If your doctor ever tells you to lighten up, do not be offended. Such a prescription may sound ridiculous, but research shows that laughter and a positive attitude can be healing. There’s nothing funny about kidney disease, but people are living happy, productive lives today because they learned to lighten up when things were not going as planned.
Illness can be a stressful event. Hospitalization, separation from family, invasive procedures, complex technology, or unfamiliar caregivers can all create feelings of anxiety, loneliness, discomfort, anger, panic, and depression. These emotions are known to produce physiological changes that are harmful to the body, which the use of humor and laughter can ease.Laughter is a pleasurable experience. It momentarily banishes feelings of anger and fear. It gives us a feeling of power and control. We feel carefree, lighthearted, and hopeful during moments of laughter.
The Cheapest Medicine
Most people agree that humor is a stress reliever, similar to other positive emotions. Laugh and you feel better. Laughter helps the body to provide its own type of medication. Laughter stimulates the immune system, offsetting the unwanted effects of stress.
Many believe that humor leads to health and longevity, and is necessary for human survival. Yet, scientific research in the area of health-related humor has been sparse. One reason is that until the last two decades, we did not have the scientific technology to study the biochemical and physiological effects of humor has been one factor.
But the major obstacle to researching the effects of humor is that the main focus within the healthcare system is on disease, illness, and the serious nature of health care.
In reality, humor has always been a form of communication between patients and healthcare professionals. I can say without hesitation that I always liked being taken care of by someone who had a sense of humor. In this age of high technology, scientific miracles, and medical breakthroughs, it just might be something as simple as laughter that turns out to be the best medicine. We must think of laughter as an exercise and make sure we get in a good laugh every day.
Deep in the human psyche, people know that if they don’t lighten up when things get tough, they’re going to tighten up and snap. Next time you have on a hospital gown, why not parade around and tell everyone it’s a new design created by “Seymour Butts?”
Lighten Up and Laugh!
Following are some tips to help you lighten up and laugh:
- Learn to play.
- Join with some children and help them do a puzzle, color, or play hide-and-seek.
- Have a party.
- Invite a few friends over for an evening of laughing and fun.
- Take a mini-vacation.
- Sometimes getting away can help to lighten our attitude.
- Watch a funny movie.
- Check out the comedy section at your local video store.
- Photo fun. Find a photo booth, sit down, pull the curtain, and take four funny face pictures. Carry them in your wallet to look at when you need to laugh at yourself.
- Read comic strips. Find your favorite comic and make a habit of reading it.
- Learn a joke. Get a joke book or go to www.jokes.com and learn a new one each week. Share it with the dialysis staff and fellow patients.
- Play games like Cranium, Pictionary, or Charades to challenge your brain and lighten your mood.
About the Author
Terri Melvin received a successful cadaveric kidney transplant in 1987. She has been involved with the American Association of Kidney Patients for the past 18 years. At age 35 she returned to school and received certification in Human Services, concentrating on Drug and Alcohol Studies. She is presently working on an education program for those in the renal community who work with patients having substance abuse problems. She has a cat named Nosey.
(This article originally Appeared in the 2005 Spring Issue of RSN’s Live & Give Newsletter.)
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