By JUDD MATSUNAGA, Esq.

We’ve all heard that laughter is the best medicine. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, when it comes to relieving stress, more giggles are just what the doctor ordered. Here’s why.

Whether you’re bursting with laughter at a sitcom on TV or quietly giggling at a newspaper cartoon, laughing does you good. Laughter is a great form of stress relief, and that’s no joke.

Short-term benefits – A good laugh has great short-term effects. When you start to laugh, it doesn’t just lighten your load mentally, it induces physical changes in your body. Laughter can:

● Stimulate many organs. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.

● Activate and relieve your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response, and it can increase and then decrease your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.

● Soothe tension. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.

Long-term effects – Laughter isn’t just a quick pick-me-up, though. It’s also good for you over the long term. Laughter may:

● Improve your immune system. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. By contrast, positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.

● Relieve pain. Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers.

● Increase personal satisfaction. Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It also helps you connect with other people.

● Improve your mood. Many people experience depression, sometimes due to chronic illnesses. Laughter can help lessen your stress, depression and anxiety and may make you feel happier. It can also improve your self-esteem.

Science also says that if you can find a way to laugh about yourself, your stress will begin to fade away. In fact, the late Charles M. Schulz (American cartoonist and creator of the comic strip “Peanuts”) said, “If I were to be given the opportunity to present a gift to the next generation, it would be the ability for each individual to learn to laugh at himself.” Pretty sound advice coming from a cartoonist.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the world seems to be divided between two types of people — those who find it easy to laugh at themselves, and those who take themselves a little too seriously. Believe it or not, the science of good health tilts in favor of those who crack up when they fall. As it turns out, the ability to laugh at yourself is not only a healthy attitude — it’s a healthy attribute.

Which reminds me about the doctor who hands the patient a small mirror and says, “Take it for stress. It helps to laugh at yourself.” Laughter releases dopamine, increases blood flow, and strengthens the heart, but beyond its many health perks, a good sense of humor leads to increased optimism, which in turn, boosts our resiliency and enables us to thrive when we’re faced with adversity.

If you’re one of those people who haven’t had a good laugh in a long time, one of the best ways to laugh, and to heartily laugh at yourself (Asians) is to watch a Netflix Comedy Special by Ronny Chieng. Ronny Chieng is a Malaysian comedian and actor that appeals to all audiences but has a special appeal to Asians because it helps Asian people to laugh at themselves. Here’s part of his routine:

It’s such a weird stereotype of Asian parents wanting their kids to be doctors. It’s such a weird thing to have on your race. Like, what is that? Is that good? Is that bad? I thought it was a good thing. Apparently, it’s worthy of mockery. Right? Asian parents wanting their kids to be doctors. It’s weird because it’s true. Right?

I know because my parents were the same way. They just wanted us to be doctors. It was like this obsession. They just wanted us to be doctors.

And it’s insidious as well. Because when Asian parents want their kids to be doctors, helping people is on the bottom of the list of reasons. Oh, if it even makes the list of reasons to go into medicine. Helping people is like the unfortunate by-product of becoming a healthcare professional. Like, when they first see that they can’t even believe it. They’re like, “What, you gotta help people? Well, whatever, get it out of the way. But don’t let it get in the way of what this is really about.” It’s about money and the prestige, right? It’s the money and the prestige.

Because if you’re a first-generation immigrant, you children becoming doctors is the quickest way you can turn it around in one generation. Instant credibility, instant respectability, instant money. Right? You flip the clan narrative around. Boom! Started from the bottom, now we’re here. We’re doctors. And it’s also weird because Asian parents are also the last group of people you can ever convince to go see a doctor.

Another routine that Ronny Chieng performs in his special that really made me laugh is the following:

We need an Asian president. Man or woman — get that Asian president in the White House and we will fix the mess in a week. I promise you give us a solid eight-days you will see results. Because we don’t care, we just want things to work. Imagine harnessing the power of Asian people in government!!!! Oh my God.

All the Asians in government just going down the list of broken things, fixing it, one-by-one, with no agenda — just pure logic. Just going down the list, e.g., that’s fine, that works, that’s pretty good, separation of powers — that’s awesome, that works most of the time, that’s OK, that’s no good, that’s terrible, Environmental Protection Agency — that’s sucks, do your job!!!

Every nine months in this country there’s congressional gridlock. Everyone’s always threatening a government shutdown. Government shutdown?

There’s no government shutdown with Asian people in charge. We don’t shut down for anything. We don’t shut down for Christmas. You understand? We work through public holidays. Any city in America when it’s 3 a.m. and you’re hungry, where do you go? You go to Chinatown — that’s where you go. Because things are affordable, delicious, and open. Does that sound like a country you want to live in? We don’t shut down for anything. “Thanksgiving means nothing to me.”

Now, hopefully for Ronny Chieng, this is just comedy. Because as a good American, Thanksgiving should mean a great deal to you. When you give thanks, you’re responding to God’s goodness and graciousness. The Bible says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Even if you’re not Christian, or even religious, most people will recognize that the source of the good things that happen in their lives comes (at least partially) from outside of themselves. As a result, being grateful also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.

In conclusion, Robert Duvall, who played Lt. Col. Wilbur “Bull” Meechum in “The Great Santini” (1979), said, “If there’s one thing that I want to give my son, it’s the gift of fury…. Gobble up the world. Eat life or it will eat you.” This Thanksgiving, in contrast to Lt. Col Meechum, I’d like to say to my son (if I had one), “If there’s one thing that I want to give my son, it’s the gift of gratitude.”

Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. (Source: Harvard Health Publishing, “Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier,” Aug. 14, 2021)

Isn’t that what you want for your children? Isn’t that want for yourself? To be happy??? If so, learn gratitude!!! Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. Gratitude helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack.

The Harvard Health Publishing article lists ways to cultivate gratitude in your own life. Interesting, one of the ways listed is to “Thank someone mentally. No time to write. It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank the individual.” My thoughts are: this Thanksgiving, why not verbally (not “mentally”) thank someone(s). Whenever you say “Thank you,” try adding, “I appreciate you.” Happy Thanksgiving.

Judd Matsunaga, Esq., is the founding partner of the Law Offices of Matsunaga & Associates, specializing in estate/Medi-Cal planning, probate, personal injury and real estate law. With offices in Torrance, Hollywood, Sherman Oaks, Pasadena and Fountain Valley, he can be reached at (800) 411-0546. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of  The Rafu Shimpo.

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