Rx: Laughter?

Posted on Tue, Jan 27, 2015
Rx: Laughter?

A few weeks ago, I was in a meeting, when during the lunch break, I was so tickled that I ended up laughing for the rest of the day. There was nothing earth-shatteringly funny happening; I was simply enjoying the fact that I was sitting in a room with a group of people that I enjoy. And, well into the next day, I found myself smiling about the incident and I realized that the apples of my cheeks were still somewhat sore from smiling.

This experience led me to research laughter and how it affects our health. 

There's actually a wealth of information that suggests there is great value in incorporating some aspect of humor and laughter in the care plans of our patients, even in emergency medicine. French surgeon, Henri de Mondeville, famously wrote, "Let the surgeon take care to regulate the whole regimen of the patient's life for joy and happiness, allowing his relatives and special friends to cheer him, and by having someone tell him jokes."

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Here are some of the benefits of laughter:

  1. Laughter dissolves tension, stress, anxiety, irritation, anger, grief, and depression. Like crying, laughter lowers inhibitions, allowing the release of pent-up emotions. There is no doubt that after an episode of intense laughter, you will experience a sense of well-being. We have all heard the phrase “he who laughs, lasts.” So true!
  2. Medical researchers have found that laughter boosts the immune system.
  3. Laughter reduces pain by releasing endorphins that are more potent than equivalent amounts of morphine.
  4. Humor helps integrate both hemispheres of our brain, for the left hemisphere is used to decipher the verbal content of a joke while the right hemisphere interprets whether it is funny or not.
  5. Laughter  can help you be more productive, engaging and help you be more of a team player
  6. Everyone loves someone who can make them laugh. People want to surround themselves with those who have a good sense of humor and can tell a joke or two.
  7. Humor brings the balance we need to get through the turbulence of life comfortably.
  8. According to Dr James Walsh, laughter is even equivalent to a small amount of exercise. You can feel the muscles of the diaphragm, abdominals, face (remember when I mentioned having sore cheeks?), leg and back get a good workout.
  9. A sense of humor can help you accept the inevitable, rise to any challenge, handle the unexpected with ease, and come out of any difficulty smiling.
  10. Lower blood pressure.
  11. Increase vascular blood flow and oxygenation of the blood.
  12. Reduce certain stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline.
  13. Defend against respiratory infections–even reducing the frequency of colds–by immunoglobulin in saliva.
  14. Increase memory and learning; in a study at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, humor during instruction led to increased test scores
  15. Improve alertness, creativity, and memory

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One of the other things about laughter is that it is incredibly contagious.  Like a yawn that's passed on from one to another, you can’t help but smile or join in when someone around you is laughing. I am convinced that if we can share some laughter, even in stressful situations, we can have a positive impact on overall health -- not only our own but those around us.

Ginger joined EmCare in 2013 as a Divisional Director of Clinical Services for the South Division with the strong belief that she could continue to make positive changes within healthcare by helping others focus on quality, excellence and the overall patient experience. Ginger Wirth regards her role as Director of Clinical Services as the ideal opportunity to partner with nursing, physician and facility leaders to make positive changes to the entire patient care experience. Her 20+ year nursing career has been dedicated to quality and excellence, promoting overall positive outcomes and safety for patients.


Ginger A Wirth
1/27/2015 9:58:14 AM