June 2016 | Wesley Hospice

The Benefits of Laughter

I don’t know about you, but one of the best feelings in the world is a deep-rooted belly laugh. A weight is lifted with even the slightest chuckle. Yet researchers aren’t sure if it’s the actual act of laughing that makes people feel better. A good sense of humor, a positive attitude, and the support of friends and family might also play a role.

Researchers have found that laughter actually boosts the immune system increasing the number of antibody-producing T cells. This makes us less likely to get coughs and colds. It also lowers the levels of at least four hormones that are associated with stress, so after a good giggle you should be far less tense and anxious.

The benefits of a good laugh are wide-ranging and can include protection from emotional issues like depression and improving the health of your heart. Here are a few of the facts experts know about the health benefits of laughter:

  • Relieves Pain – A good chortle has been found to reduce pain. Not only does it distract you from aches, but also it releases feel-good endorphins into your system that are more powerful than the same amount of morphine. These endorphins cause something akin to a natural “high,” leading to pleasant feelings of calm, as well as temporary pain-relief.
  • Reduces Depression – Laughter has long been known to help people who are suffering from SAD or full-blown depression. Laughing reduces tension and stress, and lowers anxiety and irritation, which are all major factors that contribute to the blues.
  • Lowers Blood Pressure – People who lower their blood pressure, even those who start at normal levels, will reduce their risk of strokes and heart attacks, so sit back and enjoy a comedy, or grab the Sunday paper, flip to the comics and enjoy your laughter medicine.
  • Produces a General Sense of Well-Being – Laughter can increase your overall sense of well-being. Doctors have found that people who have a positive outlook on life tend to be significantly less negative. So smile and laugh!

Though the definitive research into the potential health benefit hasn’t been done yet, doesn’t it just feel good to laugh? And in the end, what is adding a little laughter to your day and to those around you going to hurt? Get your joke book out, think of a funny movie to watch, or just think back on a memory that made you laugh in the past and get that belly laugh going.

Patient and Caregiver Stress Relievers

When a family member or a dear friend is diagnosed with a terminal illness and hospice has been recommended, stress levels tend to rise. Before you allow stress to take over the time you and your loved ones have left together, remember staying positive is not only important for the patient, but can be equally as important for those involved in providing care to a loved one.

Here are some ways to keep things upbeat and positive at a time when finding the positive in life can be difficult. Trust me, leaving the stress at the door is best for everyone and can help in the healing processes for loved ones in the future.

  • Art therapy – Art therapy can help individuals explore their emotions through the use of various art mediums. It provides an outlet for creative, non-verbal expression of their feelings.
  • Aromatherapy can provide many benefits to patients and family members; some essential oils may help alleviate nausea or fatigue, while others may help with anxiety and depression.
  • Guided imagery, meditation, or other relaxation techniques can help patients and family members reduce anxiety and depression.
  • Music therapy – Music can be soothing, relaxing, nurturing, energizing, and comforting. It may provide the following benefits:
    • Promote relaxation
    • Strengthen family bonds
    • Trigger memories or initiate reflection on one’s life
    • Improve alertness
    • Reduce one’s perception of pain or nausea
    • Create joyful experiences

My mother’s hospice nurses advised that as death nears, it is normal for your loved one to experience anxiety. It is helpful to reassure your loved one that you are there in support, and that although you will miss him or her, it is ok to let go. Receiving permission from loved ones can relieve distress for the patient.

Hospice Services at Methodist ElderCare has a fantastic hospice team available to help you and your loved ones with questions on alleviating stress and anxiety when you are not sure how to move forward. Kenya George at Hospice Services at Methodist ElderCare can be reached at 614-705-0892 or email her at kgeorge@mecsrc.com. She will be able to assist you with any questions or concerns you have.