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Laughter Is Powerful Medicine

From the desk of Susan Whipple, CEO/Administrator 

“You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.”  – Patch Adams

For almost a year now, our healthcare frontline has been stretched to the limit. With extreme pride, every day I watch my staff at Cedar Crest face their fears head on, determined to provide the best care to our vulnerable residents and patients.  Always seeing the individual person in front of them and reaching out with compassion.  Eyes smiling above their uncomfortable N-95 masks, doing their best to be cheerful and bring comfort to those in their care.  

Laughter in the Face of Fear 

While I think we can all agree that there is nothing funny about COVID-19, I genuinely believe a sense of humor has been so important to our staff as they’ve battled this devastating virus. The other day as employees lined up to receive their first dose of the much-anticipated vaccine, I was struck by the light-heartedness in the room. Finally, we can experience a collective exhale with “light at the end of the tunnel” in our sights.  With this new vaccine we have a reason to be optimistic and to laugh with relief.    

Just What the Doctor Ordered 

In the 1998 movie “Patch Adams”, Robin Williams played an unconventional doctor notorious for donning a red nose and floppy shoes.  The movie “Patch Adams” is based on the true story of the Illinois physician, Dr. Hunter D.  who continues to this day to challenge the status quo medical establishment with the unorthodox treatment plan of bringing humor to healthcare.  By encouraging laughter among staff and patients, he has demonstrated that by capturing the patient’s attention, laughter can suppress suffering – even for a moment.  While we especially needed distraction during these difficult days, bringing smiles to others should always be a part of the care plan.  Good-hearted humor is a way to show compassion to others while making us feel better, too. In the middle of this pandemic, laughter continues to help us to connect with others and to feel more “normal” – both of which have been greatly missed in recent months. Laughter has been clinically proven to be powerful medicine:

  • Laughter releases endorphins, our feel-good hormones, while turning off stress-related hormones such as cortisol.    
  • It improves our immunity by increasing antibody-producing cells.   
  • It protects our heart by increasing blood flow and lowering blood pressure. 
  • It makes us happier, helps make work more satisfying and fosters closer relationships with others. 

The bottom line is that laughter makes us feel good. It eases stress, worry, and anxiety that weigh the body down and helps us have an optimistic outlook.  Unlike some other items these days, laughter is readily available. Here are some simple ways to bring on the good vibes:  

  • Watch a funny movie or TV show.  From Seinfeld to Schitt’s Creek, streaming channels have something for everyone.  
  • YouTube videos.  Is there anything funnier than Talking Twin Babies? Maybe the infamous honey badger!  
  • Cartoons and comic strips bring out the little kid in all of us.  Take some pointers from Homer Simpson, “Kids, just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I’m not listening”. 

According to Dr. Patch Adams, “Laughter boosts the immune system and helps the body fight off disease, cancer cells as well as viral, bacterial and other infections. Being happy is the best cure of all diseases!”  Personally, I think this is just what the doctor ordered.