Sunday, January 26, 2014

Laughter just might be the best medicine - By Elizabeth S. Giammarco

 Recently, because of a brief illness as well as the inclement weather, I was relegated to the house. Initially, it was a pretty nice arrangement. I was able to catch up on some reading as well as writing that I had previously overlooked. I also arranged draws and closets, played some old time radio programs, and genuinely enjoyed the time spent indoors. However, as the days went by and the holiday programs no longer were available, my perspective began to change and I was not a happy person. It didn’t help that each time I turned the telly on, I was bombarded by depressing pharmaceutical ads that had the words “death” and “fatal” too many times for anyone to hear. Commercials that expressed the deploring states of health for those with everything from psoriasis to lupus were broadcasted on a continual basis. In fact, I found that there were more advertisements per show than there were times for the actual programs.

 My psyche was being bombarded with negative sights and sounds. I realized that the time spent alone as well as not being able to get out along with the negativity that came over the tube were taking its toll on me emotionally as well as physically. As I was dragging through yet another day while nursing a headache, the phone rang. My childhood friend of many years was on the other end. Although it was nice to hear her voice, I really wasn’t in the mood to talk. However, like a symphonic piece that starts off quietly and with little pizazz and then crescendos to a thunderous peak, so too was our conversation. In no time, I was laughing hysterically as we discussed the weather, our lives and everything else. When the conversation ended, I realized that my headache was gone. I felt lighter and generally well. The feeling from that conversation and the light-hearted laughter that I experienced followed me for the rest of the day. It continued throughout the following days as well because I made a point from then on to surround myself with humorous DVDs, old-time radio and more up-lifting phone calls.

 Laughter therapy has been researched and is utilized in different arenas such as with children who have illnesses and the elderly who are in nursing homes. Laughter and humor does seem to help with a variety of issues. For instance, Norman Cousins, who had been diagnosed with a serious medical condition, lived another thirty plus years beyond because he had determined that he would laugh his way to wellness. He subsequently got well and went on to write several books as well as becoming a successful businessman.
 Each person has a funny bone – that place that gets tickled so that laughter can happen. It’s built into us as humans and even in some higher order animals. When we laugh, endorphins (happy hormones) are released, tears cleanse the eyes, cardiovascular system awakens, and we kind of jiggle and giggle out the gloom. A feeling of well-being comes about and we go forward to tackle yet another day. 

 So if it is a bit cloudy on the outside that might be causing a deluge on the inside – do whatever makes you happy. For Norman Cousins, it was the Marx Brothers. For others, it might be something more contemporary. It also might be something as simple as watching the antics of a child or a pet that can bring those chuckles around as well. Whatever it is – laugh. It does a body and a mind good. It can be good medicine.

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