New Castle News

July 25, 2013

Lori Brothers: Laughter is the best medicine after all

Lori Brothers
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Last week, I was moved to tears by a story about a man and his arthritic dog, Schoep. John Unger and his dog Schoep used to float in Lake Superior at least 10 minutes each day, if the water temperature permitted, as a form of comfort and therapy for the aging dog.  

The online photo is priceless and very touching. It shows the two floating in the water while the dog rests his sleeping head on his owner’s chest. See the photo by Googling “Today Pets, floating man with dog.”

The pet’s owner announced that Schoep died last week. He lived to be 20 years old.

This got me thinking about how much fun I have with my dog, Jazz. She is a Tibetan terrier. She loves to play “Squirrel.”  I do the tossing, she does the chasing. The laughter goes both ways — if you’re a pet owner, you know when your pet is laughing along with you.

In the Ornish Spectrum Program, we teach the importance of laughter for health. Laughter relaxes the whole body, releases endorphins —the “feel good hormones” — boosts the immune system and protects the heart by improving the function of blood vessels and blood flow.

I find that playing with the dog is so rewarding and relaxing. I say that Jazz is a “puppy master, teaching me her puppy ways.” If a dog lifestyle doesn’t work for you, may I suggest a Guinea pig? Did you know that Guinea pigs chuckle? Or perhaps a cat or a turtle suits you.

If a pet is absolutely off limits for you, there are other ways to infuse laughter into your life. Seek out funny people, host game night with friends, get silly with children or watch a funny movie or television show.

Any activity that creates laughter leads to improved moods that affect your health.

“The kind of thought we get depends upon the type of hormones circulating in the blood which are released depending upon the state of mind,” said Dr. Madan Kataria, founder of Laughter Yoga International. “When one is under fear more negative chemicals are released in the blood resulting in more negative thoughts and feelings.”

Laughing Yoga has been developed as a brand of stress management that emphasizes the activity of laughing.  

You can start with smiling while sitting quietly — eyes opened or closed. Then imagine uproarious laughter happening on your insides. Remembering the feeling of laughter has its own effects.

Another Laughing Yoga technique is to place your hand on your heart and begin to laugh out loud, sending the laughter to yourself and others.  Just like praying, they don’t have to be there.

The founder of the laughing yoga concept is convinced that if we would all begin to focus on daily laughter in this way, we could have world peace.

Alan Alda, the actor, said, “When people are laughing, they’re generally not killing each other.”  

Laughter refreshes any relationship and unites people during difficult times.

Milton Berle said, “Laughter is an instant vacation.”

My advice is to “vacation” often by laughing a lot. All of your cells and all of your systems including your mind will benefit from engaging in the jovial, the silly and the funny side of life, which brings rewarding and worthwhile health and happiness.

So I’ll leave you with a chuckle this week. This is an unknown quote — “Sometimes I laugh so hard the tears run down my leg.”  

On occasion, this is true for me. I hope it’s true for you, because it means you are engaged in some very powerful laughter.

Cranberry-Orange Fruit Bars


To prepare crust, combine 2/4 cup oats, whole-wheat flour, all purpose flour, sugar and salt in a food processor; pulse to mix, add apple sauce (or pureed prunes) until well incorporated.

Whisk egg, 1 teaspoon vanilla and almond extract in a small bowl. With the motor running, add the mixture to the food processor. Process, then pulse, scraping down the sides, if necessary, until the mixture begins to clump or look crumbly.  Measure out 1/2 cup of the mixture and combine in a bowl with the remaining 1/4 cup of oats. Set aside for topping.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Coat a 9x13- inch baking dish with cooking spray.

To prepare fruit filling and assemble bars, combine 3 cups cranberries, orange juice, sugar and cornstarch in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is very thick, 4 to 5 minutes.  (It may take up to 10 minutes to get the thick result if you start with frozen fruit.) Stir in the remaining 2 cups cranberries, orange zest and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Transfer the dough to the prepared baking dish. Spread evenly and press firmly into the bottom to form a crust. Spread the fruit filling over the crust. Sprinkle the reserved topping over the filling.

Bake the bars for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake until the crust and topping are light brown, 25 to 30 minutes more. Let cool completely before cutting into bars, at least One and one-half hours.  

Makes 18 bars.