Fall 2005 Issue
Here's Some Medicine That's
Something to Laugh At!
by Diane Kane
A known remedy is available that relieves pain, assists with a person’s ability to cope with serious illnesses and shortens the duration of less serious ones, including colds. It is free, has numerous benefits, no known side effects and there is no possibility of an over-dose. In fact, increasing the dose will enhance its benefits. It is available to everyone, including the uninsured, never leaves a bad taste in your mouth and has been proven to be effective.
Children are already aware of this remedy and use it all the time (sometimes to the consternation of their teachers, clergy and parents). Older adults usually forget to take advantage of this easy treatment, even though they remember how good it felt when they were children. And what is this magical remedy? Why laughter, of course!
Recent research has shown the benefits of a positive attitude and of laughter in coping with pain, serious illness and depression. Many Certified Laughter Leaders encourage cancer patients to try to find some humor in their lives. A senior citizen recently asked me, “What is funny about cancer?” While there is nothing funny about cancer, I told her that trying to find a sense of humor while coping with cancer (or any other stressful situation) can help bring about a more positive outcome. We do not laugh because we are happy; we are happy because we laugh.
It is well documented that stress has negative effects on the human body and can result in anxiety, depression, or insomnia. Our bodies focus on the present, “I’m worried,” “I’m scared,” or “I have pain.” During a time of stress, all but one of the systems in our bodies gear up to help us through the experience. This “fight or flight” response typically causes the adrenaline, heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory system to work at full capacity. The only system that shuts down during a stressful experience is the immune system. Rest assured that your body will not concern itself with fighting off a cold when you are being chased by a lion! If, however, you can learn to laugh during stressful times, it can help to relieve the negative feelings and allow your immune system to function more effectively.
Tips to add humor to your life . . .
- Look for everyday humor – read the comics in the paper each day.
- Hang out with friends who make you laugh.
- Watch funny movies or TV shows.
- If you hear a funny joke, write it down and share it with friends/family.
- Take a 5-minute humor break each day–read a funny book, spend time with people who help you see the bright side of life.
- Remind yourself to have fun each day.
- Avoid news, conversation or entertainment that upsets or distresses you.
- If you have grandchildren, observe them to learn how to find delight and amusement in ordinary things.
- Did you know that children laugh about 400 times a day while adults only laugh about 15 times daily?
Trying to force yourself to relax and to be less worried, scared, or tense is nearly impossible and will lead only to frustration. It is much easier and far more effective to take your mind off of your worry or fears by focusing on humor. Watching a funny video has been shown to increase pain tolerance. Laughing with friends is another very effective coping mechanism.
Learning to find the humor in all of life’s experiences, even if you are coping with terminal illness or bereavement can help you to develop a positive attitude about life, manage your stress, and feel more in control of your life. Laughter can help you change your focus so that you are less likely to dwell on your problems and instead develop a more optimistic attitude. Try it. I am sure you will like it.
Diane Kane is a Certified Laughter Leader and President of the Milwaukee Laughter Club. She speaks at senior centers, nursing homes, schools, and businesses on the benefits of laughter. Diane can be contacted through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.