‘Laughter is the language of the soul!’ -Pablo Neruda
I take my work as a comedy writer and performer seriously! Many hours of effort go into the punch line of a poem or a gag. It’s also possible to kill that one line with the wrong timing or emphasis when it’s being performed. Sometimes I’m certain that what I’ve written must be funny as it makes me laugh: usually I’m right, but not always. Other times I’m convinced that this ain’t funny at all – only to discover when I try it out that I’ve got my audience laughing away. There is a particular pleasure – and relief – when you hear that sound. Not least because it means that I’ve achieved what I set out to do, but also because I know of the health benefits that occur when we laugh.
When I was asked to write an article for The Association for Therapeutic Healers (www.healers-ath.org) about laughter and its benefits to well-being because I use fun and humour in my coaching work, as well as being a comedy writer and performer, I set off in search of what happens to our body-mind when we laugh. Fortunately, I had been introduced to the work of Patch Adams (www.patchadams.org), the international humanitarian and clown doctor, sometime before. His work with the sick and dying, particularly children is humbling. I wrote to him, attended one of his clown doctoring workshops and he became both an inspiration and a mentor. Watch the eponymous movie starring Robin Williams – a comic genius – if you want to see some of the ways in which he creates laughter and its effects on patients’ health.
There’s a fascinating catalogue of benefits to laughing and its effect on our mental and physical well being. And you need to bear in mind that it’s contagious too! Laughter reduces stress, eases muscle tension, increases the body’s T-Cell count, boosts mental function, increases pain tolerance and that’s just for starters!
Studies of antibody production have also shown that the stronger a person’s sense of humour, the more resistant that person’s immune system will be to the effects of stress. While stress tends to impair immune functioning, subjects whose sense of humour was assessed on standardised psychological scales as being high were less affected by stress than those who scored low. Humour, as Donna Eden (www.innersource.net) describes in her book Energy Medicine jump starts your strange flows – that’s your inner Mum!.
Here’s my prescription for when your inner grump is taking charge – take some time to watch or listen to your favourite comedian, comedy show or read a funny poem. It’s important to remember that: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17.22).