71st Ask Josh – Medicinal Chuckles

In Uncategorized on December 2, 2008 at 9:14 am

by The Captain


In lieu of Ali who is in a hospital bed slightly unable to type, I pose this question:


If you're like, sick or hurt, does humor actually make you feel better?




Dear Ali,


This is a topic I take very seriously. When trying to choose a career people told me that I was supposed to do something that I loved.  I said that I wanted to make people laugh. They laughed when I said that.  While I appreciate their accomplishing my goal at the time, I see now that they were mocking me.  And they will pay dearly for it as soon as I find them.


Jack Handey said, “Dad always thought laughter was the best medicine, which I guess is why several of us died of tuberculosis.”


I truly believe that laughter can fix a lot of problems.  I have said that all our problems can be solved either by laughter, hard work, or repentance. Anyone who is unable to do any of those three will find they have problems they cannot get rid of. So what role does laughter play?


There is actually a branch of physiology that deals with the effects of laughter on the human body.  It is called gelotology.


According to Wikipedia, branches of gelotological therapy include humor therapy, clown therapy, laughter therapy, and laughter meditation.


A press release from the United Maryland Medical Center states, “Laughter appears to cause the tissue that forms the inner lining of blood vessels, the endothelium, to dilate or expand in order to increase blood flow.” [qtd. in Proteau, 71]


In addition to the increased blood flow, laughter can aid in strengthened stomach and facial muscles, improved lung capacity, and increased production of anti-bodies that help strengthen the immune system.” [Ibid.]


Dr. Madan Kataria has taken laughter therapy to an international level.  Dr. Kataria started experimenting with the therapeutic qualities of laughter in a park.  He doesn’t use jokes, because someone almost always gets offended. Instead, his patients laugh over nothing and it just sort of snowballs into more and more laughter. His groups are known as Laughter Yoga Clubs. You can find more information at


According to Dr. Kataria’s website, “Long-term benefits of regular laughter sessions include increased energy levels; a rapid decrease of stress levels and better ability to deal with stress; improved commitment and motivation; increased performance, efficiency, innovation and problem solving abilities; stronger team spirit; reduced absenteeism and improved health leading to decreased sick leave and lower medical costs.”


Whenever I ask for feedback in a workplace or relationship setting, the most common response I get is not an inability to be serious, but a tendency to be too funny.  While I appreciated the honesty and sincerity of those attempting to be constructive in their criticism, I knew deep down that they were wrong… always wrong.  If humor is the only problem a critic can think of, that must mean I am really doing well.  And the validation of my feelings came from Dr. Kataria’s website again: “There is a common misconception that serious people are more effective — this is not true. In fact serious people are more prone to break down under stress and they are less creative.”


I have found this to be true.  Not only are they less creative, they hate to see you succeed and have fun while doing it. They are not more effective, no matter how much they want to be. This is especially frustrating for them. Then instead of improving themselves they instead try to kill the fun. Or they roll their eyes and cross their arms and talk about how those funny people think they know everything, as if they themselves knew everything. Lighten up, man. Serious people hate it when someone fun can do their job better than they can. I refer to it as Patch-Adams’-Roommate syndrome.


Even if it does not heal a darn thing, I advocate humor for its own sake. As the crazy old codger Uncle Albert said on Mary Poppins, “I love to laugh. … And squeak, as the squeakelers do. … The more you laugh, the more you fill with glee.”


President Henry B. Eyring said, “Keep your eyes open for humor in the present. The people I know who are good for the long haul all seem to smile easily. It's not hard for me to understand, for instance, that the Prophet Joseph Smith, who marched triumphantly through trouble, would describe himself as having a ‘cheerful disposition.’ You can't just get yourself a cheerful disposition, but you could keep your eyes open for something to smile at. It's not hard. That's because the best humor springs from seeing the incongruity in your own predicament. … the incongruities of giving more than you seem to get guarantee the chance to smile at yourself. I hope you will. All it will take is to keep your eyes open. And I think it's a key to endurance.” [A Law of Increasing Returns – BYU Speeches of the Year. 28 March 1982]

Did you hear that? It is a key to endurance.

“Therapeutic humor may stimulate an appreciation for the absurdity or incongruity of life situations, thereby relieving stress while promoting healing.” [Sahakian, 56]


There you have it, validation from a Church authority and a medical authority. Refute that, will you?


Laughter can help non-ambulatory patients to get their cardiovascular exercise in while they are unable to get up and walk. “It has been suggested that the contraction of skeletal muscle resulting from laughter may actually increase venous return through a milking effect, thus reducing the risk of venous stasis and thrombosis. This could be potentially useful for patients who are not ambulatory.” [Sahakian, 58]


Laughter can lower your blood pressure.


“Overall mean brachial artery flow-mediated vasodilation increase[s] 22% during laughter and decrease[s] 35% during mental stress.” [Sahakian, 57]


And everybody knows that laughter is good for the heart.


“Studies have shown attenuation of both the neuroendocrine system and the autonomic nervous system, both of which can exert a profound effect on the heart and the vasculature. There is also documentation now in normal volunteers that laughter can augment vascular blood flow.” [Sahakian, 58]


Have a wonderful day, Ali. Feel better, okay?







Proteau, Connie. 2005. "Laugh your way to better health." Alive: Canadian Journal of Health & Nutrition , no. 277: 70-71. Alt HealthWatch, EBSCOhost (accessed November 27, 2008).


Sahakian, Ara and William Frishman. 2007. “Humor and the cardiovascular system.” Alternative Therapies. Jul/Aug 2007. Vol. 13. No. 4.

  1. I love this one! Now I know why you are always so funny…sorry if I ever told you to be serious when I was your teacher.I’m trying to think of a good question…

  2. I love that you so academically cited sources; it made me laugh.

  3. I’m living proof…laughter cured my mono, although i wouldn’t suggest trying to use laughter to cure a tummy ache…it makes it ache more. hehe.

  4. Si, supongo que la risa puede curar los monos al igual que los humanos. Sin embargo, no lo sugiero.

  5. si yo fuera un mono… predicaria el Evangelio a los otros monos.

  6. There is actually a lot of research that goes into the topic. Check out this article someone showed me. It appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune on the November 27th, 2008.

  7. Oh, Captain, my Captain: I’m interested in your take on why the lockers on the first floor of the Wilk have identical wear patterns above the combination locks. They look like horns sticking out of an oreo cookie. Please solve this riddle so my mind can latch onto other inconsequential issues.

  8. joshua c. guest,it grieves me deeply that the heartfelt, harmonious feelings of adoration and affection that i once had for one who i so flippantly call my boyfriend have rotted, becoming stomach-felt, dissonant feelings of… well, vomit. i’m torn because i have been hiding my feelings so well that i wince at that thought of letting down my charade. but at the same time, he thinks i just have the stomach flu.

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