Caravan Sonnet: The Importance of Laughter for Health

1/7/16

The Importance of Laughter for Health

Shortly after I was diagnosed with Advanced Late Stage Lyme Disease I went to work reading many different books and doing tons of research (which I am sure everyone does!). My research kept pointing me to Norman Cousins book,"Anatomy of an Illness" so I definitely made a point to read this book. I was inspired and amazed by his story and would definitely recommend it, no matter anyone's diagnosis. If you are not familiar with Cousins, he was diagnosed with a debilitating disease where his body would literally fuse together. It was incredibly painful and incurable. Cousins shared that doctors only gave him a 500 to 1 chance of recovery. Despite these discouraging odds Cousins implemented his own "treatment" and eventually recovered. In his book he discusses the entire method of what he did but one of the things that he writes about is the influence that laughter had on his healing process. Cousins (after he obtained his doctors' approval) chose not to stay in the hospital but he stayed in a hotel room (near the hospital) and in addition to his diet and vitamins he gave himself (as he termed it) "laugh therapy". Cousins watched and read anything that would bring him laughter. Overtime he started to see that for every ten minutes of laughter he would have a couple of pain free hours.

Now, BEFORE I receive a ton of emails stating that this is not physically possible I do want to say that I do understand that when you are in pain and not feeling well it is sometimes hard to find the laughter. I do understand. Seriously, I do. But as I read the following statistics and information again I was convinced again about the importance of finding laughter in our difficult and painful health circumstances.

Doctors say that laughter:
(1) can distract attention away from illness or pain
(2) can reduce tension
(3) can change a persons expectations by encouraging a different outlook
(4) can increase the production of endorphins which is the bodies natural pain killers

There are even some hospitals around the United States have even incorporated "laughter programs" to help their patients heal. There was an article several years ago about a Catholic hospital in Texas where nuns told funny stories to patients on a daily basis so that they would feel better and heal more quickly. The results and statistics in this hospital were astounding. Patients recovered faster, there were less complications, and patients were more inspired to fight for their lives despite grim diagnosis'.

Honestly, I do understand how difficult some days can be when you are hurting and sick or sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. There are times where tears are even to painful to cry. Life hurts and is messy and extremely difficult. But one of the things that shocked me to learn in my research was that it actually takes more effort and energy not to smile then it does to smile and laugh. This really impacted me as my energy levels are so low and I try and do everything possible to not waste my little energy. Learning that it takes forty-three muscles to frown but only seventeen to smile is honestly a huge game changer. Does that mean that I don't cry or have moments where I am not laughing all of the time? Absolutely not. BUT it does mean that I have fought to find joy and laughter throughout each day and I truly believe that makes a difference in this healing journey. 

So what are some ways that you can find laughter ~ especially on days where it feels like that is the absolute last thing you want to do? Here are a few ideas:

* watch funny movies 

* read funny books

* read the comics

* read funny blogs 
(seriously, some are hilarious!)

* find the joy in simple things
 Scamper, my kitty can make me laugh with things that he does. There are so many simple things that you can find to laugh about.

* Avoid the drama
I actually have chosen to not watch anything that would cause stress, tension, or negative thoughts to go into my life. (Am I the only one or are some of those lifetime movies just downright scary?!?)

* Try not to take things so seriously
I am preaching to the choir on this because with being ill it can be difficult not to do this. I have learned though that if you look for the bad you will find it but if you look for the joy you can find joy.

* keep old emails, article clippings, letters, etc. that bring joy and laughter to look at often 

* laugh at yourself 
I have shared my endometriosis story here on the blog and to this day I will never forget a situation that happened during this intense time period. My mom and I were in a very populated mall when I received the phone call that the surgeon (from across the country) would accept me as a patient but would not be able to have an appointment available for an additional three months. This was devastating news as we were hoping to get in immediately and my mom and I sat down and bawled our eyes out right there in the middle of the busy mall. As we realized that people were staring at us we looked at each other and started to giggle and then couldn't stop laughing. To this day we laugh about this incident. Don't be afraid to step out and laugh!

* choose to laugh at the hard and absurd of your health journey

I have had doctors and specialists tell me the most insane things and there is a time for standing up and making a declaration (like I did about that Real Housewives of Beverly Hills episode) but there is also a time for choosing to laugh at the hard and absurd. Recently I had a check up with one of my doctors that I see for routine health things (strep throat, the flu, etc.) and I am not kidding when I share that they said, "so my treatment plan is working then? I told you that Lyme Disease didn't exist and all you needed was some rest in bed". Now did I take a moment to share about Lyme Disease and advocate it in a respectful way? Yes. BUT instead of letting this dictate my emotions for the next day or week, I simply laughed about it with friends later. As one of my friends said, "who knew that to cure Lyme and Cancer all you needed was a couple of years in bed?" Seriously, we laughed until we cried and then we did cry for a few minutes and then we made the decision to laugh some more. Don't let someone steal your joy and laughter. 

Where do you find laughter? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas! Happy Thursday friends!

{Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her health care provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. Reading the information on this website does not create a physician-patient relationship.}

6 comments:

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  3. Great list! It is so easy to forget this when you aren't feeling well!! An episode of FRIENDS never fails to make me smile :)

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    1. I totally agree Megan! An episode of Friends always brings laughter!! :) Great suggestion!
      Blessings,
      Rebecca :)

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  4. I took have endometriosis as well as IBS. It is soooooo frustrating and I have been having major flare-ups recently, and will probably have to have my third laparoscopy soon. I absolutely appreciate this post and smiled at the end with the crying in the mall story. That totally sounds like something I would do with my mom. Looking forward to following you! Thanks for sharing. I'm always an eager listener.
    Adrienne
    http://myblackwhitecolor.blogspot.com

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    1. I am so sorry to hear of your health struggles Adirenne. Both of those diseases can cause so much pain and frustration. I know that we have communicated some over the last couple of years and I continue to pray for strength, peace, and healing. Thank you so much for sharing a little bit of your story with me!
      Blessings,
      Rebecca

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