Speech Delivered Spring 2000

The spring term is almost over, thank goodness! If you are like me, you’ve had a major project or exam each week—with the work load only getting worse as it gets closer to finals. Every minute of each day is planned out for school, work and family, with very little time for yourself. You collapse into bed each night exhausted, try to catch a couple of hours of rest before starting all over again the next day.

It’s conditions like this that often lead to depression and stress. According to the World Health organization, depression is on the rise worldwide. The National Alliance for the mentally ill has listed many different factors leading up to this outbreak of sadness. It often takes up to 8 years to correctly diagnose depression, leaving many people untreated for extended periods. People living in stressful environments and situations are more prone to depression. There have even been studies showing a genetic link which lead scientists to believe that this illness can be hereditary. There are many different chemical substances, legal and otherwise, available to ease the symptoms of depression—but many of these have disturbing side effects leaving the patient feeling out of control, irritable and with little or no appetite.

Stress is also a result of such an active lifestyle. According to Dr. Steven Burns, one in every ten people have a low tolerance for stress. This means that they reach their stress levels sooner, and easier than others. Stress can come from environmental, emotional and physical factors, and can be the result from any change to your life. As students we run the risk of suffering the most stress on a daily basis. When one become stressed they often feel that have lost control of their situation, and their perspective on the situation becomes very one sided. We can not control events in our external situation, but we do have the ability to control how we view these events and the emotional response we chose to have to them.

Humor is the solution to this global condition of depression and stress. Patty Wooten, a registered therapeutic nurse, has discovered that laughter banishes the feelings of sadness that can lead to depression. The experience of laughter lifts ones spirits leaving you feeling carefree, lighthearted and hopeful. Laughter can be used as an empowerment tool and allows us to take control of our emotional responses to stressful situations. One only has to spend a few moments with a child to experience the sheer joys of laughter. Seeing the world through their eyes can lead to humorous situations.

Humor can give us a different perspective on our problems. As Bill Cosby has said, “If you can laugh at it, you can survive it.” Laughing at yourself when you are feeling stressed is not always easy.

Remember how good it feels to giggle on the phone all night with a good friend, or how happy you were after seeing a movie so bizarre you found yourself rolling on the floor with laughter. You can even find humor towards work situations in the comics—just look at Dilbert! If you can relate your situation to one of hilarity, you can find a way to laugh!

Laughter has even been proven to support recovery in illness. Some of the most exciting research exploring the healing value of laughter is in the area of psyconeuroimmunology. This is the area of research that explores the connections between the nervous system, the hormonal system, and the immune system. Serum Cortisol is a natural substance in your body that suppresses your immune system. The Loma Linda University Medical Center has shown that laughter can reduce these dangerous levels. Other research has shown that laughter increases the level of natural killer cells that attack tumor cells. By laughing often, we can increase our chances of survival by building up those immune systems and natural killer cells.

The best part of laughter is you really don’t need any “reason” to laugh….just start! But, if you’re feeling a bit nervous about laughter here’s a list, from Dr. Annette Goodheart—laughter therapist– of excellent reasons to do just that: laugh. Keep these reasons in mind and remember the benefits you get—physiologically, psychologically and spiritually. Indulge in your lighter side and laugh whenever, wherever and with whom ever you happen to be. Laughter is portable, immediate therapy…think of it as a way of “charging up” the dead battery of your soul.

As you discover laughter you’ll also discover even more reason to laugh; and when you make those breakthrough discoveries–let the world know!

If you are a fan of the television show Alley McBeal, you’ve seen the character John practice his own version of smile therapy. What I’d like each of you to do now is to look around the classroom, catch the eye of your neighbor, and smile! Chances are you’ll get a smile in return! You’ve just experienced your first dose of humor therapy! Humor does have a positive effect of your spirit, your mind and your body. The next time you are feeling sad or stressed out, or you just can’t get rid of that nagging cough, remember that laughter is the best medicine! Spend time with a child, rent a funny movie, have a giggle fit with your friends, whatever you do—just laugh! In the words of Oscar Wilde—”Life is too important to be taken so seriously.”

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