Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Importance of Laughter (from Rebecca)

{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.}

Right after I (Rebecca) was diagnosed with my chronic illness I went to work reading many different books and doing tons of research (which I am sure everyone does!). One of the books that people kept recommending was Norman Cousins book called "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. Cousins was diagnosed with a debilitating disease where his body would literally fuse together. It was incredibly painful and (he was told) incurable. Cousins shared that doctors only gave him a 500 to 1 chance of recovery. DESPITE those 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 spoke about was 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 will share some scientific evidence) 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 joy in all of our 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

Some hospitals around the United States have even incorporated "laughter programs" to help their patients heal. There was an article 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.

Laughter is truly an important process of the chronic illness journey.

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. But did you know that it actually takes more effort and energy not to smile then it does to smile and laugh? It takes forty-three muscles to frown but only seventeen to smile. WOW!

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

* rent funny movies (don't forget about the classics!)
* 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 around in life that you can find to bring out laughter.
* 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. Last week I shared my endometriosis story and to this day I will never forget a situation that happened during this 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 might not sound like a big deal but at the time it was and my mom and I sat down and bawled our eyes out right there in the middle of the mall. As we realized that people were staring at us we 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!

Finding joy and laughter when you are ill is not an easy thing but it can definitely have an impact on your health! As we head into this weekend my prayer for you dear friends is that you will find laughter despite difficult days. May our Lord bless you abundantly sweet friends! Happy Saturday!

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