Laughing has its benefits

By Mariann Main

February 18, 2014

It is time to laugh. Winter has pummeled Ohio and the majority of the nation much too long this year. And it is only February. The potential of March equaling the “weather woes” of recent months is unimaginable, but quite possible. I remember being dressed in my Easter finest as a child while a blizzard raged outside, which mandated snow boots in combination with my “Easter bonnet.” It wasn’t exactly the fashion statement I was aspiring to make in my early days of style with such a clumsy combination of clothing.

Considering that winter might continue its weather wrath of 2014 for a few more weeks or possibly months, it is time to break the monotony. Prior to anyone being diagnosed with a fatal case of cabin fever or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), finding humor and enjoying a stand-up comedian or other laughable entertainer is essential for our collective winter-ravaged psyches.

Laughing is good. Side-splitting, laughing until you can’t breathe humor, is better. As mentioned in my commentary last week about Americans being minimalists of touching others, unlike our gregariously animated South American neighbors. We in North America also have a “laugh shortage,” which is amplified during winter months. Maintaining our composure and sanity is essential during any season, and laughing is one of the ways we can alleviate the stressors of everyday American life, or weather.

Per Steve Wilson, a psychologist and “laugh therapist,” his philosophy is “that if people had more laughter they would be much better off. They might be healthier too.” Also, research findings from Vanderbilt University discovered that hearty laughter burns calories. A mere 10-15 minutes of laughing can consume approximately 50 calories, per Maciej Buchowski, the study’s researcher.

But leave it to the “stiff-upper-lip” Brits to question the value of laughter. A Dec. 20, 2013 New York Times article entitled “Who Says Laughter’s the Best Medicine,” quotes the British Medical Journal, now known as the BMJ, which focused on supposed physical maladies caused by laughing.

This publication cited the potential for dislocated jaws, making hernias protrude, the prompting of asthma attacks and severe headaches, along with causing cardiac arrhythmia. The other, better known British medical publication, The Lancet, has investigated the highly embarrassing issue of “Giggle Incontinence.” After last week’s column about the British being a “no touch” society, adding “no laughing” to their stoic stereotype should be noted.

Just recently, I laughed continuously for two hours via a pair of comedians touring our country and Canada. By the end of their collective shows, my sides hurt from a complete abandon of all disappointments or worries from this woeful winter. I found the entire comedy experience so cathartic, I still laughed later in the evening, alone, long after I had departed the performance venue.

The show opened with Josh Robert Thompson, a Cleveland native, and superb impersonator of such celebrities as Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Matthew McConaughey and Arnold Schwarzenegger, along with former President Bill Clinton. If not for seeing Thompson on-stage, his voices were so accurate that I expected the actual personalities to enter from offstage. Thompson is without question the best comedic Cleveland export since Drew Carey.

Speaking of Carey, the headliner, Craig Ferguson, from late night CBS talk show fame, debuted in America many years ago on “The Drew Carey Show,” and did not disappoint the jammed 3,000 seat performing arts center. “As a Late Night With Craig Ferguson” junkie, I knew what to expect from his adults-only, tell-it-like-it is commentary. Several years ago, I was exposed to his stand-up routine and awaited a repeat tour.

And finally, Jimmy Fallon has now been handed “The Tonight Show” torch from begrudgingly retired Jay Leno, as of Monday evening. Even though I have been a Fallon fan, his humor is television-cut-to-the-chase, which lacks the heartiness of a true comedic performance. My opinion, however, is it doesn’t give you the same long-lasting positive benefits as a lengthier routine.

So get out there. Shovel your driveway for the 20th time this year, and find a comedy club. If you can’t navigate your way through the snow to escape from the house, go on-line, find a comedian, and enjoy. Don’t worry if you laugh aloud all alone, unless you are prone to asthma, a weak bladder, headaches, a heart arrhythmia, or have a hernia.

Mariann Main is a Licensed Counselor and a Delaware native. Her column appears weekly on Wednesdays. To submit a question and have Mariann answer it anonymously, send mail to the Delaware Gazette office, 40 N. Sandusky St., Suite 203, Delaware, OH 43015.