Take the Diabetes Health Pump Survey
See What's Inside
Read this FREE issue now
For healthcare professionals only
  • 12 Tips for Traveling With Diabetes
See the entire table of contents here!

You can view the current or previous issues of Diabetes Health online, in their entirety, anytime you want.
Click Here To View

See if you qualify for our free healthcare professional magazines. Click here to start your application for Pre-Diabetes Health, Diabetes Health Pharmacist and Diabetes Health Professional.

Learn More About the Professional Subscription

Free Diabetes Health e-Newsletter
Latest
Popular
Top Rated
Losing weight Archives
Print | Email | Share | Comments (1)

The Joke’s on You: Laugh Yourself Healthier


Dec 8, 2008

One researcher reports that laughing improves oxygen flow, helps blood vessels expand and contract more easily, and stimulates heart and blood circulation, just like any standard aerobic exercise.

A doctor is trying to get his patient, an overweight man with diabetes, to lose some weight. "I want you to eat what you always do for two days, then skip a day, then repeat this for two weeks. When you come back, you should have lost five pounds." A month later when the patient returns, he's lost 20 pounds. The doctor is amazed. "Was it hard to follow my instructions?" he asks. "Well, on the third day, I thought I'd die," the man replied. The doctor nodded. "From hunger? " "No," the man replied, "From the skipping."

If you laughed at this joke, you may have just improved your blood glucose, at least according to a study at the University of Tsukuba in Ibaraki, Japan. Researchers there found that people who laughed at a comedy show after dinner experienced a lower spike in blood sugar following their meal than those who didn't do something that made them laugh. The conclusion, as reported in the May issue of Diabetes Care, was that for patients with diabetes, "daily opportunities for laughter" are important.

Although this may be the first study looking at the link between laughter and blood sugar, there has been plenty of research showing that having a sense of humor can help people with diabetes live healthier lives. Dr. William Fry of Stanford University, for example, has reported from his research that laughing improves oxygen flow, helps blood vessels expand and contract more easily, and stimulates heart and blood circulation, just like any standard aerobic exercise

The cardiovascular benefits are so great that a study at the University of Maryland Medical Center concluded that laughter may help prevent heart disease. Another humor researcher, Dr. Lee Berk of Loma Linda University, has concluded that regular laughter helps boost the immune system and raise antibody levels.  There are also hundreds of studies documenting the benefits of laughter on reducing stress levels and helping us feel less anxious about health and other problems in our lives.

But can you actually improve your sense of humor? The answer is a resounding "Yes." Like any other healthy activity, by setting goals and regularly practicing new behavior, you'll eventually get better at finding the funny in everyday life. The good news is that learning to use your sense of humor to boost your health is actually fun.

Your Laughter Goal

Studies have found that on average, American adults laugh about fifteen times a day (compared to hundreds of times for young children.) You probably don't have any idea what your LL (laughter level) is, so try keeping a log of every laugh you get during the next week. An initial goal is to laugh once an hour, which will get you up to average. Once there, you should then try to find something to laugh at least twice an hour. Just as with exercise, a little is good, but more is better (unless, of course, you've recently had your appendix removed). But unlike exercise, it is better to laugh a little throughout the day than to try to laugh for a solid 20 minutes at a time.

Becoming a Better Laugher

Most people think that the best way to put more laughter in their lives is to start watching funny movies or stand-up comedy. In fact, those can help. But the truth is that most of the things we laugh at every day aren't meant to be funny-they're just things that happen and we choose to find the humor in them. For example, I was once almost run over by a guy driving a Jeep Cherokee with a bumper sticker on the back that read, "Mean people suck." Rather than fuming about the situation, I laughed (especially after I decided that the driver probably hadn't put that bumper sticker there himself, and I imagined a neighbor sneaking over under cover of darkness to do the deed).

