|A Psychologist's Perspective
Our Take on the Medical Merits of Humor and Laughter
Humor Therapy as defined by the American Cancer Society
Why Would I Laugh at Cancer?
|In her book, "Pulmonary Rehabilitation: Guidelines to Success," Patty Wooten noted:
The ability to laugh at a situation or problem gives us a feeling of superiority and power.
Humor and laughter can foster a positive and hopeful attitude. We are less likely to succumb
to feelings of depression and helplessness if we are able to laugh at what is troubling us.
Humor gives us a sense of perspective on our problems. Laughter provides an opportunity
for the release of those uncomfortable emotions which, if held inside, may create biochemical
changes that are harmful to the body.
Herbert Lefcourt, a noted psychologist from the University of Waterloo in Canada has
explored the possibility that a sense of humor and its use can change our emotional
response to stress. In this study, subjects were asked to review the frequency and severity
of stressful life changes occurring to them over the previous six months, and their recent
negative mood disturbances were evaluated. Lefcourt then administered tests to evaluate
use of humor, perception of humor, appreciation of laughter, and efforts to include
opportunities for humor and laughter into each subjects lifestyle. Results of this study have
shown that the ability to sense and appreciate humor can buffer the mood disturbances
which occur in response to negative life events.
Humor perception involves the whole brain and serves to integrate and balance activity in
both hemispheres. Derks, at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, has shown that
there is a unique pattern of brain wave activity during the perception of humor. EEG's were
recorded on subjects while they were presented with humorous material. [cont. below...]
|During the setup to the joke, the cortex's left hemisphere began its analytical function of
processing words. Shortly afterward, most of the brain activity moved to the frontal lobe
which is the center of emotionality. Moments later the right hemisphere's synthesis
capabilities joined with the left's processing to find the pattern -- to 'get the joke'. A few
milliseconds later, before the subject had enough time to laugh, the increased brain wave
activity spread to the sensory processing areas of the brain, the occipital lobe. The increased
fluctuations in delta waves reached a crescendo of activity and crested as the brain 'got' the
joke and the external expression of laughter began. Derks' findings shows that humor pulls
the various parts of the brain together rather than activating a component in only one area.
The emotions and moods we experience directly effect our immune system. A sense of
humor allows us to perceive and appreciate the incongruities of life and provides moments
of joy and delight. These positive emotions can create neurochemical changes that will
buffer the immunosuppressive effects of diseases and stress.
"The simple truth is that happy people generally don't get sick."
Bernie Siegel, M.D.
|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)**