There is a reason laughter is considered the best medicine. When it comes to easing and relieving depressions or any other form of stress, laughter and humor always find a way to cheer someone. It does not matter whether the humor is from a clip or from reading a comedic article in the newspaper but all that matters is that the humor will always leave you smiling. It is proven that when patients engage in humor and laughter, they are more likely that the stress they may be suffering from disappears or at least declines (Boyle). In nursing practice and even in hospitals, you would find walls fitted with humorous content specifically targeting patients in an attempt to relieve them from stress and depression. Besides, you would find that nurses always have a way of making their patients smile as it is considered impactful while providing patient care (Boyle). Apart from the variety of benefits associated with humor therapy, however, it is also affected by several drawbacks both of which will be discussed below.
Therapeutic humor can almost be used by anybody for either preventive purposes or as part of treatment for any illness. It is not only used to treat patients at the hospital but can also apply to caregivers who at times find themselves in stressful situations due to their involvement with patients. According to Hatzipapas et al. (203), caregivers are at higher risks of getting into stress than their counterparts who are less involved with caregiving activities. Humor therapy is, however, mostly used as a remedy for chronic diseases particularly those ignited by stress such as asthma and heart diseases (Boyle). Inducing humor therapy to such patients helps in enabling the patient to take control of the situation without feeling afraid or helpless (Yim 245). Thus, it would be relevant for caregivers and even everyone to seek therapeutic humor sessions as it is not only for the sick.
A major advantage associated with therapeutic humor is its ability to help people to endure stressful situations by enabling them to face problems is an objective angle rather than playing the victim (Yim 245). A successful humor therapy will always prevent a patient from falling victim to the environment since the patient comes out with improved problem-solving abilities and increased insight (Yim 246). When a person can take charge of their stressful situation, the chances to recover from the stress increases. Some opinions regard laughter as a form of stress only that it is positive stress. In other words, laughter is a form of pleasant stress that ignites some positive and powerful energy from a patient (Yim 245). Thus, humor therapy plays such a significant role in reducing negative cognitive reactions from a patient and at the same time reducing the level of stress.
Enhanced cardiovascular health is another benefit associated with therapeutic humor. Research has over time connected conditions such as anger, stress, and depression with the deterioration of cardiovascular health. According to (Yim 246), people who watch comedic films experience better vascular functionalities compared to their counterparts who spent most time watch documentaries. Another study by Sakurada et al. involving more than 20000 participants established that laughter has a significant effect on the development of heart diseases (189). People who laugh often have minimal chances of contracting heart diseases compared to people who rarely laugh (Sakurada et al. 189). In Japan, therapeutic humor has been liked with decreased mortality rates and heart diseases (Tanaka et al. 307). Thus, one can conclude that engaging in humor often can enhance one’s cardiovascular health as well as lower the chances of other related infections.
Enhanced patient’s moods are also among the psychological health benefits associated with therapeutic humor. As research has proven, humor therapy increases the level of brain chemicals, dopamine, and serotonin, that are responsible for the changes in moods of a person (Yim 245). When the chemicals increase, a patient experiences a state of stress relief and less anxiety (Yim 245). Other chemicals such as cortisol and epinephrine, also known as stress hormones, are said to reduce with an increase in humor (Yim 245). In addition, laughter is proven to alleviate depression enhance sleep quality both of which can impact the moods of a person negatively if not well managed (Yim 247). Therapeutic humor thus proves to be great for the mood.
Engaging in therapeutic humor improves the quality of life for patients and even to caregivers who take care of HIV and Cancer patients. Residents living in nursing homes experience a healthier and productive lifestyle when taken through humor therapy (Hatzipapas et al. 203). Subsequently, those residents would experience an enhanced quality of life (Hatzipapas et al. 203). According to Hatzipapas et al. (203), successful humor therapy interventions increase the general quality of life subscales such as physical functionalities, social functionalities as well as emotional and spiritual health of a person. Given such benefits, it is relevant and also important to integrate therapeutic humor into HIV and cancer patients. In addition, humor therapy should be routinely provided to residents in nursing homes.
Therapeutic humor is also connected with physiological benefits such as pain relief. Although there is no single remedy proved to treat chronic pain, undergoing humor therapy was seen to relieve patients from such pains as it enhances pain tolerance and muscle soreness among young people (Lapierre et al. 733). Results from scientific research showed that watching comedic episodes alleviated a patient’s breathing patterns while watching a documentary decreased the effect (Lapierre et al. 733). A positive effect of pain relief was increased after watching a comedic video while it was decreased after watching a documentary (Lapierre et al. 734). Thus, one can conclude that engaging in therapeutic humor can elevate pain threshold and tolerance.
