Laughter is the BEST therapy!

March 26, 2019
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Chuck Swindol said “laughter is the most beautiful and beneficial therapy God ever granted humanity”.  This statement rings very true for me personally and for my relationship with my husband Bill. After Bill was injured, there was a season where laughter was pretty sparse and it was hard to see much hope for the future.  In time, however, as he started to get stronger physically and started to process and deal with the loss of ability he was facing, laughter started to sneak back into our lives a little bit at a time.

I can honestly say that I felt guilty about laughing or even enjoying any part of my life when Bill was in the ICU for 31 days or the rehabilitation hospital for 6 weeks after that.  I felt like I didn’t have the right to laugh or enjoy life knowing that my husband was lying in a bed paralyzed and fighting a pressure sore that he developed while in the ICU. I felt like I needed to be in a state of “mourning”, if you will, during this time.  It was only when he started to smile and make jokes that I felt I could lighten up and start to laugh again.

Over the past 7 years I have come to realize that laughter is highly therapeutic for both of us when we are going through a difficult season.   By God’s grace and mercy, it seems that we are never both feeling “blue” at the same time. When one is down, the other is always up and able to encourage the other.  We try to make each other laugh even if the other person doesn’t seem to want to or even if they don’t respond with a laugh. There is something about knowing your spouse is trying to lighten your mood that starts to work on you and allows you to eventually get back to the place where you can laugh again.  The joy of the Lord is my strength, without a doubt. Joy doesn’t mean happiness, joy is a choice and happiness is a feeling. But I have found that when I allow myself to laugh it is much easier to choose joy and the result produces happiness! Research shows that shared laughter is one of the most effective tools for keeping relationships fresh and exciting. When we share laughter with our spouse, we add joy, vitality, and resilience to our relationship. Laughter bonds us to our spouse during difficult times and humor can even help to heal resentments, disagreements and hurts between us.

There is a reason that laughter makes us feel better and let’s be honest, it’s fun to laugh!  Now I am not a scientist so I won’t bore you with technical details but I will summarize and give you the gist of what research has discovered about laughter.  Laughter is actually strong medicine and truly can improve your health! It pulls people together and can cause healthy changes in the body. Laughter strengthens your immune system, boosts mood, alleviates pain, and protects you from the harmful effects of stress.  If you spend even a few hours with a child you will find they laugh frequently over a variety of things. However, as adults, life tends to be more serious and laughter unfortunately happens less often. We have to intentionally seek out opportunities for humor and laughter because when we do, we will improve our emotional health, strengthen our relationships, find greater happiness—and even add years to our lives!!  

Laughter is actually good for your health: (Lawrence Robinson, Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D.)

  • Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
  • Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
  • Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
  • Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
  • Laughter burns calories. OK, so it’s no replacement for going to the gym, but one study found that laughing for 10 to 15 minutes a day can burn approximately 40 calories—which could be enough to lose three or four pounds over the course of a year, hey every pound counts!
  • Laughter lightens anger’s heavy load. Nothing diffuses anger and conflict faster than a shared laugh. Looking at the funny side can put problems into perspective and enable you to move on from confrontations without holding onto bitterness or resentment.
  • Laughter may even help you to live longer. A study in Norway found that people with a strong sense of humor outlived those who don’t laugh as much. The difference was particularly notable for those battling cancer.

Laughter is also good for your mental health. Now I don’t know about you, but I certainly could use a mental health boost from time to time…okay, daily but that might just be me.  When we laugh, we feel good and research shows that those positive feelings stay with us even after we stop laughing. A healthy dose of humor helps us stay positive and see the brighter side of things even in the midst of struggles, disappointments and loss.  In the most difficult of times, a little laugh can go a long way toward making us feel better. Did you know that laughter is actually contagious? When we hear laughter, it signals our brain and prepares us to smile and join in the fun.

Fun facts about laughter’s affect on mental health: ((Lawrence Robinson, Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D.)

