Health care reform could use a good laugh

- ©Glowimages, model used for illustrative purposes only

Health care reform is SERIOUS business. Consumers as well as politicians, doctors, insurance execs and hospital administrators are wringing their hands over the implications of enacted and pending modifications to a behemoth industry. Perhaps it's time to add some humor...seriously.

The irony should not be lost on anyone that International Moment of Laughter Day (Sunday April 14th) comes just two days before National Healthcare Decisions Day on Tuesday. Laughter Day encourages more people to laugh while the purpose of Healthcare Decisions Day is to educate the public and providers about the importance of advance care planning.

Maybe both days should be combined, because it turns out laughter is not only good for the soul, but for the body too. Your funny bone is connected to your health, both short and long-term.

Laughter as medicine gained national attention after the release of Patch Adams, the movie starring Robin Williams. The real life Adams founded the Gesundheit! Institute over 40 years ago. Its mission includes care infused with fun and play, and uses clowns and other funny approaches in a fairly unique healthcare approach.

Adams writes, "The idea that a person was healthy because of normal lab values and clear x-rays had no relationship to who the person was. Good health was much more deeply related to close friendships, meaningful work, a lived spirituality of any kind, an opportunity for loving service and an engaging relationship to nature, the arts, wonder, curiosity, passion and hope."

Research into the role of humor in health shows benefits, including pain reduction, easing tension, enhancing heart health and immune systems, boosting the quality of life, and even giving toddlers a head start in life skills.

I remember my dad using humor to get me to laugh at times when things seemed pretty serious. It was contagious. I could not help but feel better whether it was a physical or emotional issue I was dealing with. Laughter is good for what ails you.

Karen Williams is a believer in the health benefits of humor too. The Cleveland stand-up comic started the International Institute of Humor and Healing Arts, otherwise known as the HaHA Institute. The organization "is deeply committed to the study and active use of humor in the healing process -- personal, societal, and planetary." Her message - encouraging the potential for compassion, wisdom and life force through the daily use of humor and healing - has taken her around the globe.

Are you familiar with laughing clubs? The brain child of Dr. Madan Kataria, 6000 clubs have sprung up in over 60 countries since their inception in 1995. He realized the "tremendous power of laughter and its efficacy as the best prescription for wellness." In an NBC report Kataria goes so far as to say that laughter could be the answer to the U.S. health care reform.

Humor and other "mindfulness" methods to health – everything from relaxation techniques to prayer - are gaining wider acceptance. Laughter's "outside the Jack-in-the box" approach to healing is one of those surprising treasures putting smiles on many faces.

There is a Bible passage that goes, "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones." Taking the time to laugh is part of a good health strategy.

All of April is National Humor Month, so make the most of it. Laugh a little. And by all means remember to laugh out loud this Sunday. Monday is Tax Day in the U.S..


Steve Salt is a syndicated health blogger and a Christian Science teacher and practitioner. This post was originally published on the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Follow him on twitter @saltseasoned.

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