Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Healing Power of Laughter


“Joy is what happens to us when we allow
                                ourselves to recognize how good things really are.”
- Marianne Williamson
                                                                                               
Have you ever teased a small kitten with a ball of string, laughing until your sides hurt?  Have you ever shared an inside joke with a friend and just thinking about it made you burst out in spontaneous laughter?  What about reading an entire volume of Calvin and Hobbs before going to bed?

Believe it or not there is such a thing as laughter therapy.  There is a doctor named Patch Adams who once suffered from depression and through his suffering he discovered the power of service and “helping others in order to help himself.”   From this painful experience he learned how to help others through a combination of medicine and laughter.  Yes, Dr. Adams is a physician and his most potent medicine is helping others to heal through the power of joy and laughter and fun. 

As both a doctor and a woman, I’ve found taking ourselves too seriously and getting lost in our pains isn’t helpful to us.  When I need a dose of fun and joy, I go and sit on the kitchen floor with my dogs.  My older dog, Showball, warms my heart and my puppy, Sampson, makes me giggle and laugh. (Puppies are definitely another form of laughter therapy!).

When I work with my patients, often when things get too heavy and we start taking ourselves too seriously, I change the dynamic of the feeling in the room and say something outrageously silly and funny and begin to intersperse some fun and joy into the treatment session.

I was working with a woman the other day who was having some pains in both of her arms.  We were discussing where her arms were hurting and what was going on in her life at the time the problem began.  Her left elbow was hurting and restrictive in motion.  Elbows can represent changing direction.  Her right shoulder was bothering her and she was describing how it is for her to have lost her husband two years before.  She also shared what it was like beginning to date and like another man. She was feeling guilty for enjoying someone new in her life and feeling like her husband would be angry and that she was being unfaithful to him.  The discussion was getting very hard, she was feeling difficult feelings, and yet she was having an experience in her life where more joy was being let in.  She was actually feeling guilty for having fun. I suddenly pointed this out to her, and we had a really good laugh together.  Believe it or not, this was a moment of fun for us both that helped with her healing.

Being able to laugh at ourselves, to have spontaneous fun, and to enjoy life is extremely important to our wellbeing.  Life is full of difficulties and challenges.  It is important to learn from them and also important to laugh, be silly, make time for fun and games and simply have some good old fun.  You would be surprised how healing it is to make time for fun, laughing at ourselves, and enjoying friends and life can be.  When was the last time you scheduled an entire afternoon or evening for fun, laughter, and joy?  If you can’t remember when, it’s been too long and you need to email me for a doctor’s prescription that will say, “Laughter Therapy is essential for this patient’s well-being, health and happiness. Take three times a day until your sides hurt from laughter and your cheeks ache from smiling.” 


Small Lifestyle Changes that Promote Big Results
Schedule some time for you to meet with a friend and have a coffee, or go out for breakfast, or play a game of basketball, or take a walk in the park.  Make sure you schedule some time weekly for this.  When you find yourself taking you too seriously, take a break!

Recommended Resources
Dr. Patch Adams is a physician and a clown who started an institute for compassionate healing. Yes, these places do exist.  You might want to take a look at his web site: www.gesundheitinstitute.com