/ Jan - Feb2007 / Laughter: Medicine for the Heart
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Laughter: Medicine for the Heart
By Jane E. Maxwell
“Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and
exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning
up to do afterward.” —Kurt Vonnegut
Laughter is like a breath of fresh air that we desperately need.
This seemingly simple act affects most of your body systems.
Laughter strengthens the immune system by stimulating your body to
increase production of immunoglobulin. It improves your heart rate
and circulation by boosting the oxygen supply to your brain.
Laughter controls pain by decreasing muscle tension, distracting
attention, and increasing the production of endorphins, natural pain
killers. Laughter is like giving yourself an internal massage as it
stimulates and soothes. It truly is medicine for the heart.
Sometime when we feel inept, like a duck out of water, in our
efforts to care for our loved one, the healthiest way to respond is
to laugh at our own imperfections. We are human and at times say the
wrong thing, spill soup down the front of the patient’s shirt, or
mess up at the most inopportune moment. But if we can’t laugh, all
we do is cry.
Humor, like prayer, helps us to rise above our circumstances. Seven
years ago the idea of laughter was difficult for me to apply to the
care of my terminally ill husband. Because I had worked as a
registered nurse for over forty years, I was much too intent on
fixing the symtoms of his illness and controlling his reactions to
the chemotherapy and radiation. I was increasing not only my stress
level, but also his.