Chuck, I love the sayings about you on the Internet and in your new book, “The Official Chuck Norris Fact Book.” It got me to thinking. There have to be some health-redeeming qualities to laughing, yes? – “Jolly Joe” in New Jersey
One of the Internet “facts” about me, which play on my tough-guy image, is, “He who laughs last laughs best. He who laughs at Chuck Norris, it’s definitely his last laugh.”
Now that’s funny.
Naturally, over the past couple of years, as the Internet wildfire has been raging about the mythical side of my life and abilities, people everywhere have asked me, “What do you think of all these Chuck Norris ‘facts’?”
My answer is always the same: Some are funny. Some are pretty far-out. And most are just promoting harmless fun and times of laughter (but be careful if you go searching for “Chuck Norris Facts” on the Internet, because some are flat-out not appropriate for kids).
I love to laugh, as do most people. I agree with comedian and actor Steve Carell, who said, “Nothing to me feels as good as laughing incredibly hard.”
But we often lack reasons to laugh, or at least it’s difficult to see them, especially in tough times. Life’s struggles have a way of squeezing in and squelching our humorous side.
Still, I think laughter is one of the things we need most and more of and probably stands as still the best medicine for our bodies, minds and souls. It’s another needed constituent in building a great health-and-fitness routine.
A few years ago, CBS News’ “Healthwatch” ran an article titled “Is Laughter the Best Medicine?” In it, several experts summarized a series of health benefits that come from laughter, concluding that laughing is like a mini-workout.
For example, Robert Provine, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and author of “Laughter: A Scientific Investigation,” said that though we have a ways to go to study the full effects of laughter, increased stress is associated with decreased immune system response. And some studies reveal that laughter can increase levels of infection-fighting antibodies and immune cells.
A team of University of Maryland School of Medicine researchers and cardiologists led by Dr. Michael Miller discovered for the first time in 2009 that a sense of humor and laughter may prevent cardiovascular disease by helping to maintain and regulate the healthy functioning of blood vessels. Laughter improves the flow of oxygen to the heart, brain and other organs, too.
A study of 19 diabetic people revealed that after watching a comedy show, they had lower blood sugar levels than they did after a tedious lecture.
And Maciej Buchowski, a researcher from Vanderbilt University, discovered that laughter also burns calories. He reported in a study that 10-15 minutes of laughing a day burns 50 calories, which means we could lose a pound of weight for every 12 hours of laughing (that’s not going to revolutionize the weight-loss industry, but it’s not bad for laughing!).
In addition to those reasons, experts conclude that laughter is a contagious act that promotes social interaction and well-being, relational intimacy and a positive attitude and triggers endorphins, which bring about pain relief and other positive feelings.
Melissa B. Wanzer, professor of communication studies at Canisius College, reported in ScienceDaily that aging adults experience greater levels of coping efficacy and life satisfaction when laughing more.
Wanzer even discussed laughter’s employment benefits: “If employees view their managers as humor-oriented, they also view them as more effective. Employees also reported higher job satisfaction when they worked for someone who was more humor-oriented and used humor effectively and appropriately.”
In such cases, laughing is an effective way of dealing with on-the-job stress.
As it says even in the Good Book (Proverbs 17:22), “A joyful heart is good medicine, but depression drains one’s strength.”
The fact is we always should be free enough from life’s burdens to laugh. It doesn’t take much time or effort to pause and laugh several times a day.
Here are eight ways to bust your britches:
Watch a funny YouTube clip.
Swap a joke or favorite comedy movie line with a friend or co-worker.
Do something silly with your kids.
Go out and watch a comedy movie.
Hang out with fun people.
Laugh at yourself by telling an embarrassing story about yourself.
Read a humorous book.
Keep comical materials in places where you, co-workers or guests are prone to pick them up and read them – for example, in the break room, on the coffee table or in the bathroom.
In fact, I call “The Official Chuck Norris Fact Book” – which has 101 of my favorite true and inspiring stories, using “facts” about me as jumping-off points, about my life, career and outlook on life – “UBR,” or “ultimate bathroom reading.” It’s the only book of “facts” about me that I endorse. I wrote the book because I believe in the power of laughter and I wanted to give people a little break in their often busy and burdened lives and bring a little encouragement to their days (I’m proud to announce that it has been translated into Czech, so soon I’ll be sharing the power of laughter with the Czech Republic).
And what happens if we refuse to laugh? Comedian Steve Allen once described exactly what might happen: “Don’t suppress your laughter, or it will go down to your hips and spread out!”