The Health Benefits of Laughter
Cancer is not funny; neither is any other medical illness, regardless of the severity. Oftentimes, when one is diagnosed with cancer, they are suddenly ridden with fear, anxiety, and nervousness regarding the battle ahead. The first plan of action that may come to mind is chemotherapy. However, as discussed throughout other blog posts, cancer treatment is not a one-size-fits-all, and rare is the treatment plan that does not include a variety of therapies.
One of the most vital treatments is commonly referred to as humor therapy, and it involves lots of laughter and light-hearted conversation.
While humor-globin, a play on the medical term ‘hemoglobin,’ does not actually exist, humor therapy does. This is a complementary therapy used in conjunction with other medically-rooted therapies and treatments, such as ultraviolet blood irradiation or ozone blood therapy.
The goals of laughter therapy include:
Improve quality of life
A look to science reveals how these goals are attainable, and how they can truly affect cancer patients as they battle their illnesses.
The Science Behind It
Laughter is a unique therapy in that it addresses all aspects of wellness: the physical, emotional, and mental components.
Physically, endorphins are released during laugh sessions; endorphins are important as they are “the body’s natural energy booster, a natural painkiller, [and] a natural mood enhancer.” Laughter reduces stress, and “he less stressed people are, the better the immune system is at fighting illness. Laughter also sends oxygen to the brain, which can enhance creativity, increase blood flow and even help us stay awake.”
For example, “one study did find that laughter can actually improve immune function, which is important for cancer patients battling the disease and trying to heal their bodies during cancer treatment. Stress is a definite detriment to physical and mental health, and lots of laughter is a great way to combat it.”
How Humor Therapy is Practiced
Laughter therapy can be administered in several ways, natural or otherwise. For example, laughter and comedy is highly encouraged between a patient and their loved ones and visitors; if a family member visiting can remind you of a funny memory from years ago that triggers laughter, this engages you in positive thoughts and happier times, taking your mind off of what negativity may surround you. Positivity is contagious, and this brief fit of laughter can help carry a positive outlook to other facets of the cancer battle, such as believing that you will get better, or a treatment will be administered successfully with little pain or side effects.
Other hospitals may enlist in the aid of ‘comedy carts,’ which “are brightly decorated rolling carts that are filled with toys and games. Staff and volunteers travel the hospital floors to make bedside visits to patients to bring cheer and inspire laughter,” thus bringing the therapy to you directly.
Humor therapy is also practiced through more formal or structured situations, referred to as “laughter therapy classes that are akin to exercises classes. During these group sessions, patients and their families play a game like "Simon Says" and make laughing sounds that the instructor calls out. As the participant does the laughter exercises, the brain releases endorphins.”
The Bottom Line
Laughter may not medically rid your body of cancer, nor will it cure it completely, but laughter is a powerful medicine that can drastically change your outlook and mental attitude. Laughter is an unofficial medicine that you have complete control over: you control how often you utilize it and whom you use it with. It’s a great way to lean on your loved ones, and to include them in your battle – even younger children can feel as though they are playing a key role in supporting you and helping you to feel your best.
With all of the benefits as discussed above, it’s no wonder why we often hear people say, “laughter is the best medicine.”