LAUGHTER

There is really nothing funny about chronic pain, but research has shown clearly that laughter is one of the best and most immediate pain relievers that we have available to us. We don't really understand everything there is to know about how laughter affects us from a physiological standpoint, however, there are multiple physiological responses. Laughter causes your heart rate to increase as well as your blood pressure. It causes acceleration of breathing and therefore an increase in oxygen exchange. In addition, laughter causes the release of neurotransmitters in the brain and it signals a release from what ever is on your mind, even pain.

It is believed that laughter in some ways, is like exercise and a good hearty, long lasting laugh causes activity of facial muscles, upper body muscles including the shoulders and abdomen and significant diaphragmatic activity. With robust laughter, even the lower extremities can become active and it really amounts to a short bout of aerobic activity.

As you may know, your body secretes substances known as endorphins, which are similar to opiates and cause pleasant euphoric feelings. We have called these compounds, " the body's own morphine." Not that I am suggesting that narcotics are good, but that our body has its own mechanisms for dealing with pain. It is believed that one of the ways endorphins are stimulated to be released is through laughter.

At the least, humor lightens things up, brightens your day, helps you to relax and distracts you from negative, depressing, uncomfortable thoughts. If one can learn to look on the lighter side, life can indeed be more joyful and pleasant.

Norman Cousins, an author, wrote a book call Anatomy Of An Illness and this book was about how laughter turned his life around during a very difficult time when he was suffering from ankylosing spondylitis. Now ankylosing spondylitis is an arthritic disease, which causes fusion of the spinal vertebra which is accompanied by pain and gradual problems with impaired breathing. He had the experience of a distraction from his pain and worry after viewing a very funny scene on a television situation comedy, when he began to laugh very robustly. He had been unable to sleep, but this laughter had allowed him to relax and distracted him enough that he was able to sleep. He learned from this and began to focus on comedy as a way of treating himself. He found he could get two hours of pain free sleep from as little as ten minutes worth of good laughter.

Thirty years ago even, laughter would never have been considered a treatment for pain, but we know better now. Treat yourself and your loved ones to laughter to help alleviate your pain, depression and anxiety.