being stuck, poked, and prodded. There’s an uneven power dynamic at play, even in the most aware therapeutic environments. This can make patients uncomfortable. Using humor is a way to exert some personal control in a situation where the patient feels relatively powerless. When Mr. K joked with me, he briefly stopped and changed the rhythm of what had been a fairly routine intake. For that moment, he was in charge.

Alleviate Anxiety

Humor has the power to comfort. Laughter can distract us from the fear we’re feeling. Patients can experience anxiety at any number of points through their time with us, and while we might more intuitively understand that anxiety at certain times – shortly before surgery, for example – the anxiety is equally as powerful w hen it’s triggered by something we perceive as unremarkable. No one really enjoys feeling anxious. Patients use humor in an effort to alleviate those feelings – and as the nurse, we’re the first, best, and often only audience available.

Establish A Bond

One of the first things we learn in this world is that life is easier for us if the people who surround us, especially those people who we’re dependent on them to any degree, like us. We tend to like the people who make us laugh – and our patients know this. Using humor creates a route for a patient to establish a bond with their nurse, creating alliances through the power of laughter.

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My Pain is Not Like Your Pain!

How many times, for example, have you had a patient report Level 14 Pain – when you can get them to take a break from the animated conversation they’re having on one phone and text-fest they’re having on another? That patient is almost inevitably followed by a seriously injured person who protests that they’re “Just fine – can I go home now?” Talking them into having at least a few stitches to keep their innards in the usual places is a job in and of itself.

Humor To Help Keep Perspective

Tragedy is when I cut my finger.  Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.

Mel Brooks My Pain is Not Like Your Pain! made a critical point with this quote. It’s far easier to find humor in the things that happen to other people than it is to laugh at our own circumstances. Humor experts caution us to keep that in mind, both when we want to laugh at someone else’s situation and when people laugh at ours. Anyone of us could slip in a Pool of Unspecified Origin while en route to the call light – hats off to the nurse who can get up laughing!

Sometimes the humor in a situation is immediately apparent to everyone around us, but we, ourselves, are having a hard time finding the funny. Other emotions – embarrassment, irritation, chargrin – are taking up all of our mental energy.  Given time, however, when those emotions fade away and you have a fresh perspective, things can be funny in retrospect.

It can take a while to get to that perspective.  There was one spectacular mishap in the mid 80′s that I’m still trying to find the funny on…but that’s a story for another time.

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How Humor Helps: Pediatric Patients

“You either love working peds or you don’t work peds.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this nursing ‘wisdom.’ There’s more than a grain of truth to it: generally nurses who specialize in pediatrics tend to love their work passionately.

However, enjoying what you do doesn’t mean that you don’t have challenges on the job – and if you’ve never attempted to make a bed with one hand, while holding a baby in the other and figuring out dosages by weight in your mind, you don’t know challenging! (And if you can master that, try finding scrubs that don’t show formula stains!)

Luckily, humor can help ease some of the challenges of pediatric nursing. Here are three ways humor helps make life with pediatric patients easier:

Humor Help Make The Medical Environment Less Frightening For Our Patients

“Can you make my nose stop running?” Tyler looked up, wide eyed. “Because I’m tired of boogers.” The poor kid was sixty-nine hours into a twenty-four hour bug that had been going around town, and looked it. Being stuck in an ER that was busier than usual – and that’s pretty busy in this part of the city – hadn’t made things any better for the little guy.

“Sure! All you’ve got to do is stick out your foot and trip it!” I demonstrated the technique with a little of my own slapstick style. Tyler burst out laughing. “No problem!”

The hospital isn’t a lot of fun for anyone. Humor is one of the quickest and easiest ways to introduce a note of normalcy into unfamiliar surroundings. A chance to laugh is a welcome respite from tests, waiting rooms, and the sense that something’s wrong. A little humor goes a long way: it’s important to keep things from getting too silly, unless you wind up with a patient who’s not going to listen no matter what you say. Experience levels – both you and your patient’s – can go a long way in helping you find the right balance between silly and serious.

Humor Helps Put Parents At Ease

“You can just put that needle down!” Six year old MattieAnne shook her finger at me with all the authority only a first grader can manage. She thrust a paper in my face. “I already drawed my blood!” There on the paper was a carefully crayoned image of a syringe, filled with red ‘blood’. “So get out of here!”

MattieAnne’s mother looked at me, and I looked at her. We burst out laughing, just in time to cover up the quick flash of tears we were both struggling with. The tension in the room melted away: all of a sudden Mom and I were on the same side. “I wish it worked that way, honey,” Mom said, giving her daughter a squeeze. “I really, really do.” It was the quickest stick I’ve ever managed, thankfully.

