Being part of the Friends After Diagnosis women’s cancer support group means we share some of life’s toughest moments with each other. When we arrive at a meeting, we know there will be kindness, support, encouragement, education, and laughter. No matter how we feel when we arrive, we leave feeling better because we have been nourished and accepted, wherever we are in our healing process. One of the ways we help each other is to laugh at ourselves, each other, and life’s endless capacity for surprises.
Paul E. McGee, Ph.D., believes that laughter enhances our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health, and writes, “Your sense of humor is one of the most powerful tools you have to make certain that your daily mood and emotional state support good health.” The healing power of humor is so strong that there is an entire field dedicated to laughter (humor) therapy. If you look, you will find humor or laughter therapy on the website treatment pages of both the American Cancer Society and Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
Numerous studies have clearly indicated the benefits of anything from a chuckle to a full-fledged belly laugh. Maud Purcell writes about how laughter affects human physiology in her article “The Healing Power of Humor.” Here are some of her key points about what humor does:
- Reduces pain by producing endorphins
- Strengthens immune system by increasing T-cells, interferon, and immune proteins
- Decreases stress by lowering cortisol levels
- Promotes healthy perspective by keeping life’s trials from becoming overemphasized
- Triggers creativity by entertaining numerous ideas
- Enhances balance so we don’t take ourselves too seriously
To take advantage of all laughter has to offer, let’s incorporate it into each day. We can help each other out by sharing the hilarious antics of our pets, a child’s perspective on life, personal embarrassing moments (why are there so many of those?), or the unexpected things that happen in a doctor’s office. There are many more entertaining possibilities, and sharing them is fun for everyone. Here are three dog stories for your enjoyment. The first is a Reader’s Digest short story – author unknown.
My dog, Shadow, is smart as a whip, but she sheds like crazy. One day Shadow brought me a tuft of her black fur. I thought, I wonder where she found that? But I rewarded her with a treat and put the fur in the trash. Later, she traded a second clump of fur for a treat. When she brought me another one, I realized it looked familiar. Sure enough, there was no fur in the trash. Shadow was trading the same tuft for treats. She knew she was busted and innocently put her head on her paws and fell asleep.
This is a true story from a friend: At one time, Patti and Bill lived in downtown Chicago. After work they loved to walk their collie Daisy and stop by their favorite coffee shop for a beverage and snack. Sitting at an outside table they would de-stress from the day. Once they followed their usual routine and, tying Daisy to the leg of an outside metal table, went inside to order. An unexpected loud noise startled Daisy and caused her to jump up, which moved the table. The moving table scared Daisy further and she took off down the sidewalk dragging the noisy metal table behind her. Bill and Patti, seeing what happened, ran out of the coffee shop after the scared dog and noisy table careening down the sidewalk. Two people chasing a dog and table gave comic relief to bystanders who helped Bill and Patti corral Daisy and relieve her of the scary table that was chasing her. So much for a quiet cup of coffee!
One more dog story from our daughter Heather: When her and Cam’s triplets were around fourteen years old, their two dogs, litter mates Zoe and Cooper, were in the kitchen searching the floor for dropped food. The family had just finished supper and was filling the dishwasher. Cooper was the self-appointed inspector of the bottom tray of dishes, making sure the dishes were thoroughly licked before the door was closed. One evening Cooper leaned into the bottom tray further than usual, chasing an enticing scrap of food. His collar got caught on the tray, so when he tried to back away the whole tray came with him. It fell out of the dishwasher and onto the floor with so much noise that Cooper wanted to escape. He took off through the kitchen and dashed into the living room dragging the tray of supper dishes with him. It happened so fast, and looked so funny, that the family was in tears laughing. One of the kids caught up with Cooper and detached his collar. It was a long time before Cooper even came near the dishwasher again.
You may have a therapeutic, laughter-filled, family pet story of your own. If you do, share it in the comment section so we can all share the laugh. There’s no such thing as too much laughter therapy, so feel free to share more than one. Let’s share a laugh as often as possible!
Until Next Time – Sylvia