Some health experts look to humor for its healing power

Evidence shows it can improve mental, physical .

The chaplain with a pig snout visiting patients in Jefferson City’s St. Marys Health Center personifies what many medical professionals and researchers are prescribing for their patients — a good dose of humor.

Medical professionals agree patients’ health is no laughing matter, but they are increasingly looking to a growing body of evidence indicating humor’s benefits for physical and mental health, as well as patient-caregiver relationships.

After getting to know them, Chaplain Jim Gearhart intentionally uses humor to relate to patients, their families and hospital staff.

But lightening the mood need not mean silly costumes or telling a joke, Gearhart said. For him, it’s about being able to be comfortable with somebody and making himself accessible to them.

“Humor allows you to take a little control over your situation,” Gearhart said. “If we take things too seriously, emotionally we get weighed down, and that doesn’t help physically.”