Laugh for the health of it

“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine”
-Proverbs 17:22

“Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility”
-James Thurber

“Laughter may be a form of courage”
-Linda Ellerbee

“If you can find humor in anything, you can survive it.”
-Bill Cosby

What’s funny about pain?

If you’re thinking there’s nothing funny about being in pain, I couldn’t agree more.  So why write an article about humor for this website about chronic pain?   It’s because laughter probably felt good before you started having pain, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t feel just as good right now.

Humor is the ability to see what is funny in everyday life.  It provides emotional distance from things that are frightening or make you anxious. It helps people view things differently.  Humor helps fight stress and it can help you develop a more positive attitude.   Laughter really can be the best medicine. Humor offers a short rest from the stress of chronic pain, and can provide pain relief.  Laughter has been shown to help with healing.

The link between the mind and the body has been the subject of scientific interest for hundreds, if not thousands of years.  The idea that humor could play a role in healing was popularized in the 1970’s by the experiences of Norman Cousins, a writer and editor, after he was diagnosed with a serious life-threatening illness.  Cousins believed that if stress could make his illness worse, then positive feelings might help improve his health.

Humor therapy

Cousins prescribed a treatment of “humor therapy” for himself, watching funny television shows and movies.  His illness eventually improved, and he wrote a paper, published in a medical journal, and a best-selling book called Anatomy of an Illness: A Patient’s Perspective.  Since the book’s publication, researchers have studied this, and found that laughter has many health benefits:

  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Helps promote muscle relaxation
  • Reduces stress hormones
  • Increases pain tolerance
  • Decreasing inflammation
  • Increases “good” cholesterol levels.

Where to look for humor

Humor can provide a more lighthearted point of view.  It can help a person see difficult events in a positive way, as challenges.  Laughter provides a physical and emotional release, and can be a distraction from negative emotions. Using laughter is easy because it’s free and convenient.  Here are some ideas to help write your prescription to humor your way to health:

Television, Movies, the Internet:
 Opportunities to laugh are easy to find on TV, in the movie theater, on websites like YouTube and Hulu, and by searching for “humor and illness blogs”.

Comedy Clubs:
  There is a variety of places to see live comedy. Since laughter can be so “infectious” doing it with others may help you laugh more.

Look for Humor in Everyday Life:
 Instead of complaining, try laughing about life’s frustrations and difficulties.  This approach leaves you less stressed and gives you a chance to share it with others.

Book Suggestions:

Health, Healing and the Amuse System: Humor as Survival Training by Paul McGhee (Kendall-Hunt, 1999).

Chronically Happy: Joyful Living In Spite Of Chronic Illness
 by Lori Hartwell (Poetic Media Press, 2002).

Anatomy of an Illness
 by Norman Cousins (W.W. Norton, 1979).

Life Disrupted: Getting Real About Chronic Illness in Your Twenties and Thirties
 by Laurie Edwards (Walker & Company, 2008).

Miracle Ride: A True Story of Illness, Faith, Humor
 by Tzipi Canton (Shaar Press Publication, 2008).