Dr. Shelby-Lane's Prescription for Living Longer: “Laughter”
It's been said that laughter is the best medicine. As an alumnus of the University of Michigan School of Medicine and Second City School of Comedy, Dr. Shelby-Lane follows that advice, to spread a healthy dose of humor. Whether in her office or on stage, she shares stories, jokes, personal experiences, and practical strategies for using humor to cope with stress and illness in our daily lives.
The storms of life happen to all of us. Through her experiences as a doctor and a comedian, Dr. Shelby-Lane has learned that our sixth sense - the sense of humor - has important healing powers, when it comes to the body and mind. Dr. Shelby-Lane recalls when she made up her mind to use laughter as medicine. She had just left her best friend after a hearty and jovial conversation, and a hug goodbye. Her friend was leaving for Chicago in the morning, so they laughed and parted ways. The next moments resulted in tragedy that claimed her friend’s life. This experience changed her path forever, in remembrance of her friend and the laughter they shared.
That’s when Dr. Shelby-Lane, realized that “Laughter is Medicine” and she began the journey to help heal herself and her patients with a remedy that is so magical and special---Laughter! She had turned lemons into lemonade.
Shelby-Lane believes everyone attempts to find hope when bad things happen. You might have a drink or a bit of a cry, but in the end, most of us joke about it, to cope with the pain or the stress. So, if laughter really is medicine, in some circumstances it never goes down smoothly unless you have first dealt with the issue yourself.
Dr. Shelby-Lane is not alone in her belief that laughter is good medicine. Her respected medical colleagues include newsworthy practitioners. Among them are Dr. Norman Cousins, author of "Anatomy of an Illness,"; Dr. Patch Adams, physician, activist and clown; Dr. Ken Jeong, physician, comedian and actor; Dr. Lee S. Berk, PhD, researcher and collaborator with TV Land; and, Larry Harmon, aka Bozo the Clown. Harmon's main aspiration was to become a doctor, but he changed his career path after Al Jolson advised, "Being a doctor of medicine is honorable, but you'll touch so many more lives as a doctor of laughter!"
Torn about what career direction to follow, since both comedy and medicine make people feel good, Dr. Shelby-Lane chose the path of “doctor by day”, and the stage, as a “comedian by night”.
Now, with an outlook influenced by her experiences, textbooks and comedy training, she included laughter in the healing process, while working through danger and crime on a daily basis, in the inner city or the “HOOD.” At night, she performed as a stand-up comedian, at a string of comedy clubs that seemed almost as hostile as the streets of Detroit, especially when a new joke failed to get a laugh. Little did she know how closely related these challenging careers truly are when she started her journey.
In her practice, she used laughter with a heart attack patient, and remembers the gentleman who weighed 350 hundred pounds and needed that “baby aspirin”. He said, me, a baby” and they both chuckled. That opened the door for more laughter during his ER visit. She also took care of a lady who had PTSD due to being in the Twin Towers. Shelby Lane amazed by her patient’s experience, asked, “How did you escape?” The patient quickly advised that it was not the New York City Twin Towers, it was the Twin Towers at the LA County Jail. They both broke into laughter by the apparent confusion.
Through it all, the dangers and illness, the laughter and healing, Dr. Shelby-Lane has earned the well-deserved title of "Doctor in the 'Hood.” It's both a compliment and a reputation, after dedicating her life to making people feel better by laughing, while dealing with health in the “Hood,” with the use of humor and laughter, on a daily basis.
Dr. Shelby Lane also knows that a hearty laugh may help avert heart disease. Dr. Michael Miller, MD, cardiologist and researcher at the University Of Maryland School Of Medicine found that laughter helps relieve mental stress that can cause blood vessels to constrict. Constricted blood vessels increase the risk for heart attack and stroke by reducing blood flow to the heart and brain. "In other words," he said, "eat your veggies, exercise and get a good belly laugh every day." Dr. Shelby-Lane has extensively researched this field, which has taught her about the biology of hope, psychoneuroimmunology, and the neuroscience of optimism. Most of all, she knows this by living it, one experience at a time.
What is funny to one person may not be funny to another, which serves as a natural way of identifying common ground. And though laughter may not be a cure-all for all ailments in the world, humor is a stress-buster and can bring people together. So a solid health plan would be, to spread HUMOR around.
Discussing the value of laughter is about as fulfilling as talking about eating a delicious meal or making love. The benefit is not in the description, but in the experience. Dr. Shelby-Lane's prescription is to get carried away with laughter. Look for humor in everyday life, and give yourself permission to laugh out loud when something tickles your funny bone.
To get you started, Dr. Shelby Lane has created a Humor Survival Checklist for using humor from the 'Hood to the 'Burbs. It's a prescription for you, your family, colleagues and even strangers. It’s full of science and entertainment. Half doctor-Half Comedienne. Maybe someone who can really use a laugh, might poke holes at this theory. Just remind them, how good it feels to laugh out loud and not get arrested - which is healthy advice. Whether you’re in the 'Hood or the 'Burbs, your office or your home, at the park or in the airport, or anywhere you may be.. Here’s your prescription: “Laughter Is Medicine!” LOL.
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