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The Healing Power of Laughter

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Can you laugh when the expectations you had for life have been turned upside down and inside out and you wonder how you will make it through another day? Your world has changed forever.

When my husband and I brought our third child home from the hospital after he was born, it was with joy and excitement. He was a husky, healthy ten-pound baby boy. However, by six months we knew something wasn’t right as he still was unable to hold up his head.

Many months later, once again, we brought our son home from another extended hospital visit where extensive tests had been done. Only this time, we were in shock. The final diagnosis was that Don had cerebral palsy of the worst magnitude (a-mi-tonic-quadriplegic was what we heard).

We were instructed to have a brace designed for him as quickly as possible so he might have a chance to walk. They didn’t offer much hope of him ever having a functioning brain; in fact, they gave us little hope of his ability to accomplish anything.

We drove home in silence.

When we arrived, I knew I needed the help of God to raise this child. This required knees on the floor beside my bed where I prayed for acceptance, strength, wisdom, and faith to raise this child as normally as possible.

I was rewarded with the most incredible peace I have ever experienced. And it was just the beginning of the most marvelous journey I have ever been on. My prayer was not only answered, but I was flooded with excitement and joy. Along with that peace I was given an “I can do it” mindset.

Don didn’t have cerebral palsy.

Instead, he had the absence and weakness of muscles, not only in his neck but down his back.

My son not only walked but started drawing as soon as he could hold a pencil. At the end of his career, he had become a freelance artist who worked in one of the most difficult arenas – L. A. – where he designed, created, and wrote. He created story boards and produced movie shorts.

When he died from pancreatic cancer, his celebration of life was full of people who came to pay their respects. He was esteemed by his peers and had a huge family of friends.

We never considered Don handicapped and he never considered himself handicapped. And while there were those serious moments of contemplation, they were few and far between. Don had a sense of humor that never quit and had us all laughing. He was a joy to raise.

Can you laugh through your tears?

Laughing through tears

Yes, but give yourself time to absorb the challenge you have been given. Then, with prayer, make a purposeful decision to find the blessings involved. Cry – yes – but then laugh!

For God, who loves us so much, will not only give us strength and faith, but joy, blessings and even laughter.

Don’s sense of humor tickled everybody’s tummy. Throughout his growing up years and afterward, he was the instigator of laughter and humor that seemed as natural as eating breakfast. It was infectious.

The benefits of humor

Can you find bits of humor nestled in the difficulties of a childhood?

Can you laugh when your wife has only a few weeks to live, and she wants to put up pictures that both of you can look at and laugh? Would you feel you were being insensitive and callous?

Or could you, like the author of I’d Rather Laugh: How to be Happy Even When Life Has Other Plans for You, see laughter as a way to help you get through an impossible time – a way to keep sane and keep from falling in the abyss.

Linda Richman had a crazy, screwed-up mother and a father who died when she was 8. In fact, she hated her mom! Linda married at an early age and her marriage was disastrous. She became agoraphobic (anxious and fearful).

Her son was killed when he was 29, just as Linda was beginning to pull her life together. She went into a tailspin. Her daughter was in pain, and Linda was in pain until she cracked a joke that broke the pain cycle for both of them. They were released and changed from that moment on.

She started performing at different clubs and groups, sharing her story.

“I learned that we could withstand a lot of pain and loss and not just survive but rise above it. I learned that no matter how sad you are today, happiness and laughter and even joy are still distinct possibilities for tomorrow, or if not tomorrow, the day after that. And I learned that I have in our power the ability to get all that and more. Everything important is in our control. I tell them that no matter what horrible thing has happened, life still offers you humor if you want it.”

“Are there really benefits to laughter, other than it feels good in the moment? Oh yes, there is,” Linda says. It is not only giggling and laughing, but also looking at the world with hope and anticipation.

Laughter and humor allow us to see an expanded view of the world. It allows us to see the good along with the troubles.

Laughter minimizes our suffering and helps us cope. With humor we can survive the toughest of situations – even concentration camps. Victor Frankl wrote about that.

Humor gives us power. It helps us overcome fears so we can rise above difficulties. It is uplifting, encouraging, and empowering and gives us the energy and strength to turn situations around.

Humor and laughter not only help us feel good in the moment, but literally contribute to good physical health. Daily stresses, unchecked over time, will contribute to illness.

Humor takes the pressure off “fear, hostility, rage and anger” so we can begin to think positively.

Hearty laughter exercises our heart. It lowers blood pressure, engages, gives our lungs a workout, releases tension in all parts of our body and with the release of opiates in our blood system, we experience a high – a lift.

“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”
—Proverbs 17:22

“The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.”
—Voltaire, French Philosopher

Charlie Chapman once said, “Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in longshot.”

Humor not only helps us see beyond our troubles, but also reveals potential solutions and options. It keeps us balanced and gives us a way out of the worst of times.

It helps us step away from our imperfections.

We can laugh with tears of happiness instead of tears of sorrow. Tears of laughter are as beneficial as tears of sorrow, carrying harmful toxins away from the body.

It diminishes our emotional pain and breaks that deadly self-fulfilling prophecy of doom.

Laughter helps us connect with others.

I’d rather laugh – wouldn’t you?

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2 Responses to “The Healing Power of Laughter”

  1. Reply Joan Husby

    What a perfect time to read this post! So much joy as the writers gathered at your house today…healing laughter, smiles, funny stories. I’ll be reading your related posts in the near future, and trying harder to put them into practice!

    • Reply Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC

      Thanks Joan, I also enjoyed our time together. How blessed we are to get together and uplift one another! Marlene

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