BEST board member, caregiver and guest columnist, Maggie DePuye-Phillips is back with a interesting look at how humor can positively impact the lives of caregivers. Read on and prepare to smile!

Maggie DePuye-Phillips, courtesy photo
Maggie DePuye-Phillips, courtesy photo

Rx for Caregivers: Laughter

“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.”~ Paul E. McGhee, Ph.D. 

With that said, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of humor in the world of caregiving. We all know that as caregivers, the stress of taking care of our loved ones is no laughing matter.

Fortunately, giggling is one of the most powerful reactions that can have a positive impact on one’s emotional and physical well-being.

Not only is laughing and finding humor in caregiving a great coping mechanism, it is also wonderful for your health, mentally and physically. Scientific studies have proven that laughter relieves stress, boosts the immune system, improves sleep, diffuses tension and even reduces pain. These are amazing benefits so why not view laughter as therapeutic medicine!

What exactly happens in your body when you laugh?

Blood vessels expand to increase blood flow; the level of immune cells and infection-fightingantibodies raises; your blood pressure lowers; pain relief occurs; and you experience the effects of aerobic exercises. Laughter also releases endorphins, which relaxes the body.

Goldie Hawn, an actress and an advocate for caregivers, shared her thoughts on how humor is helpful: “If we are happy, relaxed and curious, our brains open like a flower,” she adds. “Not only does this help us to remember and properly process information, but it also gives us the ability to handle stress.”

Personally, I strive to look for humor in all I do, especially during challenging situations as a caregiver. While the moment may be intense and nothing funny about it, I do reflect later to see how I can view it in a comical way. Doing that actually makes me feel better and improves my perspective on the outcome. I do not dare make fun of my loved one in any given tense moment he has encountered, but instead, I only look for how my behavior or my reaction can be perceived as funny. When the time is appropriate, I will then share my perspective with him, which allows him the opportunity to reflect and find the humor in his own actions.

This not only creates ownership of our actions or behavior, but mutual respect to poke fun at yourself and your loved one. And these will be the memorable moments you will treasure in your heart.

To incorporate laughter in your daily routine, there are many simple strategies to choose from; however, I will share just a few.

1) Designate some time with your loved one to share jokes or funny memories.

2) Watch funny videos from YouTube or comedy sitcoms and films.

3) Go to a comedy club or hang out with some friends who can bring you some hilarious relief.

4) Consider humor therapy, such as laughter yoga, a body mind approach to wellness.

5) Talk with other caregivers as they would be more likely to relate when exchanging stories.

It was Bob Hope who said, “I have seen what a laugh can do. It can transform almost unbearable tears into something bearable, even hopeful.”

For all you caregivers out there, here is your prescription: Laugh at least once a day. You will be grateful that you did.

Until next time, embrace each moment.

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