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Do we laugh because we are happy, or are we happier because we laugh?
Cancer hardly seems like a laughing matter. You may think it is inappropriate or insensitive to joke at a time like this. Yet, at some point in your cancer journey, you may feel ready to laugh again. And when you do, you’ll discover that laughter is a natural diversion. Laughter can lift your spirits and help you forget about cancer for a while.
Laughter therapy, also called humor therapy, is the use of humor to promote overall health and wellness. It aims to use the natural physiological process of laughter to help relieve physical or emotional stresses or discomfort, and improve quality of life.
More specifically, laughter therapy may help to:
Throughout history, people have been using humor in medicine. Surgeons used humor to distract patients from pain as early as the 13th century. Later, in the 20th century, came the scientific study of the effect of humor on physical wellness.
Many credit this movement to Norman Cousins, former editor of Saturday Review. After years of prolonged pain from a serious illness, Cousins claims to have cured himself with a self-invented regimen of laughter and vitamins. In his 1979 book Anatomy of an Illness, Cousins describes how watching comedic movies helped him recover.
Over the years, researchers have conducted studies to explore the impact of laughter on health.
Medical journals have acknowledged that laughter therapy can help improve quality of life for patients with chronic illnesses. Many hospitals around the country now offer laughter therapy programs as a complementary treatment.
For people with cancer, humor may seem out of place when facing such serious issues. Yet, laughter can help in ways you may not realize. Laughter allows you to release unpleasant emotions. It can also have physical benefits. According to some studies, laughter therapy may help to:
During stressful times, it can be challenging to find humor in anything. Yet, we were born with the gift of laughter. When we laugh, the body releases stress-reducing hormones that make us feel good. Some researchers believe that even one minute of forced laughter is as mood-enhancing as spontaneous laughter.
An example of a group laughter exercise involves patients standing in a circle, with the leader in the middle. Participants put their fingertips on their cheekbones, chest or lower abdomen and make “ha ha” or “hee hee” sounds until they felt vibrations through their bodies. Once people start laughing, others often join in because laughter is contagious.
NOTE: THIS INFORMATION IS NOT INTENDED NOR IMPLIED TO BE A SUBSTITUTE FOR PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE. ALWAYS SEEK THE ADVICE OF YOUR PHYSICIAN OR OTHER QUALIFIED HEALTHCARE PROVIDER REGARDING LAUGHTER THERAPY DURING CANCER CARE.
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