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Here are just a few ways our bodies, minds, and spirits begin to mend with a dose of humor. I know this first hand, having sat in a community room of a psych ward watching a video of a comedian poke fun at depression.
Like everyone else occupying a chair in that room, I was scared to death. Of many things … That I would never smile again. Or even WANT to love again. I was fearful of life, and everything it involved.
But the climate of the room was noticeably different. Patients began to open up more, to share some of the details they had left out in the prior group therapy session. Humor disengages fear because it changes your perspective: With a playful perspective, you can remove yourself from the marital problem that has you debilitated with anxiety.
Laughter forces a few steps—some much-needed distance— Humorous thesis statements a situation and our reaction. We all would do well to follow the advice of Leo Buscaglia: There is an unspoken message hidden within a chuckle—even the slightest cackle— that says this: Like any exercise, laughing relaxes you, and works against chronic stress that most Americans wear on the shoulder.
When you push any engine, including your body, to its maximum, every once in a while it slips a gear. The ways the body manifests that are: When people use humor, the autonomic nervous system just tones down a bit to take it off high gear, and that allows the heart to relax.
Elias Shaya, chief of psychiatry at Good Samaritan Hospital in Baltimore also tries to instill the importance of laughter in his patients. And science backs these efforts.
In a study published in the Journal of Holistic Nursing, humor very definitely seemed to diminish pain. Says Dave Traynor, M.
Humor boosts the immune system. Or, better yet, dwell in the misery and stay away from the cubicle longer. In researchers led by Lee Berk and Stanley A. Tan at Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, Califormia, found that two hormones—beta-endorphins which alleviate depression and human growth hormone HGH, which helps with immunity increased by 27 and 87 percent respectively when volunteers anticipated watching a humorous video.
Simply anticipating laughter boosted health-protecting hormones and chemicals. Laughter was once again found to increase the ability to fight viruses and foreign cells. The same research team at Loma Linda, California, conducted a similar study recently to see if the anticipation of laughter that was shown to boost immune systems could also reduce the levels of three stress hormones: They studied 16 fasting males, who were assigned to either the control group or the experiment group those anticipating a humorous event.
Blood levels showed that the stress hormones were reduced 39, 70, and 38 percent respectively. Therefore, researchers suggest that anticipating a positive event can reduce detrimental stress hormones. Thus, appreciation is the antidote to fear. So if humor can change a perspective on a painful memory of the past or a gnawing issue of the present into opportunities to laugh at the inherent craziness of life at times, then a person can better facilitate his own healing.
This is good marriage advice for anyone. But especially for the person prone to anxiety and depression. The quarrel is magically resolved! Humor is a way to articulate those truths that are so difficult to express otherwise.
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