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Research Demonstrates Emotion’s Effect On The Human Heart

How could it have happened?

He was strong; do you remember how he could get uphill? He was fit; can you ever recall seeing him out of shape? His blood pressure was perfect, low even. He bragged about his exemplary cholesterol levels.

He was lean and mean.

Wait a minute…what was that about being mean?

When an endurance athlete in middle age is felled by a sudden heart attack, these questions always arise. It’s mysterious, as the idea holds that exercise and fitness should inoculate one from heart disease. But it does not.

There is more to the story of heart attacks than just the big five: genetics, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

Empathy: Anderson Cooper’s Giggling Makes This Psychiatrist Embarrassed

If you haven’t seen Anderson Cooper catch a case of the giggles on live TV, you can still watch it on YouTube.  I missed the first showing, but saw Mr. Cooper replayed it on his own Ridiculist List.  But what’s this doing on Shrink Rap?

I watched the re-run, and I found myself laughing out loud.  Only, it wasn’t a good, happy, hearty laugh, it was an embarrassed and uncomfortable laugh, and I realized I’d taken on the feelings of the newsman.  If I were a psychiatrist (oops, I am, even in August), I might say that Anderson Cooper Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

The Beneficial Effect Of Laughter On Your Health

I stumbled upon the article ‘Laughter: gender-specific variations’ in Revista Clínica Española (‘Spanish Clinical Journal’) and I can’t help thinking about the need for taking this into account to improve doctor-patient relationships. The text can actually be read as a guide to understand how every person laughs and how to use it in clinical practice.

Table 1. Laughter effect on health Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Diario Medico*

A day to celebrate humor and laughter?!!

It’s already March 19th and I don’t have any ideas for April Fool’s Day for my kids. I am desperate and need help. In previous years I have put gummy worms in their sandwiches, short-sheeted their beds, convinced them school was cancelled, given them mashed potatoes that looked like ice cream sundaes, and offered cookies with (fluoride-free, of course) toothpaste as the filling. Last year I tried to pretend I had broken my arm. While my adult friends believed me, my kids just rolled their eyes. So, as you can see, my ideas are not working anymore and I need something grand and convincing.

Humor has always been an important part of our family. When my children were younger, we used humor to convince them to do things they didn’t want to do. For instance, in order to get them to clean their rooms we would put shoes on our heads, walk to their rooms, and dump them in the closet. My older daughter’s favorite game was to dress up as Cinderella (in rags, of course) and have me shout orders at her — I was not allowed to say “please” because I was, obviously, the evil stepmother. It’s amazing how clean the playroom could become those days.

When my husband had a brain tumor, I used humor to temporarily destress an incredibly difficult time period. Those days it was not uncommon to see us eating jello through a straw, dessert before dinner, or ice cream without a spoon. One desperate day we all dressed up in our rain gear, with umbrellas, and took a shower together while singing, “I’m singing in the Rain.”

Last year my daughter had 2 friends spend the night before presenting a history project in a county contest. They had worked incredibly hard on this project while continuing their other demanding curriculum, and they were exhausted, nervous, and stressed. So I went to the store and bought shaving cream and whip cream. After dinner I sent them outside in old clothes and let them spray each other. They ran around for over an hour in the dark, laughing and playing. To this day they still talk about it.

Humor and laughter are an important part of our lives. They relieve tension, reduce stress, and provide us with a temporary distraction from unpleasant thoughts or lives. They allow people to forget about anxiety and pain, even if it’s momentary. Scientific studies that have even shown that humor improves overall health and, more specifically, the ability to fight off infections, decrease the risk of developing a heart attack, and improve blood sugar control . Psychologically, it has been related to decreased loneliness and depression, and improved self esteem and feelings of hopefulness . Laughter clubs and therapy have been developed and exist in and out of hospitals throughout the United States.

humor in our family (response to "smelly" fish)

humor in our family (response to "smelly" fish)

So, now you understand why it is so important for me to find some new, more exciting April Fool’s Day gimmicks for my family – ones that will really make them laugh! I am willing to share my “Vanilla” Sundae recipe with you, which has been used by many extended family members and friends.

April Fool’s Day Ice Cream Sundaes


1. Instant mashed potatoes

2. Chocolate sauce

3. Whip cream

4. Maraschino cherry

5. Vanilla ice cream

Make the mashed potatoes according to directions and let them cool. Use an ice cream scoop to put 2 scoops in a bowl. Top with chocolate sauce, whip cream and, of course, a cherry. Serve. Have real vanilla ice cream available to serve so the victim can actually enjoy dessert in the end.

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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