|Humor Therapy: According to the Medical Community
Our Take on the Medical Merits of Humor and Laughter
A Psychologist's Perspective on Humor and Healing
Why Would I Laugh at Cancer?
|--As Defined by the American Cancer Society (CINF.com comments are in Red)--
Other common name(s): Laugh Therapy
Scientific name(s): None (Not too creative, are they? How about 'Remedial Laffallitis?')
Humor therapy is the use of humor for the relief of physical or emotional pain and stress. It is used as a
complementary method to promote health and cope with illness.
Although available scientific evidence does not support claims that laughter can cure cancer or any
other disease (to admit humor's curative powers would cost them big $$$, therefore, no dice), it can
reduce stress and enhance a person's quality of life. Humor has physical effects because it can stimulate
the circulatory system, immune system, and other systems in the body.
How is it promoted for use?
Humor therapy is generally used to improve quality of life, provide some pain relief, encourage
relaxation, and reduce stress. Researchers have described different types of humor. Passive humor
results from seeing prepared material, such as a funny movie, standup comedy, or an amusing book.
Spontaneous or unplanned humor involves finding humor in everyday situations (umm, you mean like
having a sense of humor.) Being able to find humor in life can be helpful when dealing with cancer.
|What does it involve?
The physical effects of laughter on the body include increased breathing, more oxygen use, and higher
heart rate (remind anyone of sexual arousal? funny = horny.) Many hospitals and treatment centers
have set up special rooms where humorous materials, and sometimes people (clowns?), are placed to
help make people laugh. Materials commonly used include movies, audio and videotapes, books, games,
and puzzles. Many hospitals use volunteers who visit patients for the purpose of providing opportunities
for laughter. A 1999 survey found that about 1 in 5 National Cancer Institute-designated treatment
centers offered humor therapy.
What is the history behind it?
Humor has been used in medicine throughout recorded history. One of the earliest mentions of the
health benefits of humor is in the book of Proverbs in the Bible (humor's abilities are both legendary and
divine.) As early as the 13th century, some surgeons used humor to distract patients from the pain of
surgery. Humor was also widely used and studied by the medical community in the early 20th century.
In more modern times, the most famous story of humor therapy involved Norman Cousins, then editor
of the Saturday Review. According to the story, Mr. Cousins cured himself of an unknown illness with a
self-invented regimen of laughter and vitamins. [continued below...]
|What is the evidence?
Available scientific evidence does not support humor as an effective treatment for cancer or any other
disease (of course not, humor is free); however, laughter has many benefits, including positive physical
changes and an overall sense of well being. One study found the use of humor led to an increase in pain
tolerance. It is thought laughter causes the release of special neurotransmitter substances in the brain
(endorphins) that help control pain. Another study found that neuroendocrine and stress-related
hormones decreased during episodes of laughter. These findings provide support for the claim that
humor can relieve stress. More studies are needed to clarify the impact of laughter on health.
Are there any possible problems or complications?
Humor therapy is considered safe when used as along with conventional medical therapy. It can be
harmful if used to avoid difficult or delicate issues that are important to you or your family. Laughter can
also cause temporary pain after some types of surgery (broken funny bone.) This improves as the body
heals, and causes no lasting harm (phew!)
Relying on this type of treatment alone, and avoiding or delaying conventional medical care for cancer,
may have serious health consequences (and may delay your doctor's purchase of that Ferrari.)
|We, at CancerIsNotFunny.com, are not doctors. We are not medically trained or certified in any way
(if medical knowledge was measured in parenting skills, we'd be Britney Spears) and thus, all of the
claims and/or suggestions detailed on this site should not be taken as medical advice. Always consult
your physician before beginning and/or modifying any alternative course of treatment.
We are, however, firm believers in the healing power of laughter. **Laughter has not been FDA
approved for the treatment of cancer or any other medical condition (except maybe depression, and
if it's not, it sure as hell should be)**