Finally, therapeutic humor is an effective way of exercising and relaxing body muscles. After successful sessions of humor therapy, an individual experiences relaxed body muscles that are ignited by the contractions and expansion of muscles experienced during intense laughter (Yim 245). Besides, the contraction and expansion of the stomach muscles during laughter help tone your body abs, and at the same time, the muscles not used to laughing get their time to relax (Yim 247). During the process, the patient also releases all the physical tension accumulated in the body and eventually easing stress and anxiety one might be suffering from. In addition, it is easier to get quality sleep when the muscles are well exercised and relaxed (Yim 245). Given such an advantage, it would be advisable for anyone to access some therapeutic humor once in while regardless of whether they are suffering or not.
Intense laughter can cause patients, especially those with prior heart infections, to collapse and even death. For instance, a patient with a condition of heart racing may fail to withstand the muscle contraction induced by intense which could eventually cause them to collapse (Sakutada et al. 189). If not attended to soon enough, the patient would ultimately and most likely suffer from death. While research says that such situations are rare, there is also evidence that engaging in intense laughter could cause such tragic consequences. In research by Sakurada et al. targeting the Japanese population, the daily frequency of laughter poses an independent risk factor for a cardiovascular attack (189). It should however be noted that such cases often occur to patients with prior heart conditions and not to heather people (Sakurada et al. 190). In healthy people, humor therapy has reversed impacts as it is associated with enhancing cardiovascular health.
Therapeutic humor can at times also lead to protrusion of abdominal hernias. In other words, protrusion of abdominal hernias is a situation where the contents of the abdomen protrude from their walls (Ahmed et al. 4806). In most cases, the condition is caused by an area of weakness or defect in the wall but can also be caused by intense laughter experienced after a session of therapeutic humor (Ahmed et al. 4806). Among other causes of hernia include coughing, sudden bending, or lifting heavy weights than you can lift. Research shows that the condition of hernia builds over time since there must be an area of weakness in the wall be of the abdomen (Ahmed et al. 4807)). After the wall becomes week enough, the patients face the risk of protrusion of abdominal content once they experience some intense laughter caused by humor therapy.
Moreover, the quick intakes of breath experienced during laughter can cause a patient to aspirate foreign objects. Foreign body aspiration, similarly known as pulmonary inhalation happens when an individual or rather a patient inhales an object into their airways (Salih 5). As a result, the object causes abstraction in the respiratory system. The larynx, the trachea, and the bronchi are common areas likely to be affected by an accidentally inhaled object (Salih 5). The patient may experience choking, severe coughing, and even difficulties in breathing (Salih 5). The severity may differ depending on the size of the object while the most severe consequence could be life-threatening. Thus, all incidences of foreign body inhalation must be considered a medical emergency. Therapeutic humor on the other hand needs to be conducted cautiously to prevent such incidences from happening.
Another drawback associated with therapeutic humor is that the therapy could act as an asthma trigger. As asthmatic symptoms can be triggered by many other factors, positive emotions such as laughter are among the main triggers (Asthma UK). An American study also revealed that 50% of the sampled asthmatic people experienced asthmatic symptoms after laughing (Asthma UK). Although humor therapy does not trigger those asthmatic symptoms all the time one is at more risk of suffering the condition (Asthma UK). Thus, it would be advisable for patients to have their inhalers nearby whenever they expect to receive some sessions of therapeutic humor.
In conclusion, therapeutic humor needs to be conducted cautiously as its benefits, as well as disadvantages, are evident. Therapeutic humor has all sorts of advantages ranging from cardiovascular benefits, pain relief, stress management, muscle relaxation to enhanced patient moods. On the contrary, humor therapy can also present drawbacks such as collapsing, aspiration of foreign objects, or trigger asthmatic symptoms in asthma patients. Regardless, it is advisable to have some routine therapeutic humor as it proves far more beneficial when conducted under the right circumstances. Besides, the therapy can be taken by anybody regardless of whether they are sick or not.
AhmedAlenazi, Abdulmajeed, et al. “Prevalence, Risk Factors and Character of Abdominal Hernia in Arar City, Northern Saudi Arabia in 2017.” Electronic Physician, vol. 9, no. 7, 25 July 2017, pp. 4806–4811, www.ephysician.ir/2017/4806.pdf, 10.19082/4806.
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