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Go To Health! (Because Life's Too Short. . .)

the Author:

Shara Rendell-Smock, author

Shara Rendell-Smock has written more than twenty computer software manuals, numerous newspaper articles, including a monthly health column for The Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

She's the author of two books of non-fiction: Getting Hooked: Fiction's Opening Sentences 1950's- 1990's
Living With Big Cats: The Story of Jungle Larry, Safari Jane, and David Tetzlaff
For ordering information, click here.

To read more about these books, participate in an ongoing joke contest, surf on over to .
The author currently lives on Florida's Space Coast.

Shara has recently signed with a New York Literary agency.

Humour and Health

Wooten In-depth on Humour and Coping
- Part 5 of 5

Patty Wooten,RN BSN CCRN, has published a number of articles and presented numerous seminars on therapeutic health. Wooten and other researchers report that mirthful laughter lowers some stress-related hormones. "We are now finding scientific evidence and measurable responses that are beginning to prove that laughter is powerful medicine."

But that's not all. While experts argue over the 'medicinal' value of "laughter", there is little doubt in the minds of some that humour plays an integral role in the ability to cope with difficult situations.

"Nurses, physicians, and other health care professionals cope daily with the reality and horror of illness, suffering, and death. If we are unable to cope effectively with this, we experience "burnout" which is more accurately called 'compassion fatigue'", says Wooten.

She believes that laughter "provides us with a momentary release from the intensity of what otherwise might be overwhelming." This goes hand in hand with the old folk saying 'Might as well laugh as cry'. Some of us automatically use humor to gain a new perspective and to find a way to function in a situation that could otherwise be intolerable." [Editor's Note: Which might explain why NBC's "Saturday Night Live" is still on the air after years of being intolerably unfunny. :-) ]

Wooten also believes that in allowing one's self to to laugh about an overwise dreadful situation, we can accept our inadequacies and 'forgive ourselves'. In her words, "It (laughter) allows us to rise above our difficulties and experience the beauty of life beyond the hardships of giving care. We transcend our everyday problems and feel optimistic and hopeful. Searching for humor, looking for something to laugh about, keeps us from focusing on the elements that are overwhelming or depressing."

Wooten also has her own elaborate definition of laughter:

"Laughter is a smile that engages the entire body. At first, the corners of the mouth turn up slightly, then the muscles around your eyes engage and we can see a twinkling in the eyes. Next you begin to make noises, ranging from controlled snickers, escaped chortles, and spontaneous giggles, to ridiculous cackles, noisy hoots, and uproarious guffaws. Your chest and abdominal muscles become activated. As the noises get louder, you begin to bend your body back and forth, sometimes slapping your knees, stomping your feet on the floor or perhaps elbowing another person nearby. As laughter reaches its peak, tears flow freely. All of this continues until you feel so weak and exhausted that you must sit down or fall down."

Clearly, Patty Wooten is a woman who appreciates a good joke.

Measuring the effects of laughter, Wooten says that researchers can "qualify the importance of humor and laughter in the health care setting, either as an adjunct therapeutic tool for patients or as a self-care tool to offset the harmful effects of job stress."

She sums up, "Stress or negative emotion has been associated with immunosuppression. It has been suggested that the pleasant feelings occurring with mirthful laughter can modify some of the neuroendocrine components of the stress response. Natural killer cells are responsible for the early recognition and removal of virus and tumor cells."

So, in the end, it appears it's not a matter of one laughing one's self to death (as in that famous Monty Python skit about the Joke that Killed), but rather of your ability to laugh yourself back to Health. Next time you're sick, try skipping the aspirin - rent a comedy.

This week's healthy humor pick:

Patty Wooten's site, Jest for the Health of It (tm):

Next Week:

My Achin' Back!

Does laughing make you feel better when you're sick? Got any experiences to share? Or. . .do you ever suffer from back pain? (Next week's topic!) If so, e-mail me at

Back to the top / The New Sideroad/ Go to the latest column

Issue # 13
Tuesday, Jan. 27, 1998


Humour and Health

Part 1 of 5 - "Think You're Funny?" (A look at laughter.)

Part 2 of 5 - What the Experts Say. . .

Part 3 of 5 - A Matter of Perspective

Part 4 of 5 - Humour as a Coping Mechanism

Overcoming Sleep Disorders

Part 1 of 4 - how your mattress can make all the difference.

Part 2 of 4 - strategies to help you sleep.

Part 3 of 4 - more strategies to help you sleep.

Part 4 of 4 - what is a sleep log and how does it work?


Stats indicate that for those over the age of 50, one of every two women and one in eight men will have an osteoporosis-related fracture. Our sedentary lifestyle puts us at risk for this disease. Yet osteoporosis is not inevitable. Here's some information on this disease and how we can prevent it.

Part 1 of 4 - - details the likelihood of developing this disease, and its dangers and consequences.

Part 2 of 4 - - presents the risk factors of osteoporosis and some of our misconceptions about the disease.

Part 3 of 4 - - insights into diagnosis, and basic management techniques.

Part 4 of 4 - - new medical treatments to stop osteoporosis, and safety in the home of osteoporosis sufferers.

Next Week:

My Achin' Back!

Part of the original Sideroad. Text © 1998, Shara Rendell-Smock. Posted Jan. 26, 1998. The new Sideroad is now receiving traffic at

Shara's books can be ordered from her web site at