Researchers in California have discovered that laughter is good for you. Next week they will likely figure out that you can't sneeze with your eyes open. And what will they find next? Sliced bread, remote control, the real killer of O.J.'s ex-wife and boyfriend?

More specifically, these people in white jackets have noticed that humor can help one through pain.

They got some kids to stick their hands in ice water. A group of kids that watched Marx Brothers videos at the same time were able to keep their hands in the cold water 40 percent longer than those who just stared at the wall.

The long-range implications here are greater than a distraction from discomfort, they say. Researchers are hoping that humor can produce long-term physiological, healing-enhancing changes. The idea is gaining more respect among scientists. However, they can't just call this theory "giggle therapy" or "funny bone treatment". They certainly couldn't hold a seminar with that hung over the door. So they call it psychoneuroimmunology. That's nine syllables. Or as the late Red Skelton might have noted, nine "sillybulls."

You've got to wonder if any of these scientists saw the movie "Patch Adams." Could have saved them some time. By the way, I don't think Patch gets any credit in this research.

The idea that laughter is healthy didn't just begin a few weeks ago. Anyone who has ever picked butter beans knows that a good joke or a witty ditty helps fight the depression of not being able to see the end of the row. Been there. Done that.

And if depression can eventually cause physical deteriorations, it makes sense that some laughter along the way might turn the dial the other way.

Many non-scientists have noticed this all along. Someone once said that "If you laugh, the whole world laughs with you. If you cry, you cry alone." Of course there's another saying that notes, "Misery loves company." But that probably depends on who is buying the beer.

My dad was far from being a scientist, but he knew the importance of being in a good mood. The longer the row, the louder he would sing. And whenever we got to complaining about how much we had to get done before supper, he could distract us from our aches, pains and hunger with some story from his childhood -- often a humorous one.

I've always maintained that humor is an active ingredient in sanity. It's my belief that humor even has a place in religion. I've sat through some mighty painful sermons in my younger days.

Heart pine pews and 90-minute sermons can be quite the formidable obstacle in the pursuit of saving young souls. Watching a green lizard (one of God's creatures) drop from the open window onto the back of the pew in front of me with all its potential for levity brought new inspiration and resolve that I could withstand the oncoming repeat of all stanzas of "Just As I Am."

Now I'm not about to pose that when you've got an incredible pain that turning on The Three Stooges is going to cure its cause. The distraction might ease the symptom some.

However, I'm not sure there are any one-liners that will overcome the agony of kidney stones and gout. Been there. Done that, too. Nothing is funny at that point. Not even Congress.

From a non-scientific viewpoint, I do believe that routine laughter helps in many venues -- if not you, it might help those close by endure you, which in many instances might be like curing a pain.

Dwain Walden is editor/publisher of The Moultrie Observer. You can call him at 985-4545, ext. 213. E-mail:

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