Tag Archives: humor

Is laughter the best medicine? ……..

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The dopamine found in our brains is also known as the reward hormone as it regulates mood, attention, learning and motivation. Dopamine also triggers feelings of pleasure.

Low levels of serotonin in our brains are linked to aggression, anxiety and even depression. So, more serotonim makes us feel good. So does laughter as it is instinctive. Most laughter is not about humor, rather, about relationships between people. We laugh more in social situations than when alone. It’s not something we produce consciously. It’s contagious. A good, healthy laugh can help reduce pain. A good, long, loud laugh brings more oxygen into our lungs. Laughter is a sound with no language, so is effective internationally.

While my son was ill, a laughter therapist who I’d invited to give a talk to our support group told us that laughter keeps our immune systems humming by decreasing stress hormones. He stressed that it boosts infection-fighting anti-bodies by keeping our blood vessels pumping and protects our hearts too. Then my gym instructor told us that laughter triggers a rush of those all-important endorphins that we all love to feel after a good workout. When the well-known journalist, Norman Cousins was diagnosed with a painful spinal condition, he discovered that a regular diet of television comedies and candid camera episodes actually helped lessen his pain. I quote: ‘I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and gave me at least two hours of well-needed, pain-free sleep.’ The members of the support group drew up a list of what we should do to help brighten our days and here are a few suggestions.

  • Smile because it is the beginning of laughter and like laughter, it is contagious.
  • List your blessings. The simple act of considering the good things in my life helped distance me from the negative thoughts that acted as barriers to humor, laughter and consequently to feeling good.
  • When I hear someone laugh, I move toward that person. Humor can be a shared joke among a small group of friends, but more often than not, everyone is happy to share something funny. Why? Because it gives them an opportunity to laugh all over again.
  • I love spending time with fun people who laugh and smile easily both at themselves, and at life’s absurdities. These are people who find humor in everyday events. Their playful points of view are often contagious.
  • I try to bring humor into ordinary conversations simply by asking; ‘What is the funniest thing that happened to you today/this week or even this month?’  Try it sometime.

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Coping with mental illness in a family

I can no longer remember how many psychologists, psychiatrists or social workers my family met during our son’s battle with paranoid schizophrenia and the only place we received really practical advice was at the two support groups we attended. One was run by a social worker, and the second was known as a self-help group run by two parents…myself and a friend.

About 22 parents attended meetings every two weeks and not one of them wanted a professional to run the group. We invited a psychiatrist and a social worker on the odd occasion but the  most helpful talk was by someone who suggested using humor to defuse difficult situations at home. The only time I remember laughing out loud during those difficult years was during the hour he spent with us. At the support groups we learned:-

  • To take one day at a time.
  • To alter our expectations to fit the new situation.
  • We learned that it’s not what happens in life that counts but how one handles it.
  • We learned that a delusion will not go away so forget the persuasion and arguments.
  • We learned to separate our child from his/her illness which I found very difficult to do.
  • The group made me aware of how damaging my anger was and helped me learn to handle  it.
  • I actually learned to accept the things I could not change, the strength to change what I could, and the wisdom to know the difference. I learned that mainly from my late husband.
  • We learned to search for the positive aspects of our lives and I found that I had quite a lot to be thankful for. I had a loving, supportive husband, healthy daughters and grandchildren, jobs that we enjoyed doing, and a home of our own.

What I wanted from the professionals, was some honesty. When they realized that there was little they could do for our son, I needed to know this and to know how to proceed from there. What was good for him and what would bother him most. I know that not all parents want to know the true situation but when parents do need to know, it can only be of help to them.