Life throws funny stuff at us all the time, but we are often too busy to pay any attention to it. And many of us have voices in our heads that remind us to "Grow up and get serious," tell us to "Act our age," or insist "That's not funny." When it comes to using your sense of humor to live a healthier life, a good first step is to let go of your need to be serious all the time. The ability to feel playful and receptive to the lighter side of everything-including diabetes and its complications-can help you easily get more laughter in your life.

Try these out for laughs

Reconnect with your inner five-year-old. At five, we don't have many responsibilities and our lives are primarily about having fun. Remember when your mother would call you in for dinner and you'd respond with "I'm not done having fun yet?" We may not be able to age backwards, but we can definitely spend some more time acting childlike. 

  • Carry a picture of your younger self in your wallet next to your driver's license as a reminder of the more playful you
  • Play with your young kids or grandkids or those of friends and family on a regular basis
  • Use your whole body for play. Go to a local school on the weekend and teeter-totter; invite your friends to play Leapfrog or Red Rover; or take an improv class. All of these are good ways to reconnect your funny bone with the rest of your body (and you'll get exercise to boot).

Take humor breaks to release tension

Take laughter breaks during moments of stress. Just as laughter can improve our health, stress can make it worse, so the ability to laugh during stress is doubly effective at helping us live better lives. 

  • Read funny greeting cards when you're about to boil over. There are so many different types of greeting cards, you're bound to find some that turn on your sense of humor.

Walk funny. No, I don't mean like Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks (although those episodes always makes me laugh...look up "Ministry of Silly Walks" on YouTube...) Just go for a walk and look for things that make you giggle-a squirrel taunting a cat or a Golden Retriever enamored of a dachshund. I once saw a teenager whose low-rider pants actually did fall off while he was walking down the street listening to his iPod. I just knew that would happen if I waited long enough.

  • Buy silly things to distract yourself. If you find yourself regularly getting annoyed while on hold, for example, you might keep a pirate finger puppet on your desk and use pirate lingo to crack yourself up until an operator comes on the line.
  • Just fake it. Studies show you don't have to feel like laughing to get the benefits of just doing it.
  • Make funny friends. Funny friends not only make you laugh easily and often (if they didn't, they wouldn't be your funny friends, now would they?), they can also teach you how to look for the funnier side of life. I have a friend named Nick who is very heavy. One day we went to lunch and the waitress took a long time to make it to our table. "I'm sorry about the wait," she apologized. Nick smiled at her and said, "Honey, I've weighed this much for so long, it really doesn't bother me any more." Spending lots of time with friends who crack you up can help you achieve your humor goals. 

When it comes to managing diabetes, laughter may not be the best medicine, but it certainly is a great (and fun) tool for living a healthier, longer life.

Leigh Anne Jasheway is a humor and health expert who has been teaching people how to lighten up for fifteen years. She is the author of fifteen books, including Don't Get Mad, Get Funny and Yoga for Your Funny Bone.


Categories: Beginners, Blood Glucose, Blood Sugar, Diabetes, Diabetes, Living with Diabetes, Losing weight



You May Also Be Interested In...


Comments

Posted by Anonymous on 14 September 2009

Great article. Thanks.
Allen Klein, author of The Healing Power of Humor


Add your comments about this article below. You can add comments as a registered user or anonymously. If you choose to post anonymously your comments will be sent to our moderator for approval before they appear on this page. If you choose to post as a registered user your comments will appear instantly.

When voicing your views via the comment feature, please respect the Diabetes Health community by refraining from comments that could be considered offensive to other people. Diabetes Health reserves the right to remove comments when necessary to maintain the cordial voice of the diabetes community.

For your privacy and protection, we ask that you do not include personal details such as address or telephone number in any comments posted.

Don't have your Diabetes Health Username? Register now and add your comments to all our content.

Have Your Say...


Username: Password:
Comment:
©1991-2014 Diabetes Health | Home | Privacy | Press | Advertising | Help | Contact Us | Donate | Sitemap

Diabetes Health Medical Disclaimer

The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. Opinions expressed here are the opinions of writers, contributors, and commentators, and are not necessarily those of Diabetes Health. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website.