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Studies offer a reason to smile

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Long before the Mayo Clinic and modern medicine, folk wisdom declared that "Laughter is the best medicine." Now science has found that the deeper researchers dig, the more they uncover the truth of the adage.

In a recent study, Carnegie Mellon University found that people with a "smiley" disposition are less likely to catch a common cold than people who are sour, surly, depressed or angry. Apparently, upbeat souls not only let a smile be their umbrella, but they let it be their antibiotics.

Researchers interviewed 334 healthy volunteers three evenings a week for two weeks and monitored their emotions. After being categorized by attitude, the volunteers were given a dose of the common cold. The "happy" group developed fewer symptoms and signs of illness.

Another study by Brigham Young University and the University of Utah recently showed how blood pressure — and possible health risks — can be linked to the way people feel toward each other. Your health could depend on who you look at every day.

When it comes to illness, these two studies make a nice fit alongside studies showing that happily married people live longer and people of faith tend to recover from illness more quickly. They are just the most recent examples of the way attitude is tied to physical well-being. But then common sense has been telling people that for centuries.

Most folks assume that the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual parts of human nature are somehow entwined. When either the head, heart or body takes a blow, the others feel the shudder. That connection has been showing up in human language for eons. It doesn't take a medical study, for instance, to convince people that seeing an annoying colleague at work can make you "hot under the collar" and "get your blood boiling." And as for the tie between the common cold and a negative state of mind, people intuitively know that being "down" is a sure way to make yourself vulnerable to other ills.

A sunny outlook makes for a great shield.

It will be interesting to learn what other links scientists will uncover between the emotions and the body. A popular book not long ago described how a man cured himself of cancer by watching old Marx Brothers movies and laughing out loud.

Medicine, it seems, may have more "funny business" about it than ever imagined.