Friday, January 13, 2006
Another Suicide Bombing? Laugh It Off.
From USA Today...
"With help from the Pentagon's chief laughter instructor, families of National Guard members are learning to walk like a penguin, laugh like a lion and blurt 'ha, ha, hee, hee and ho, ho.'"
Oh that this were a joke. I can't think of anything more painful than getting lessons in laughter from a government employee whose business card reads James Scott, Chief Laughter Instructor.
Basically the Pentagon got hold of research that demonstrates laughter can help reduce an individual's stress. Pentagon employees are often under a lot of stress because of their work [insert reference to Iraq quagmire here], and laughter classes are the Pentagon's answer to stress.
In one study, twenty individuals were shown two movies--one funny, one funny...NOT! What I mean is that one was funny and the other wasn't. I used the grammatically-funny version of "not" to invalidate the funniness of the second film. The article I read didn't mention which movies they used in the study. Presumably "Patch Adams" wasn't one of them.
Anyhoo, according to the article, "The researchers looked at the endothelium, the lining of the vessels, and found that blood flow was reduced in 14 of the 20 volunteers after stressful movie clips. But blood flowed more freely in 19 of the 20 when they laughed at funny movie segments."
I've experienced similar results myself. When I go to open mics, I can feel my endothelium shrinking. It's almost as if my vessels are cringing. But when I see someone perform who's not desperately seeking validation and is actually funny, my blood flows more freely.
Back to the Pentagon. When I first read that James Scott was the chief laughter guy, I wondered what his credentials were. Was he qualified? Worry not. James is certified by the Ohio-based World Laughter Tour, Inc. Or should I say, O-Ha-o-based? Also, the founder of the O-HA!-o company, psychologist Steve Wilson, refers to himself as Cheerman of the Board. Get it? Cheerman? Not entirely won over, I visited the website and was relieved to find pictures of Steve sporting wacky hats and Hawaiian shirts. A Hawaiian shirt, if you don't know, is shorthand for funny.
In one particularly-revealing quote, Scott says, "The guiding principle is to laugh for no reason. And that's one of the reasons it works so well for military families."
Did he just say that military families have no reason to laugh? Sounded like it. Thank goodness the military is helping these people waddle like penguins.
If you'll excuse me, I'm going to pretend I'm a donkey and bray at the top of my lungs.