Posted by: Summer Katz, LMHC
Have you ever witnessed a baby with a giggle that turns into an uncontrollable belly laugh (for both you and the baby)? Unless you simply don’t like babies, seeing and hearing that sweet moment is bound to brighten your day. As a matter of fact, even thinking about it can make you smile.
More than just brightening up your day, sharing a good laugh can actually improve your health. The sound of laughter draws people together in ways that trigger healthy physical and emotional changes in the body. Laughter can reduce stress, anxiety and depression, strengthen your immune system and diminish pain.
I know that I write about “having an illness” quite regularly. It’s very easy to allow life with a chronic illness to become overwhelming, frustrating, unwanted and even debilitating. But, dwelling in sadness, can actually make you increasingly, more unhappy. My intention with this particular blog is to turn the tables and highlight the other side of the possibilities.
I believe that life with any version of struggle does not have to be an existence of 100% pain. Don’t get me wrong. I have certainly gone through phases where it seems that the pain or the symptom discomfort is never-ending. So, truly not to minimize those experiences… I simply wish to offer an alternative to the focus in life.
I do believe that our focus creates, if not enhances, our experiences (The Law of Attraction). If all we are focusing on is the frustration and negativity from the struggle itself, unfortunately, that frustration is all we continue to experience. So, what if we start to focus on more of what actually makes us feel good; the moments that make us smile, the positivity and the laughter?
When was the last time you allowed yourself to laugh? How we define ourselves can also play into how much we experience the laughter. Whether you are the patient, the caregiver, or the stressed-out person, your struggle is valid. It is important, however, not to solely live as this person. Ideally, become the person who is able to find laughter, as well as moments of joy and solace even through the tough times.
Looking back on the many things that occurred during the recovery phase of my double-lung transplant over 20 years ago, I have very fond memories of my grandparents coming into the hospital room with the silliest stories of their dinner-time adventures the night before. These musings would certainly make me smile and chuckle, even being on a ventilator. The main factor was their efforts to encourage the laughter. Even through the pain, the laughter would allow for a brief distraction from what was hurting in my body.
One of the greatest things I hold onto as an adult is having connections with family and friends. I think about the weekly lunches that I share with my dad and the laughter that we integrate into almost every conversation. Reminiscing over jokes and the most awkward observations with my husband and our friends always allows for amazing laughs and enhanced moments in our relationships. I believe the laughter has been and continues to be a gift; a gift of motivation, normalization and even acknowledgment as it becomes that sense of relatedness and belongingness in life.
I have put together a compilation of a few videos below to remind you to laugh. While my tastes may be different than yours, I certainly encourage you to use this idea to find “what makes you laugh” and make an effort to engage in it.
Laughter is not only a great distraction from the stress in life, but it has so many healing properties. May you allow the chemicals in your brain to lift you up for a while and take a much needed break from the chronic struggle!
By: Summer Katz, M.A., LMHC
Licensed Mental Health Counselor & Cystic Fibrosis Pharmacy Patient Advocate
*Disclaimer: This blog is provided for informational purposes only (including brief topic exploration or reflection) and should not be used as a substitute for professional mental health or medical treatment.