Dr. Rachell Anderson
Even after 20 years, I laugh when remember a Psychologists’ conference I attended. On the program was Enda Junkins, MSW, LCSW, known as the Laughing Psychotherapist. For the first minute of her speech, she merely laughed “ha ha ha”. Before long, the whole audience, as uncomfortable and confused as we were (and not necessarily the merriest people as a group), we began to laugh, too. She then shared her unique, practical, and memorable ideas for creating laughter as a tool for healing emotional distress.
In 1964, Norman Cousins was given a few months to live after being diagnosed with a rare disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis. He was told he had a 1 in 500 chance of survival. Cousins researched his disease, left the hospital and checked himself into a hotel. He found a doctor who would work with him as a team member and as a result of his research, Cousins began to get injections of massive doses of vitamin C. He also took a pile of funny movies including the Marx Brothers and “Candid Camera” shows. He spent his time watching these films and laughing until his stomach hurt. He wrote about his experience in “Anatomy of an Illness”, lived 26 more years and died at the age of 75.
Norman Cousin’s writing sparked research designed to gather evidence about whether laughter is good medicine that can be used as a tool for healing. He also ignited the movement which encourages people to take a greater role in their own health care. While not many doctors I know would treat such a serious illness in this manner, the research began.
Over the years, researchers have conducted studies to explore the impact laughter has on health. To date, they have found that laughter helps to reduce pain, decreases stress-related hormones and boosts the immune system in participants. It decreases isolation, allows us to bond with other people and eases our loneliness. Laughing reduces anger, aggression and conflict, relieves anxiety, physical and emotional pain and makes us feel happier. And laughter is contagious.
Have you ever walked into a scene where people were laughing and without knowing what the laughing is about, you began to laugh too or at least smile? We laugh at the sound of laughter. That’s why the Tickle Me Elmo toys have been so successful. Try as we may, even though we knew it’s not real, we couldn’t avoid laughing at that infectious laugh.
We were born with the gift of laughter. It’s part of the universal human vocabulary and doesn’t have to be learned like English, Spanish or French. We are born with the capacity to laugh. And kids ages 5 and 6, beat all of us with their exuberant laughter.
According to Robert Provine, Ph.D., professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “We are a serious nation with serious people who have serious health problems, many of which are related to stress. Laughter relieves stress. Laughter is a natural medicine. Above all else, it's fun. It gives us back our playfulness, a characteristic of all mankind. It can help us feel more alive and empowered.”
What’s a Person To Do?
1. Seek out people and entertainment which make you have a belly laugh.
2. Hang out with folks who sing silly songs, tell jokes (as long as they aren’t putting others down) and find the irony in every day life.
3. Develop your own repertoire of jokes, poems, limericks, or songs so you can bring life to the party or family gathering.
4. Laugh at your mistakes, your embarrassing moments and your failures. The lightened mood makes it easier to make things right.
5. Rather than sucking the fun out of others’ joy, laugh with them.
6. See if this joke makes you laugh:
A man lumbered into the soda fountain and ordered a banana split. In obvious pain, he gingerly lowered himself on the stool as the waitress cut the banana in half, added 3 half scoops of ice cream (one chocolate, one vanilla, one strawberry). She poured on hot fudge syrup, and spooned on pineapples, added some whipped cream and a few fresh strawberries. Nearly finished, as she put the cherry in the middle of her creation, she looked up at him and asked “cracked nuts?” “No”, he said. “Arthritis.” Read more at Htttp://www.sunnyskyz.com/funny-jokes
7. If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours. For a while at least, it will make this a happier place.
© Rachell N. Anderson, Psy. D., March 7, 2015
Dr. Rachell Anderson is a native of Tunica, a licensed Clinical Psychologist, a Professor Emeritus and author. She taught at the University of Illinois and ran a Private Clinical Practice in Springfield, Illinois for many years. She now lives and writes in Tunica, Mississippi. Check out her website at WWW.drrachellanderson.com for more articles and books.