Posted by: Abby Caplin, MD | November 12, 2009

Now Seriously

Even with all of the horror and sadness in the world, we must still make time to laugh. We need to laugh often, daily, like taking a dose of medicine. It’s something so basic to healing. We all know this. Why don’t we consciously use this tool?

Of course, your sense of humor might be very different from mine. That’s OK.

I keep a “get-well” card in my files:

A doctor lies in a hospital bed while three other doctors (who all look exactly like him) stand at his beside. They are pointing their fingers at him and laughing. The doctor in bed looks angry. The caption reads:

“Laughter is the Best Medicine!”

I have learned to collect things that make me laugh, like this get-well card. I look for new films, DVDs, audio recordings, books and photos. I look on YouTube. I try to be proactive about this. I’m aware of how laughter changes my body chemistry and helps me heal.

Here’s how you can begin your collection:

1) You can ask your friends to help. People LOVE sharing these things. And it’s OK to not like what they give you. You can always return the offering with, “Thank you! Yes, it is funny [uh, to them]. It’s close, but not quite what I’m looking for.”

2) You can visit the library. But here’s the rub—it may not have a humor section! Instead, your eyes may scan the shelves and inadvertently land on copies of The Trial or No Exit. Don’t get distracted! Ask the librarian for help. I once asked a librarian to help me, and she was sending me books for the next six months.

3) Go to a bookstore that has a humor section. If you read the first few pages of a book and realize that you are NOT laughing, then put the book back. For you, that author is a doofus.

Now let’s say you pick up a book, read the first few pages, and you feel a little uncontrollable chuckle thing happening in your body. Let’s say the author of that book you’ve chosen is by—and I’ll just randomly choose a completely random name here—I’ll call him “Dave Barry.” Let’s say this “Dave Barry” has written a few books. I would recommend that you buy only one, and that way you can make an outing of buying another book by “Dave Barry” in the future, while avoiding the pitfall of saturating yourself with too much “Dave Barry” humor all at once.

And don’t let your famous “inner critic” ruin your good time! This is where the rubber meets the road of self-care.



  1. Hi Dr. Abby,

    Great ideas, here! The funny bone can sometimes be our lifeline to sanity.

    Another resource for good humor is Dr. Cliff Kuhn, The Laugh Doctor:

    He’s got a fun web site with lots of other helpful links too.

    Best wishes,
    Pam Pappas MD

    • Thanks for the link, Pam! Yes, a “lifeline to sanity.” You are so right!

  2. didn’t know my “inner critic” was so famous, but now it all makes sense, lol.

    • Hi Alison,

      They are all famous! At least, they think they are.
      One can only laugh at/with them!


  3. Oh no !!! Am reading your blog on my iPhone and tried to rate it 5 stars, but those teeny tiny stars didn’t work so well and it came up 2 stars. Blah! Apologies!

    • That’s fine! I loved that you tried! 🙂
      Many thanks,

  4. You are so right! I was just upstairs helping my husband go through his closet and get rid of old stuff and I was laughing so hard I cried. Nothing really that funny, probably just because I’m delirious since I got up at 3am SF time because I had an early flight from Texas – but no matter what the reason, it sure felt good! When I laugh that hard it just feels so uncontrollable and you just have to let yourself go. Of course as a child those moments were most likely to hit me in the middle of church… : )

  5. I’m now remembering a time when, as a kid, my parents took me to see an outdoor opera—Lucia di Lammermoor. As we sat in the second row, my mother and I started to giggle as we watched the exaggerated facial contortions of the opera singers. It was here I also learned the meaning of the expression, “spitting distance.” I’m sure our giggling was quite rude, but quite impossible to stop!

  6. For those who didn’t catch the joke in my post, “Dave Barry” is a real comic writer. Seriously.

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