Illness is no laughing matter. I know from first hand experience that when confronted with the news of a friend or loved one’s illness, or even your own illness for that matter, there is a certain uncomfortableness that surrounds the issue. You’re flooded with uncertainties: What do I do? What do I say? How should I act? Is it ok to smile? Is it crass to crack a joke? Does this mean that I always have to be sad and serious?
My answer is simple: just be yourself. Your loved ones want YOU, your true self. They need everything to remain as normal as possible. If there was ever a time to be silly and sarcastic, now is the time!
I encourage you to enlighten those who think seriousness and humorless is the way to go in such a time. The amount of research that supports humor and healing is exorbitant and I’m excited to share some of it with you in this post. How could anyone make such a choice when we now know that laughter reduces stress, controls pain, lowers the blood pressure, and promotes healing?
Steve Wilson is a psychologist, speaker and author and is the Cheerman of The Bored of World Laughter Tour, Inc. and USA Laughter Clubs. How awesome is THAT? Did you even know we had laughter clubs in the good old U.S of A? There are Laughter Clubs, Laughter Yoga sessions, maps of Community Laughter Clubs around the world, and even sites on how to start your own Community Laughter Club. Steven wrote a fabulous article on Humor & Healing: The Invisible Weapon, back in 1996 (Promise me you’ll read it!). He quotes several of the world’s best minds on the topic and since, boatloads of books and articles have been published supporting the success of humor and healing. For more information visit his website www.stevewilson.com, or www.worldlaughtertour.com, or phone 1-800-669-5233.
Illness is stress; so the more you laugh, the happier your immune system is, and the better job it’s doing to support a more happier and healthier you! Yay! What fun!! The physiological response produced by mirthful laughter is opposite that of vigilant stress. So why be serious if your goal is to be well?
In addition to what Wilson has to share in his article, Dr. Lee Berk and fellow researcher Dr. Stanley Tan of Loma Linda University in California have been studying the effects of laughter on the immune system. To date their published studies have shown that laughing lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, increases muscle flexion, and boosts immune function by raising levels of infection-fighting T-cells, disease-fighting proteins called Gamma-interferon and B-cells, which produce disease-destroying antibodies. Laughter also triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, and produces a general sense of well-being. WOW! Quick! Start laughing….!
Following is a summary of his research, taken from an interview published in the September/October 1996 issue of the Humor and Health Journal.
Laughter Activates the Immune System
In Berk’s study, the physiological response produced by belly laughter was opposite of what is seen in classical stress, supporting the conclusion that mirthful laughter is a eustress state — a state that produces healthy or positive emotions.
Research results indicate that, after exposure to humor, there is a general increase in activity within the immune system, including:
- An increase in the number and activity level of natural killer cells that attack viral infected cells and some types of cancer and tumor cells.
- An increase in activated T cells (T lymphocytes). There are many T cells that await activation. Laughter appears to tell the immune system to “turn it up a notch.”
- An increase in the antibody IgA (immunoglobulin A), which fights upper respiratory tract insults and infections. (Whenever I’m too serious with my life, I can count on getting an upper respiratory infection.)
- An increase in gamma interferon, which tells various components of the immune system to “turn on.”
- An increase in IgB, the immunoglobulin produced in the greatest quantity in body, as well as an increase in Complement 3, which helps antibodies to pierce dysfunctional or infected cells. The increase in both substances was not only present while subjects watched a humor video; there also was a lingering effect that continued to show increased levels the next day.
So how will you add humor into your day? I know it’s tough to balance it all, the kids, bills, the house, work, eating healthy and getting all those glasses of water in. But it’s your health we’re talking about here so maybe:
- Watch a funny movie
- Pick something on TV that will make you laugh
- Read the comics
- Read books written by humorous authors
- Download comical podcasts
- Put the kids in charge of telling you jokes
- Check out Comedy Warriors online and watch how other champions find ways to laugh in challenging times
- Check out what made me laugh during my darkest days and continues to make me laugh today.
I hope this post has helped you to become a little sillier and to relax a bit more around your friends and loved ones who are not well. Perhaps it has helped you to help yourself be a bit more silly throughout your own illness. If you are in need of more information on humor and healing, simply search online and you’ll get lost reading about all the wonderful research out there to support something so much fun! Be well and laugh much!