Cancer is no laughing matter, certainly--but dwelling on the severity of cancer can actually negatively affect your health. Here are five scientific justifications for letting yourself laugh and six inspired suggestions for getting started.
As most of us over 40 know, Phyllis Diller was a comedienne--a consummate comedienne who paved the way for every other comedienne in the business today. As luck would have it, Phyllis was my neighbor, mentor and friend for many years. After my third cancer diagnosis, I will never forget the non-stop jokes she told me and the outrageous stories she shared with me. She got me laughing and kept me laughing.
One day she said to me, "I will never get cancer because I laugh every day." And you know what? She never did. She passed away four years ago at 95 of natural causes – with a smile on her face.
Now, I don’t really know if laughter can prevent cancer. But, I do know it can help us survive cancer.
Here are 5 reasons why you should laugh:
1. Laughing balances our hormones.
Laughing reduces the level of our stress hormone Cortisol. It also reduces the levels of adrenaline and epinephrine. Less stress means more energy, a better mood, and a more positive outlook.
2. It also boosts our immune system.
A good laugh increases our levels of three specific antibodies: 1gM, 1gG and Complement 3.
- 1gM are our “first responder” antibodies that swarm the scene of any disease or infection
- 1gG antibodies are responsible for long-term cellular immunity
- Complement 3 is what I call the “cavalry,” a substance which shows up to help all the other antibodies pierce and destroy diseased cells.
Hooray for the good guys!
3. And activates our T-Cells.
These soldier cells are the glue that bind all the other parts of our immune system together. They stand by until summoned and then, like heat-seeking missiles, they target and attack cancer cells everywhere in the body.
4. A good chuckle releases endorphins.
These are the body’s natural painkillers. In fact, the release of endorphins in our system is more effective for pain control than an equal amount of morphine. They provide us with a “natural high” that allows us to relax, stay calm and feel better.
5. And even eases depression.
Depression is a common occurrence throughout the cancer process. A good laugh, however, releases neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. These “feel good” natural chemicals create a sense of happiness and well-being. So, give your blues the boot with a good old-fashioned belly laugh.
But just how do we manage to laugh while fighting cancer?
1. Watch a funny movie.
What are your favorite videos, jokes, and books to share when you're feeling down? Share with everyone in the comments below!
There is an endless supply of comic videos and movies at your fingertips. Just go to the comedy section of your latest video device. Check out re-runs of your favorite television sitcoms. Create a library of silly, goofy movies. Watch cartoons. Tune into the Comedy Channel or YouTube for your daily fix of fun.
It’s simply not possible to play with your child or pet without laughing. Playfulness is the key to laughter, and laughter is the key to health and happiness. A day without play is a lost opportunity.
3. Watch baby animal videos.
There is just nothing cuter than a bunch of crazy, clueless little fur-balls. Again, check out YouTube and other online sources. Adorable. Heart-warming. I dare you not to laugh.
4. Read a funny book.
Find a hilarious book to help take your mind off cancer. Or how about a collection of your favorite comic strips? Or a book of funny quotes? Or a selection of humorous short stories? Or a book of jokes by your favorite funny-person? There are a lot of guffaws out there just waiting for you.
5. Do some karaoke!
Really, have you ever watched a non-singer sing and not laughed? By the way, the act of singing itself is healthy, uplifting and mood enhancing. When we add laughter to the mix we have a double whammy of fun and games. Silly Singing. It’s perfect!
6. Tell a joke or two.
Anyone can tell a joke. Set aside time every day to share a joke with family and friends. Even if you don’t fall down laughing, a simple smile will get your “feel good” chemicals churning.
And, there we are: the why and how of laughter. It just might be the best medicine after all.
Photo courtesy of Ariana Prestes