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Laughter and Trauma: The Healing Connection
There’s an old adage: Laughter is the best medicine.
This is so true for many in the finger and partial hand amputation community. Time and again those living with finger loss find themselves looking to humor to help deal with both the physical and mental challenges they face.
There’s Allyson, who jokes with her dad about how it’s a good thing she doesn’t have a middle finger when driving through traffic in Southern California.
And 15-year-old Maile, who woke up from her thumb amputation with a touch of dark humor, “I give that surgery one and a half thumbs up,” she told her support team.
More and more books, studies, and blogs (Heh. See what I did there?) report on the health benefits of laughter. A quick google search of the phrase “laughter and healing” will bring up a mere 32 million results.
There’s even an annual conference, Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor Conference, running for more than 30 years. Additionally, some insurance companies are beginning to cover laughter clubs and humor therapy.
Of course, anecdotes and sore cheeks from grinning so hard aren’t the best scientific measures, so I turned to the non-profit research facility, Mayo Clinic, for some hard facts.
According to all the data the good folks at Mayo gathered, here are some of the top benefits of laughter:
A good laugh has great short-term effects. When you start to laugh, it doesn’t just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body. Laughter can:
- Stimulate many organs. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
- Activate and relieve your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response, and it can increase your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.
- Soothe tension. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.
Laughter isn’t just a quick pick-me-up, though. It’s also good for you over the long term. Laughter may:
- Improve your immune system. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. In contrast, positive thoughts can release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.
- Relieve pain. Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers.
- Increase personal satisfaction. Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It also helps you connect with other people.
- Improve your mood. Many people experience depression, sometimes due to chronic illnesses. Laughter can help lessen your depression and anxiety and may make you feel happier.
Whether you need to spend the afternoon binge-watching ridiculous animal videos on YouTube, grabbing lunch with your funniest friend, or like Allison and Maile, finding humor in the daily challenges a finger amputee faces, remember that a belly laugh will go a long way toward improving your mood and keeping you healthy.