Therapeutic humour: leading or laughable?

Banter (Photo credit: Dave Bergin).

by Katie Siwek

Holistic alternatives are ‘all the rage’ in the twenty first century as more and more people try to find more natural ways to cure ailments and control stress. ‘Holistic’ essentially means to focus on the emotional, and mental effects that illness may have on a person. Instead of just alleviating the symptoms of disease.

‘Humour therapy’ – clinically known as therapeutic humour, is the use of laughter to increase mood and aid healing in the body. As well as elevating low mood, laughter triggers the release of endorphins- also known as ‘feel good chemicals’, promoting a pain-relieving effect on a person. Additions to this include the decline of blood pressure, the relaxation of muscles and the reduce of stress hormones.

This implementation can be useful on both a preventative and treatment basis. Usually, it is mostly recommended in chronic cases of suffering. Examples include both asthma and heart disease, where the fluctuation of severity in symptom, together induces and introduces levels of stress. It comes as no surprise that humour not only benefits the patient, but also the caregivers, whether that be family members or home help.

Contrary to expectations, scientists have clinically proven results in the use of humour to aid patients to health. ‘Psychoneuroimmunology’, is the field of study involving the relation of the mind and body- especially with emphasis on healing. Through laughter, it is apparent that our brain chemistry changes leading to supporting evidence, that humour improves quality of life, whilst enabling someone who may feel very much alone in their struggles which come with illness, to feel like they are more in control of their situation. The immune system is boosted also through the promotion of laughter with the increase of infection fighting T-cells (lymphocytes) in the body, which inevitably contribute towards the wellbeing and healing of the body.

One might assume that this type of therapy is only suitable for children and also, that it is only used as a palliative form of care. However, therapeutic humour is developed to accommodate a variety of problems in many ways including light reading materials, videos and one to one verbal communication often with nurses in a hospital environment if the primary treatment is ongoing.

It is necessary to note that this treatment is complimentary and therefore not prescribed alone to fight illness. Laughter is said to bring positive emotions that can enhance, not replace conventional treatments. Which is exactly why humour can be used as a preventative method against disease, in fighting against the stress hormones which exasperate the symptoms of illness, however slight or debilitating they may be.

Would you consider humour therapy as an accompaniment to treatment you may receive in the future?

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