How to be healthy, clean and a darn good teacher!

May. 17, 2014 @ 10:24 AM

An alert and devoted reader (thanks, Mom!) recently sent me a short article by Lee Berk, Ph.D., MPH, a preventive care specialist and psychoneuroimmunologist (a big word I use quite often) at Loma Linda University. The best part of the article reads as follows:

“There is scientific evidence that laughing is good for your health. Researchers recently looked at laughter’s effect on people with diabetes. In this one-year study, 20 diabetes patients received medication for their diabetic condition … but one group also watched humorous videos for 30 minutes daily. After one year, 26 percent of the “laughter group” patients had higher levels of HDL “good” cholesterol, compared with 3 percent of patients in the other group. Based on this research, people who have diabetes or are at risk for the disease may benefit from … a good dose of laughter every day. To follow this advice, choose any form of humor or comedy that appeals to you (such as movies, TV shows or books) and that produces joyful laughter.”
The fact that there is no mention of humor columns by Vicki Wentz in that last sentence as a “form of humor that appeals to you and that produces joyful laughter” is, I’m sure, an innocent oversight. But, besides that, it’s a damn solid piece of writing! Laughter is healing, people! Of course, I’ve known this for years.
I mean, come on! Is there really someone “out there” who still doesn’t know that laughter produces something that sounds like ondolphins, which course through your blood stream at 500 miles per second, igniting muscles and joints into fiery bursts of energy or metabolism or something, whipping through your Body Mass Index, inducing hyperactive hormones to heal everything in sight until they fall, exhausted, beside the nearest bloodstream, to rest, rejuvenate and order take-out for dinner? Please. 
In fact, I also contend that hilarity is responsible for the cleanliness of some homes. This is because laughter can induce in women intermittent surges of manic vigor, which result in their families spending entire weekends cleaning out the attic, organizing the garage, power-washing the roof, while she hits the salon and spa with the gals -- I mean, is she the ONLY one who’s supposed to do the work around here! -- where they laugh until they collapse in breathless but healthy exhaustion. 
Yes, laughter really is the best medicine. And just to beat a metaphor to death, it doesn’t hurt, it tastes good, and its side effects are normally quite pleasant. This forces me to question the necessity of multiple shots, foul-tasting concoctions, and vaccinations throughout my childhood, when apparently, a good joke would have done the trick. 
My sister Susan was deathly afraid of shots, so the other four of us would always beg to have Susan go first (we were vicious children) which caused her to leap out from under the exam table where she’d hidden, and take off, running in circles all over the first floor (Dr. Turner’s office was an old, two-story house), chased by Dr. Turner, the nurses, the secretaries, and, on occasion, other patients. When they were closing in, she’d lunge for the stairs, take them two-at-a-time, and lock herself in an upstairs closet. 
By the time the key was found and Susan was dragged kicking and screaming back downstairs, everyone was hooting, our indelphins firing on all cylinders! I say this, alone, would have been sufficient to ward off measles and diphtheria, would it not? (Susan repeated this behavior at every doctor visit until she was 18 and swore off shots, doctors and two-story houses for the rest of her life.) 
Laughter is one reason I decided to be a teacher. There is actually no way to BE a teacher without a well-exercised cackling muscle ... or, at least not a good one. You show me a person who can listen to a second-grader (or a 12th-grader) tell a Disney-like story -- of how his parents, who never feed him, are forbidding him from being a pumpkin in the school play, and forced him last week to go see his great-grandfather, who smells like sweaty feet and Old Spice, which made him nauseous, so he couldn’t do any homework -- and not crack up, and I’ll show you someone who needs an office job.
The fact that laughter is healing is also why I wanted to write a humor column. I like knowing that you folks out there reading this are, presumably, laughing your way to good health, and I’m the one responsible. 
No, I don’t need thanks. Or awards. Or any kind of recognition, really, although an occasional caramel cake would be nice. My reward is simply knowing that according to actual medical research, if you read my column every week, you will most likely never develop diabetes. I’m just saying…

Vicki Wentz is a local writer, teacher and speaker.  Readers may contact her at chh@heraldsun.com, or by visiting her website at www.vickiwentz.com.