  • Laughter stops distressing emotions. You can’t feel anxious, angry, or sad when you’re laughing...how amazing is that?
  • Laughter helps you relax and recharge. It reduces stress and increases energy, enabling you to stay focused and accomplish more.
  • Laughter shifts perspective, allowing you to see situations in a more realistic, less threatening way which can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and diffuse conflict.
  • Laughter draws you closer to others, which can have a profound effect on all aspects of your mental and emotional health.

Okay, enough about the research! Now that we know how important laughter is for our relationship with our spouse, what can we do to bring more laughter?  I read a lot of posts from women that are unhappy in life because their husband or boyfriend is living with paralysis and unfortunately, they are sad. They take out their sadness on their wife or girlfriend because let’s face it, we are the person closest to them and the one they feel the most vulnerable with. Unfortunately, that can mean they feel comfortable unleashing all their pent-up feelings of loss, sadness and hopelessness on us.  But what if we tried to change that? What if we were the ones who started to smile at them even when we didn’t feel like it and certainly when they don’t deserve it? What if we laughed at a joke they told…even if it is just horrible? Forced laughter is still beneficial!! Let me say that again, even laughter that is not genuine is still good for you. Mind blowing right? Remember earlier when I said joy is a choice not a feeling? Sometimes, we have to dig down deep choose joy in our hearts that we may not be able to feel.  Smiling, forcing laughter and choosing joy will go a long way towards helping our spouses feel joy as well.

There are many practical ways to add more laughter into your day.  First, you have to choose to be intentional about making laughter a priority.  My hubby and I try to watch something “light hearted” each night before bed together. Something that really makes us laugh.  We have also created our own inside jokes, which is common I think for most married couples. But now some of our jokes are spun from his spinal cord injury and all the craziness that comes along with it.  We are also both in some Facebook support groups, which sometimes offer some comic relief to the SCI life from people who “get it” because they are also living it. Not too long ago I learned of a new term that would probably not float well in the able bodied community but anyone living the SCI life can most likely understand and laugh at it….wait for it….poo-nami!  Like tsunami but less tsu and more pooh!! HAHAHAHAHA!!! Seriously, the first time I read that word I laughed out loud to myself. If that word doesn’t register with you in any way you are either not in the SCI world or you haven’t been in it long enough. But seriously, finding other spouses that are living similar lives and connecting with them, even if just through an online group, can be hugely therapeutic and a great source of encouragement and even laughter at times.

YouTube my friends, this is a magical place filled with silly videos that will just make you laugh.  Here is a short list of some of my favorite YouTubers that are sure to make you laugh:

David Lopez: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ZWVFx5wrzw

Michael Jr.: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qV24O1YxTV8

Tim Hawkins: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpFD-kgQxnI

Just watching small bits of these clips as I searched for the links had me laughing…these guys are seriously funny and all of them are very different.  I will also say they are all “clean” comedians and my tweens and teens enjoy all of these guys as well. Schedule in some time each day to watch a funny video or two with your spouse with the sole intention of laughing together.  

The SCI life is tough, no doubt, and we all have hard days that hurt so deep we can’t possibly laugh even though we know it would actually be good for us.  And that my friends, is completely okay. It’s okay to be down and sad for a day or two….just don’t stay down. Choose joy and choose to laugh so you can pull yourself out of those deep dark days and start to live again.  There is hope and healing for our souls and laughter is a great way to get our hearts and minds to a place where we can receive that hope and find the healing we all need to Thrive with Paralysis.

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About the Author: Julie Davis

Julie is the wife of Bill Davis and serves as both his spouse and caregiver. Julie has learned to embrace the struggle and thrive in the midst of insurmountable circumstances with her husband Bill. She has a heart to bring hope and healing to spouses, caregivers, and paralysis survivors for the glory of God.

You can connect with Julie by joining TWP Wives of Paralysis Survivors on Facebook

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