Is Laughter the Best Medicine?

By Denise Rodman, Support Connection Peer Counselor

In this article, Support Connection Peer Counselor Denise Rodman shares some things she recently learned about using laughter as a tool for coping with cancer.

After being diagnosed with cancer, it can be difficult to stay positive, curb anxiety and shut your brain off at night. Social media, television shows, movies and books can sometimes provide an escape from obsessing thoughts and concerns. However, these outlets can also cause reminders of illness or hit too close to home, causing thoughts to escalate in a direction we were trying to avoid.

During diagnosis and treatment, I found comedies and humorous situations could really take the edge off. They could bring a smile to my face and lead to a good laugh. Wanting to continue this discovery of humor, I felt an urge to uncover more about joy and laughter.

I recently attended a webinar which shared the importance of laughter in our lives. The presenter was a laughter coach and yoga instructor. The idea of laughter and yoga seemed very different and a perfect avenue to explore.

What I learned in this webinar is that laughter is in fact scientific. Your body loves when you laugh. Laughter begins in your gut, increases oxygen intake, and causes endorphins to be released in your body. These changes in the body can lower stress, boost your immune system, make you feel better and put you in an improved mood.

Another wonderful point about laughter is it can be done standing, sitting, or even lying down. So, whether you’re recovering from surgery, receiving your infusion, standing in line or have physical restraints it is possible to “exercise” your laugh.

The laughter coach encouraged us that “We need to be serious about our humor.” He shared some other interesting ideas as well:

  • The thought of being serious about something silly might be a challenge but is an important one.
  • Laughter gives us an opportunity to celebrate our lives.
  • Laughing when you’re alone allows your mind to move to more positive emotions and thoughts. It can also spark a thought of wanting to share with others and motivate you to seek support.
  • Sharing a laugh with a friend, a family member or even a stranger can give a sense of togetherness.

After reflecting on what I learned from the webinar, I thought of some other tips to bring laughter into our lives:

  • Watch comedic movies or television shows
  • Watch a standup comedian routine
  • Follow comedy accounts on social media
  • Read a humorous book or joke book
  • Listen to a funny podcast
  • Look through amusing photos
  • Wear a silly accessory

Many going through cancer feel alone; laughter can be a bridge to feel more connected. So maybe the next time you’re struggling, ask a friend if they know a good joke. And if someone you know is struggling, share one of your favorite jokes with them.

Feel good knowing you’re making your body and mind feel better. Let out a belly laugh, a chuckle, a cackle or even a little giggle. Feel confident expressing your body’s joy.

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