Sunday, February 20, 2011

Laughter Is the Best Medicine

My thanks to Harriet Hodgson, a freelance nonfiction writer for 28 years, for this ezine magazine article on laughter. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and the Association for Death Education and Counseling. Her 24th book, “Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief,” written with Lois Krahn, MD, is available from Amazon.

Humans were meant to laugh. The ability to laugh is wired into our minds and that is a good thing for all who mourn. Four of my loved ones, including my elder daughter, died in 2007 and I thought I would never laugh again. As the months passed, however, my humor slowly returned.

Laughing helped me cope with multiple losses. "I think my zany New York sense of humor is going to save me," I told my husband. In the early stages of grief my laughter was as rusty as an old hinge. If I laughed unexpectedly, I enjoyed it, but wondered if my humor would last. Thankfully, it has, and I am grateful.

Laughter has short-term and long-term benefits, according to a Mayo Clinic website article, "Stress Relief from Laughter? Yes, no Joke." The article says laughter makes you take in more "oxygen-rich air," stimulates the heart, lungs and muscles. Just as important, laughter increases the endorphins in the brain, which affect your mood.

An improved immune system is one of the long-term benefits of laughter. In fact, laughter may cause the body to produce its own natural pain-killers. "Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations," the article concludes. Certainly, grief is a difficult situation, probably the most difficult of your life.

A WebMD website article, "Give Your Body a Boost -- With Laughter" describes laughter therapy. Hearty laughter is similar to a mild physical workout, the article explains. But it goes on to say that you should not be hasty about stopping your treadmill workout.

Daniel Goleman comments on laughter in his book, "Emotional Intelligence: Why it can Matter More than IQ." He says laughter seems to help people think more broadly and associate more freely. "While in a good mood we remember more positive events, as we think over the pros and cons of a course of action..."

If you are grieving now you are awash in emotional pain. How can you find laughter again? One way is to be open to it. Like me, you may have to tell yourself that it is okay to laugh during this sorrowful, dark time of life. The more you laugh, the easier it becomes.

Staying in touch with friends can also help. According to Judith Viorst, author of "Necessary Losses," close friends contribute to your personal growth. Friends also contribute to your pleasure, "making the music sound sweeter, the wine taste richer, the laughter ring louder because they are there." Friends helped me to laugh and your friends can help you.

Thinking of a funny experience you shared with your deceased loved one can also make you laugh. I think of the time my daughter helped with the church rummage sale. Someone had donated some new bras and volunteers didn't know how to price them. "Charge 50 cents," my daughter quipped. "That's 25 cents a cup." Everyone burst out laughing.

During your journey you may come to rely on humor. A sense of humor brightens your days and leads to grief recovery. Thank goodness you were meant to laugh!

1 comment:

  1. This is so true. I remember the summer after my son died, Wipeout aired on TV. It was first time in 7 months that my husband and I laughed in a truly carefree way. And it's such a strange thing to laugh at- but we were and still are very thankful for that show.