Parents are in a complex emotional place when we see them. Depending on the circumstance – which can range from the most routine well child visit to the hushed tension of the intensive care unit – we’re faced with people who feel fear, judged, intimidated, angry, or some combination thereof. The medical setting can cause anxiety in and of itself, and then you have to factor in the other pressures – financial, logistic, and familial – that those parents are under. It’s no wonder that many parents are on edge, sometimes to the point where we see aggressive and combative behavior from the very people we’re there to help. Humor can help nurse and parent find a place where they’re more alike than not. Establishing a common point of connection reduces parent anxiety and makes them more comfortable about what’s happening with their child. Anytime the parent feels calmer and more at ease, there’s a benefit to the child, who has less stress in the healing environment.

Humor Helps Put Us At Ease

“Did I make it eight seconds?” Ronnie was the biggest nurse that worked in our pediatric practice and even she couldn’t compete with Mitchell, a very determined two year old who was needed immunizations. Mitchell wasn’t having any of it and put on a performance worthy of any bucking bronco. We wound up winning that rodeo – but it took Ronnie’s good humor and ability to hang in there that made it happen.

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been working in pediatrics, there are going to be kids that you just can’t connect with. There may be back story involved: children who have had traumatic medical histories, for example, aren’t going to welcome the sight of anyone in scrubs with open arms. You get wary watchfulness at best, outright screaming from the moment the door opens and full-body flailing at worst. Humor helps us remember that even though we may doing our best as nurses, there are things that are beyond our capacity to change. We laugh and move on…at least until the next rodeo!

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On Tour at Cancer Treatment Centers of America

On Tour at Cancer Treatment Centers of America

I absolutely love being self-employed. I’ve been my own boss for almost twenty years now. But if I were ever going to punch a clock for someone else ever again, I think I found where I would want to work: Cancer Treatment Centers of America. I had the opportunity to visit their facility outside of Chicago last week—they knocked my socks off!

When you arrive at CTCA you are greeted by a couple of valet attendants, who for no fee (won’t even accept a tip) park your car for you and escort you inside. When you enter, immediately you begin to feel the warm energy emanating from this place. On the wall to your left, a brass tree with leaves baring the names of patients who have celebrated at least 5 years of life since arriving. You then pass a large aquarium with beautiful fish on your left and a beautiful atrium with plants and soothing music to your right. A friendly person at the reception desk greets you and quickly determines how to best suit your needs.

The hospital looks more like a hotel (The Ritz, not the Super8), with heavy wooden doors and molding on all the wings, attractive carpeting beneath your feet and beautiful artwork and heartwarming pictures in all the hallways. Rarely will you hear an overhead page (“It disturbs the sleep of our patients,” I was told.)

CTCA boasts the finest state of the art equipment, but what really makes them special isn’t the high tech—it’s the high touch. The founder, Richard Stevenson, created CTCA based upon what he calls the Mother Standard® of care. In the 1980s his beloved mother developed bladder cancer and he searched across the country for someplace that would give her the care he felt she deserved. Finding none, he determined that he would create a place, himself. Each person would be treated with the same unconditional support, warmth and respect that one would want for their own loved one, because everyone is someone’s mother, father, sister, brother, daughter or son.

Katherine Puckett, PhD and Director of Mind Body Medicine at CTCA is one of the most down-to-earth folks I’ve ever met. She told me of a time when she was seeing a patient in her office. Katherine apologized for the piles of reports and files that lay on her desk. The patient smiled and said that he found her office comforting, then explained, “It’s evident that you place people before paperwork.” That’s the mindset in this place—how comforting!

CTCA offers a comprehensive and integrative approach to fighting cancer. Traditional tools for fighting cancer such as surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and immunotherapy are combined with complementary therapies including nutritional support, physical therapy, pain management, naturopathic medicine, spiritual support and mind-body medicine. This enables patients to better tolerate the treatments which can kill the cancer, but can also be devastating to their physical and mental health.

On Tour at Cancer Treatment Centers of AmericaOne of the approaches used in the Mind-Body Department is humor and laughter. Dr. Puckett and several other staff members took training several years ago to become Certified Laughter Leaders (CLLs). Since then, numerous other staff have been trained and now laughter therapy, or Laughter Clubs are offered regularly for patients and their families. Participants come away feeling healthier, happier and more energized.

Kudos to the folks at CTCA. They get it. The patient is the focus of all that is said and done. Like I said, I’m not really looking for a job, but if I were, I hope I could make the cut. It would be a real privilege to work among such great people.

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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!

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