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MAGAZINE / Jan - Feb2007 / Laughter: Medicine for the Heart

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Laughter: Medicine for the Heart

By Jane E. Maxwell

(Page 1 of 2)

“Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.” —Kurt Vonnegut

Laughter is like a breath of fresh air that we desperately need. This seemingly simple act affects most of your body systems. Laughter strengthens the immune system by stimulating your body to increase production of immunoglobulin. It improves your heart rate and circulation by boosting the oxygen supply to your brain. Laughter controls pain by decreasing muscle tension, distracting attention, and increasing the production of endorphins, natural pain killers. Laughter is like giving yourself an internal massage as it stimulates and soothes. It truly is medicine for the heart.

Sometime when we feel inept, like a duck out of water, in our efforts to care for our loved one, the healthiest way to respond is to laugh at our own imperfections. We are human and at times say the wrong thing, spill soup down the front of the patient’s shirt, or mess up at the most inopportune moment. But if we can’t laugh, all we do is cry.

Humor, like prayer, helps us to rise above our circumstances. Seven years ago the idea of laughter was difficult for me to apply to the care of my terminally ill husband. Because I had worked as a registered nurse for over forty years, I was much too intent on fixing the symtoms of his illness and controlling his reactions to the chemotherapy and radiation. I was increasing not only my stress level, but also his.


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