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Humor and Healing : the Mind Body Connection

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Humor and Healing : the Mind Body Connection

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  • April 2002
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Humor and Healing: The Mind-Body Connection

"As it is not proper to cure the eyes without the head, nor the head without the body; so neither is it proper to cure the body without the soul." —Socrates(Cousins, 56) The word, to heal, comes from the root word "haelen" which means to make whole. Bringing together the body, mind and spirit can be healing. The word humor itself is a word of many meanings. The root of the word is "umor" meaning liquid or fluid (Moyers, 221). In the Middle Ages, humor referred to an energy that was thought to relate to a body fluid and an emotional state. This energy was believed to determine health and disposition. In modern dictionaries, humor is defined as "the quality of being laughable or comical" or as "a state of mind, mood, spirit". Humor enhances the creative process and is one of the coping devices used to combat stress and disease. Humor can be used successfully in the classroom, in the workplace, in therapy and counseling, and in medicine to assist in the healing process (Cousins, 78). Laughter improves self-esteem, enhances social interaction, and generally makes life more enjoyable. Laughter can provide a cathartic release, a purifying of emotions and release of emotional tension. Laughter, crying, raging, and trembling are all cathartic activities which can unblock energy flow. Laughter is more than a visual and vocal behavior. It is accompanied by a wide range of physiological changes (Swencionis, 162). During vigorous laughter the body brings in extra oxygen, shudders the internal organs, causes muscles to contract, and activates the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands. This results in an increase in the secretion of endorphins (internally produced morphine-like molecules). This "internal jogging" produces an increase in oxygen absorption, increase in heart rate, relaxation of the muscles, and increases in the number of disease fighting immune cells (Moyers, 230). Humor is a quality of perception that...

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