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Posted: November 10, 2005

Spousal Caregiving

In Caregiving, He Who Laughs -- Lasts!

Bill Andrew

Do you have stress in your life as a spousal caregiver? I sure do!

Current research indicates that humor and laughter can offset stress and perhaps even boost your immune system. Did you know there also are therapeutic medical and emotional benefits to be derived from humor and laughter? During times of change -- such as becoming a caregiver by default -- the use of humor and laughter can serve to build rapport, decrease tension, and assist in gaining a broader perspective necessary for problem solving that we spousal caregivers encounter every day.

Perhaps we should be learning strategies for responding to, adapting to, and managing a variety of changes that occur in our daily lives. Perhaps we should be looking for ways to turn negative situations into new opportunities. Perhaps we should be prepared to laugh, relax, and look at various creative stress management techniques. Perhaps we should develop various humor development techniques and guidelines to effectively use humor to balance conflicts and changes that occur in our lives. Perhaps we should establish a goal of adding happiness into our lives as spousal caregiver and spousal care-recipient as well as to be an inspiration to others working or living around you.

You have undoubtedly heard the old saying that "laughter is the best medicine." But have you taken that to heart? Humor can go a long way in helping both you and your loved one feel better -- and you don't have to be professional comedian to make humor work for you.

Did you know that scientists have found that laughter is a form of "internal jogging" that exercises the body and stimulates the release of beneficial brain endorphins and neurotransmitters? Hearty laughter exercises the lungs and circulatory systems and increase the amount of oxygen in the blood. Indications are that a positive attitude and laughter are actually good for your health! Perhaps "laughter is still the best medicine!"

Did you know that adults laugh about 15 times per day, according to recent studies? Or that children laugh about 400 times per day -- over 25 times more than adults? Perhaps that is why we adults are so serious about ourselves and our lives while our children tend to "laugh off" the problems that they incur! As we grew up, we somehow lost several hundred laughs a day. If we can once again learn to laugh and smile as spousal caregivers -- and if we can convey that attitude to our loved ones -- we could have a profound and positive impact upon our respective health and well-being.

In fact, there is a new science of psychoneuroimmunology, which is the study of how out state of mind affects our health. Scientific evidence, more than ever, suggests that laughter is really one of our best medicines. Drs. Gael Crystal and Patrick Flanagan are world recognized researchers, medical doctors, scientists, and metaphysicians. They received a Nobel Prize nomination for their discovery of Nanocolloids -- Microclusters. Much of this column is based on their scientific efforts.

According to research at Loma Linda University Medical Center in California, we are now starting to understand the physiology of merriment -- that is, humor and laughter. There are two distinct types of stress -- good stress and bad stress. Humor-induced laughter is a form of good stress; actually, stress in reverse. Bad stress suppresses your immune system as proven by previous research. Current research is intended to determine if a form of good stress, that is, laughter, would improve the immune system.

The researchers studied groups of average adults and founds that the immune system got a significant boost out of laughter. The test group watched one hour of comedy videos while the control group sat quietly. Blood samples were taken at 10-minutes intervals before, during, and after the study period. The found that humor and exercise trigger similar physiological processes in the body. As with conditioned athletes, the laughter group showed increases in the good hormones, such as endorphins and neurotransmitters, and decreased levels of the stress hormones, such as adrenaline, cortisol, and epinephrine.

Laughter is one of the body's safety valves and acts as a counter-balance to the tension that causes stress. When we release that tension, the elevated levels of the stress hormones drop back to normal. This allows the immune system to work more effectively once again. Cells, which produce anti-bodies, increase in number and T-cells, which combat viruses, are activated and ready for battle. Our Natural Killer Cells, which destroy viruses and tumors, increase in number and activity. All of this occurs as a direct result of laughter!

One of the researchers states it all quite eloquently: "All of these neuro-hormones act like an orchestra, each instrument makes a particular note. Laughter makes the entire orchestra more melodious or balanced. In other words, laughter brings a balance to all components of the immune system."

In a curious twist, it has also been discovered that faking laughter will also cause the human body to respond as though the laughter were real. The physiological changes that occur with real laughter will also occur even when we pretend to laugh!

A noted psychiatrist, who runs laughter clinics in England, says that "smiling and laughing produce happy chemicals called endorphins which work in the brain to give an overall feeling of well-being." So, the real lesson from this column is that being unhappy, sad, and depressed can seriously damage your health as a spousal caregiver.

So -- don't worry, be happy! The time is NOW to laugh and be happy.

WORDS TO CARE BY . . .

"He who laughs, lasts!"

(Mary Pettibone Poole)


Bill Andrew identifies himself as a former “nutritionally-empowered Alzheimer’s caregiver” who attributes the slow-down in progression of Alzheimer’s disease in his wife, Carol – and the growth of his own personal emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual capability and strength to provide quality 24/7 care for her in their own home – to the targeted nutritional supplements they both took on a daily basis. Carol went to her Heavenly reward on June 9, 2008 – Bill continues on to advocate for family caregivers. Contact Bill with your caregiving questions and comments via email at ASKBill@caregivershome.com.

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© 2005 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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