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Divine comedy.

Laughter is universal, and we, or at least most of us, don't need lessons. Babies gurgle with laughter by about four months of age, sometimes earlier - evoking laughter in all who hear them. We don't need experts to tell us that laughter reduces tension, clears the mind, and lifts the spirits. Years ago, Norman Cousins (magazine editor, author, and professor at UCLA) proclaimed that laughter had helped speed up his recovery from a serious disease.

The study of humor and its effects on the human body has a name: gelotology. In a recent article for the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. William Fry of Stanford University, a well-known gelotologist, noted that besides increasing heart rate and hormone production, laughter also improves muscle tone and circulation. Indeed, a good laugh is a kind of workout, he says. It's not exactly a major calorie-burner - you can laugh yourself silly, but not thin - yet it does help move nutrients and oxygen along to the body's tissues. That might be one reason why a fit of mirth makes people feel better. But don't throw away your running shoes, since aerobic guffawing is hard to do.

If you really want to get serious about laughing, there are now at least two groups to contact. The American Association for Therapeutic Humor, at 1163 Shermer Road, Northbrook, Illinois 60062 (telephone 708-291-0211), can supply you with bibliographies on various aspects of humor-as-therapy, as well as a newsletter, Laugh It Up. The Humor Project, at 110 Spring Street, Saratoga Springs, New York 12866 (telephone 518-587-8770), provides workshops, courses, and seminars for people who wish to use humor as a positive force in their work; it also supplies a free information packet on the positive power of humor (send along a 9-by-12-inch, self-addressed envelope with 75 [cents] postage), as well as a magazine called Laughing Matter.

But you can laugh it up without joining a group. See a funny movie. Watch a rerun of Laugh In. Revive your old shaggy dog stories. Rent a Charlie Chaplin movie. Just avoid the kind of laughing that causes someone else pain. Merriment is the byword. Remember, "Those who laugh... last."

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Title Annotation:benefits of laughter
Publication:The University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter
Date:Aug 1, 1992
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