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How a Laugh a Day Might Just Keep the Doctor Away

Laughter is the best medicine!

Research is proving there is truth in this adage. The American Health Association cites Suzanne Steinbaum, D.O., an attending cardiologist and director of women and heart disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. Dr Steinbaum explains that laughter can decrease stress hormones, reduce artery inflammation and increase HDL, the “good” choloesterol. “Once you start laughing, it forces you to feel better,” said Dr. Steinbaum. Click here to read the full AHA article.

In partnership with One Book One Harper, we are celebrating Humor with these upcoming classes, including From Humor to Health with Dobie Maxwell and Cheryl O’Donoghue. Read our interview below for insights into the fascinating link between laughter and wellness.

Course ID Title START_DATE
LLI7005-100 HUMOR AND COMEDY    4/17
LIO0054-001 FROM HUMOR TO HEALTH    4/21

From Humor to Health: A conversation with Dobie Maxwell and Cheryl O’Donoghue

From Humor to Health: Comedy and Healthy Living started as a class in 2011. At that time our class got national attention and generated articles in newspapers from Chicago to Syracuse and the Huffington Post. It appears again in this spring’s Continuing Education schedule.

The class shares the secrets of how to make life more enjoyable and healthy. Dobie Maxwell, a comedian who has performed on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and all over North America will help you to get in touch with your own sense of humor. Cheryl O’Donoghue, who holds a Master of Science degree in Adult Business Education and is a member of the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, will introduce the health benefits of laughter. You will use astoundingly simple tools, such as laughter, intuition and the Law of Attraction, to bring more joy and prosperity to your personal and professional life.  Dobie and Cheryl shared some of their thoughts about humor and health with us.

Register online or call 847.925.6300.

Dobie MaxwellScott Cashman, Continuing Education (SC): You are offering an encore of the From Humor to Health class. Why do you think it’s important for people to spend a little time developing an understanding of their own sense of humor?

Dobie Maxwell (DM): This is a great question. I believe a person’s sense of humor is in large part personal taste much like one’s taste for specific foods. Some people lean toward the spicy, while others lean toward something more traditional. But what is ‘traditional’? A lot has to do with one’s culture, and that can mean a lot of different influences which in turn produce different results. Taste in music or art is similar. Everyone has their own palate.

I feel that the more anyone develops their personal sense of humor, the more acquired tastes they pick up which expand the entire mix to produce more sophisticated results. I think this is the reason why something like The Three Stooges tends to be popular with young boys as a rule. It’s funny for a while, but then the need for more advanced concepts arises. It serves a purpose for a while, but then fades away.

The more one feels comfortable in one’s own skin, the easier it becomes to identify and implement one’s personal humor tastes. One of the most rewarding parts of teaching is watching students develop a sense of self-awareness which leads to their creating their own personal brand of humor. Any form of creativity is good in my opinion, but humor is one that not only benefits the creator, but the recipient as well.

SC: I had a colleague who enrolled in the class the first time it was offered. After the class where you talk to people about what they think is funny he told me that he really didn’t know what made him laugh.  At first that puzzled me but do you find it more common than we’d expect?

DM: Actually, I do find that rather common. What makes anyone laugh includes to a large degree the element of surprise. There needs to be an unexpected twist of perceived logic in the mix that produces the laugh. It’s quite formulaic actually, but what the actual formula is can be an overwhelming task to figure out. Again, everyone’s tastes are different and finding out can be a revealing experience. I’ve seen people that appear to be very outwardly conservative gravitate toward the dark or edgy, and I’ve seen others who appear rather sophisticated gravitate toward the lowest common denominator. It’s fun to watch, and it’s fun to discover as a student. Comedy is fun period, and that’s why I love to be around it so much. The business part of it can be extremely frustrating, but the actual process of creation is always very enjoyable.

SC: Now Cheryl, it seems to me that there would be some health benefits that accrue from being able to incorporate humor into your daily life. That would seem to illustrate the importance of what Dobie is saying.

Cheryl O’Donoghue (CO):  I so appreciate Dobie’s insight into humor (and his explanation about the appeal of The Three Stooges helped solve a mystery that’s been haunting me for decades)!   Many of us either have in the past or are currently suffering from what I call the “serious syndrome”.  You know the telltale signs when you’re taking yourself so seriously you find it hard to laugh or see the simple joy in life.  You feel “heavy” (and that’s not the 60s interpretation of being “heavy man”…but I digress), you feel that life is pressing down on you.  It never ceases to amaze me how many of us have a hard time “lightening up”- yet we yearn for that feeling most intensely.  One of the greatest health benefits, I feel, that comes from incorporating humor into your daily life is a feeling of being “lighter.”  From a physiological standpoint that feeling is also manifesting itself into various physical/health benefits from lower blood pressure and a strengthened immune system, to the ability to think with greater clarity and experience an improvement in overall cognitive functioning.  The health benefits of humor are impressive, indeed!

SC: Is there a way that people can practice, or maybe even more important enjoy the benefits of laughter even when life is not at a particularly funny point?

CO:  You bet.  Sometimes you’ve got to “fake it ’til you make it”.  You know how it goes.  You pretend something is funny and before you know it, you’re actually laughing and deriving the physical, emotional and psychological benefits of laughter.  I’ve got dozens of quick tips to help people fake it ’til they make it.  Even smiling when you feel low will help you lighten up.  The “happiness” business is a billion dollar industry.  People are looking to the outside for answers, but the answer really does lie within and it doesn’t cost anything.  We have the capacity as humans (it’s one of the things that makes us so awesome) to actually and deliberately change our state of being. Humor and laughter are some of the most “magical” tools on the planet. 

SC: And then, as I see it, that really does close the circle for people who understand where their own humor lies. They have that “go to” thing that does make them laugh, does make them happy. And hopefully they can share it with others too. And then, Dobie, people don’t really need to be comedians to be funny, do they?

DM: Absolutely NOT, and that’s the beauty of humor. Individual everyday life experiences can be enriched tremendously by having a sharper sense of humor. It’s similar to learning to play the guitar. Is a person a failure if he or she takes guitar lessons and doesn’t end up in a major rock band? Of course not, but the experience can greatly benefit not only the person playing but those who enjoy the results. I feel it works exactly the same way with comedy. Adding a laugh to an ordinarily mundane situation is exciting for the performer, and if done correctly greatly appreciated by the audience – even if only one person.

Register online or call 847.925.6300.


Click here to see details on these and all our classes in the Jan-May CE Course Schedule.

Click here to visit our website at harpercollege.edu/ce.

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