Die laughing? Hardly, it's good for you

June 10, 1994|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Sun Staff Writer

Laughter is internal jogging and just about as healthful, a psychologist and corporate trainer told a group of local service -- providers yesterday.

"We all know about the value of laughter," said Dr. Reesa Woolf to the 65 people who attended the second annual Community Services Council Forum at Carroll Community College.

"The blood rushes around our bodies, bringing oxygen to the brain," she said. "Our muscles tighten and relax. Studies have shown that our blood pressure goes up while we laugh, but then drops down lower than it was when we started."

But, despite the benefits, this stress-reducing exercise isn't practiced much by adults, particularly in business situations, she said.

"Kids laugh about 400 times a day, while adults laugh 15 times a day," said Dr. Woolf, who has a Ph.D in counseling psychology and has conducted training sessions for several large companies.

"It used to be like when you were in school, you got in trouble for laughing," she said. "But humor is getting to be more acceptable."

Humor is most useful for communicating with others, stress management and personal relaxation, Dr. Woolf said.

For example, she said one of her cousins who teaches aerobics gets students to stand in the front of the room by announcing in an official voice that people in the front of the room lose weight faster.

"It's a way of showing them what she wants without shoving it down their throats," Dr. Woolf said. "Even taking a one-minute laugh break does a lot.

"We burn out physically and emotionally by being tight all day. [Laughter] lets our body relax. Then we can reach our creativity again."

A talent for telling jokes isn't necessary to lighten up an office, she said. Good material -- found in cartoons, quotes or humor books -- can be collected in a "funny file" for use in memos or presentations.

"Only about 1 percent of the population can tell jokes very well," she said. "That's why Bill Cosby and Bob Hope are millionaires. But there's no shortage of found material."

Memorizing "one-liners" can also be helpful, such as replying "Pardon me, these lips are rented" after mispronouncing words or tripping over your tongue, Dr. Woolf said.

"I often say 'I'll send you a written transcript,' " she said. "And nothing beats, 'I'd like to buy a vowel.' "

One of the best ways to add humor to your life is simply to be a good listener, Dr. Woolf said.

"People will stop telling you funny things if you don't encourage them," she said. "With funny people, all they need is a little encouragement."

However, while humor is acceptable, being the class clown is not.

"Most of the time, what I do is serious," she said. "Serious is what gets things done. But, it's that extra chuckle or two, that extra smile that helps a lot.

"It takes away the anxiety and the pressure, and then we get back to work."

In addition, sarcasm may masquerade as humor, but it's actually aggressive behavior that raises hostility, Dr. Woolf said.

"I think sarcasm is inappropriate. It's stress-building," she said. "Just take that person aside and say 'I don't think you mean to be nasty, but what you're saying is being taken that way.' "

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