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Laughter… Still the Best Medicine?

Brad Nieder
Written By: Brad Nieder

Hello HCUA!  Happy New Year!  Hopefully 2022 will bring you a trove of blessings, great memories and good health!  It has been over four months since I spoke at your conference in La Jolla.  For those who attended, you may recall my philosophy that “Laughter is the Best Medicine.”  Indeed, I have spent close to two decades focusing on wellness through humor and laughter.  Well, since joining you in that lovely San Diego suburb, I have come to realize that my philosophy is total nonsense!

We have not laughed away the long, emotional, exhausting days that are so taxing on the mind and body.  We have not defeated with giggles the daily stresses of your branches, as you serve increasingly busy clients who don’t have time to balance their checkbooks or set up automated bill pay.  Hearty chuckles have not saved your clients who lost their jobs during the pandemic, now at risk of defaulting on mortgages and losing their homes.  Knock-knock jokes have not cured the COVID-induced sickness and stressors of the past two years.  The old “Pull My Finger” gag has proven ineffective against heart disease.  Mental health issues—depression, anxiety, loneliness—are worse than ever.  In fact, I saw a patient recently—a video gamer—who has spent most of the pandemic staring at his monitor.  He came in with a strange constellation of symptoms: He had a temperature of 103º; he was ravenous, eating everything in sight; and he was hallucinating, seeing ghosts.  It turned out he had Pac-Man Fever!   (I realize that joke is 40 years too late, but I like it anyway.  It’s a way better punchline than Madden Syndrome or Fortnite-itis.)

Anyhoo, realizing my life’s work is garbage has been a tough pill for me to swallow.  As you might expect, I’ve been lost, soul-searching, trying to determine what truly is the best medicine.   Maybe it’s good nutrition.  Yes, I think eating well may be the best medicine.  We discussed the Paleo Diet (and the Tijuana Diet!) in September.  Since then, I’ve revised my nutrition plan, trying to make it simple with just two bits of advice.

First, I encourage people to choose healthy foods.  For me personally, when I’m craving red meat, I have been choosing buffalo.  Yes, buffalo!  It is leaner than beef.  It has more omega-3s.  It is a healthier choice.  I especially love the wings!  Fry up a few dozen of those, dip them in bleu cheese dressing and you have a healthy midnight snack!

Second, I encourage people to eat smaller portions.  Our portion sizes have been out of control in this country for far too long!  The Surgeon General recently tried to educate the public on this topic.  A serving size of chicken or steak or fish, he said, is the size of a deck of cards.  And a serving of cheese is the size of a pair of dice.  So, clearly, the Surgeon General has a real gambling problem!  And, by the way, the Surgeon General is neither a surgeon nor a general!  He’s an internist and a Vice Admiral!  What a liar!  He probably smokes like a chimney, too, despite all his warnings!  I really can’t take the guy seriously anymore!  “Surgeon General!”  I’m going to start calling myself the “Astronaut Billionaire!”

So, choose healthy foods and eat smaller portions.  That may be the best medicine!  Of course, exercise is good medicine, too.  Maybe it’s a run through the neighborhood or a class on the Peloton.  Perhaps it’s Pilates.  Maybe it’s CrossFit.  It might be the elliptical machine or simply a nice walk at lunchtime.  Maybe it’s yoga.  By the way, if anyone can point me in the right direction on yoga, I’d appreciate it.  It’s too confusing.  Hot yoga.  Power yoga.  Dog yoga!  Goat yoga!  Yes, goat yoga!   I’m told “It’s aaaaaaaaawesome!”  

Yes, diet and exercise.  They might be the best medicines.  What about altruism?  Selfless acts.  Charity.  Philanthropy.  Giving.  Kind words.  Good deeds.  Studies have shown that altruism really isn’t selfless.  Rather, it actually has health benefits for the seemingly “selfless” person.  So, freely and fully donating part of one’s time or resources (or both) to another—without wanting anything in return—can be a life-changing endeavor for both parties. But I’m preaching to the choir here, aren’t I?  I know how you went above and beyond to serve your healthcare clients during the pandemic, providing sandwiches in the parking lot during their brief breaks or keeping in touch via phone or email when your branches were physically closed.

Diet.   Exercise.  Altruism.  Laughter.  You know, maybe the best medicine is a combination of all the above.  I’ll keep working on the right formula.  Relationships.  Pets.  Music.  Mindfulness.  Maybe the sea air of La Jolla is an important component, too.  And speaking of La Jolla and selfless acts of giving, check out this video postcard of our time together, a gift from the great Zach Wells of Film Real Productions.  Enjoy!  May you all have great health in 2022!  And as the legendary San Diego anchorman Ron Burgundy used to say, “Stay classy,” HCUA!

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The Healthy Humorist®—Brad Nieder, MD—is a doctor, keynote speaker and clean comedian who used to think laughter was the best medicine. (www.HealthyHumorist.com)  Zach Wells is a video producer and owner of Film Real Productions. (www.FilmRealProductions.net)  They joined HCUA in September 2021, at the annual conference in La Jolla.

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