My Opportunity for Laughter Was a Gift

My Opportunity for Laughter Was a Gift
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laughter

Christine Tender Points

The past year has seen major changes in my neighborhood. Homes have been sold or rented. People have moved away. New families have moved in.

One socially minded newcomer together with a longtime resident organized a meet-and-greet block party recently. Everyone brought a chair and a dish to pass around. It was an opportunity to renew old acquaintances and to make new ones. It’s funny how you can live on the same street with people and never see them — especially when your illness prevents you from spending as much time outside as you’d like to.

Most importantly for me, it was an opportunity to laugh. And laugh I did. Three hours of nonstop talking and laughing is not something I do regularly, and it’s tiring for me. I came home exhausted. But the effects of the laughter were well worth the effort it took to prepare for the event and drag my chair the distance of four houses away.

Lately, I’ve been using all of my energy to fight pain. There’s been little left over for exercising. I’ve barely had the strength to walk our new little dog up and down the street (and it’s a short street!). An opportunity to laugh was really a gift.

You see, laughter has many of the same benefits that exercise does. So much research has been carried out on the subject that it now has a field of study of its own: “Gelotology.” Laughter has been shown to increase respiration, which results in an increase of oxygen in the blood. This stimulates the internal organs to work more efficiently and strengthens the immune system as well. For those of us with fibromyalgia, laughter triggers the pituitary gland to release the same feel-good endorphins in the brain that opiates do. As a result, laughter decreases pain. And it’s free. And there are no side effects.

The benefits of laughter were explored by political journalist Norman Cousins, author of “Anatomy of an Illness,” who was hospitalized with a serious, debilitating illness in the 1960s. He checked himself out of the hospital and into a hotel, where the food was better and he could treat himself with humor and vitamin C. He attributed much of his recovery to the hours he spent laughing while watching funny movies.

Whether it was the laughter, the vitamin C, or the time spent eating well and resting, no one knows for sure what cured him. We do know that laughter has many positive effects.

So, when you’re suffering from fatigue so severe that you can’t force yourself to exercise, you have an alternative. Laugh. Whether it’s watching funny movies, being with friends, playing with your cat — whatever provokes laughter for you, do it. It can only help.

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