We don’t laugh because we’re happy – we’re happy because we laugh. -William James
There is nothing funny about having a rare disease, but learning to laugh as often as possible can help you to deal with all of the stress that comes along with such a diagnosis. We’ve all heard that laughter is the best medicine. Well, maybe there are other medicines that we need, but laughter can help us in many ways.
In his groundbreaking book, Anatomy of an Illness: As Perceived by the Patient, Norman Cousins shared his experience with using humor after he was diagnosed with the crippling disease of ankylosing spondylitis, which caused constant pain. To learn more about this rare disease, click here.
His doctor told him that his chance of recovering was 500 to 1. In fact, that doctor expected him to die within months after he became ill. However, Norman believed that he had too much to live for. He reasoned that he didn’t want to be a passing observer of his own condition, but that he could help himself by reducing stress.
In collaboration with his doctor, who was reluctant to go along with the patient’s outside-the-box ideas, Norman employed laughter, music, courage, and tenacity. He discovered that after watching a funny movie and laughing through it, he was able to relieve his pain for hours. Being a determined man, he spent many hours watching funny movies to keep himself laughing in order help himself recover.
Researchers have now learned that laughter supplies many benefits for your physical and emotional health, causing your brain and nervous system to release a flood of endorphins that can help relieve depression and stress, boost your immune system and provide pain relief. Hearty laughter expands your blood vessels and provides heart benefits similar to those you’d get from aerobic exercise or statin drugs. Researchers have also found that people who laugh often tend to live longer. In one study, participants who watched funny videos performed better on memory tests than those who sat quietly before the test. They also had much lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. A good laugh boosts the heart rate, respiratory activity, and oxygen consumption. It can also help you to sleep better.
We have all felt the benefits to our mental health and coping skills when we have had a good laugh. When dealing with disease, humor therapy should be added to the treatment protocol. While you might not have quite the same success of reversing the condition as Mr. Cousins had, you will be able to handle the stress better if you add laughter to your daily life.
Our family experienced plenty of stress during the many years our oldest daughter was dealing with a rare disease. One of the most beneficial things I have done for myself is to learn to laugh at myself. When we can accept that we all have personal quirks to our personalities – well, I know I do anyway – then we can laugh at ourselves rather than become angry, embarrassed or frustrated when we make foolish mistakes.
Whether you like to read funny books, watch stand-up comedians, humorous situation comedies, or movies that make you laugh, make it a plan to add that therapy to your stress reduction routine. You won’t regret it – and it won’t be wasted time.
Here are a few thoughts to get you started:
I was going to wear my camouflage shirt today, but I couldn’t find it.
If tomatoes are technically a fruit, is ketchup a smoothie?
No matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationery.
Remember, A day without a smile is like a day without sunshine!
And a day without sunshine is, like… night!