Friday, January 25, 2008

If Laughter Is The Best Medicine, I Should Be CURED Of MS By Now!...

After yesterday's very serious post, I thought I should lighten the mood today with a topic that is very near and dear to my heart...laughter.

Gelotology...the study of laughter and humor and how it affects the body. It's a REAL science, peeps...I'm not making this sh...stuff...up! And it has been an art form for centuries, seen in the likes of Shakespearean comedy and even before Leonardo's twisted time.


So, WHY do we laugh? It seems scientists are still puzzled by this physiological response. There are many theories about the biology of human laughter, but most theorists divide these notions into three, main categories: 1. Laughter manifests as a reflex, 2. Laughter is a psychomotor response to specific stimulus that is voluntary, and 3. Laughter is a psychomotor response that is "pathological" and involuntary. What is important to note is, ALL three theories deem laughter to have both psychological and physiological restorative qualities. Laughter not only initially is stimulating to the mind and body (it increases heart rate, blood pressure, pulse, and respiration), but its final byproduct for the body is relaxation...hence the sayings, "weak with laughter", and "falling down with laughter"...the body's muscles DO relax and/or certain muscles become flaccid with laughter. Mirthful laughter (as opposed to pathological laughter...the kind of laughter the brain produces on its own in certain brain disorders) also is proven to stimulate the immune system by decreasing serum levels of cortisol, epinephrine, and growth hormone. The bottom line is, we FEEL better when we are laughing.


But I'm not writing this post merely to educate regarding the physiological benefits of laughter (I had to read many articles just to type out the above paragraph...AND, they weren't funny!)...I'm writing it to discuss the psychological benefits and to ponder the "art" and "learning" of laughter.


Comedy and humor have ALWAYS been a large part of my life...even in the midst of great stress, I have always sought out laughter as a means of positive coping...whether it be DARK humor or simple-minded (some might call it "potty humor") comedy. Let's face it...a well-placed FART will have me rolling on the floor *weak with laughter*.


I find people who do NOT laugh intriguing...and sad. And believe me, I've met my fair share of these folks. It is as if, to laugh, might betray the core structure of their personalities. For a long time, I always just assumed these enigma-type folks were mean-spirited or extremely depressed. But what I have come to know over the years of dealing with the non-laughing is, they have never LEARNED to laugh OR their innate reflex was *retrained* because of life experiences...and, consequently, they have spent little time PRACTICING humor and levity. Somewhere along their paths, the natural intrigue and wonder that makes a baby smile and laugh reflexively was lost...and they had no idea the saying "use it or lose it" would be true of humor.


I practice humor/laughter every day...it is one of the *skills* I find most meaningful and important in this game called Life. EVERY day, I look for something that might make me laugh...this is how I *practice*. I seek out thoughts, notions, interactions, experiences, people, or situations that allow me to practice the *skill* of laughter/humor. I also believe humor is a wonderful mind exercise, much like calisthenics are for the physical body...and I DO like to give my mind a workout (obviously more than I like to work out my body!).


Humor is NOT a product that necessarily knocks on my door each day and announces, "I'm here!". Sometimes I have to go looking for it...and I usually find it hidden (or in broad daylight) in the people I interact with, the blogs I read, the mischievous ways of my cat, and so on. Humor and laughter are the universal "joiners" for me...if you and I BOTH find something funny, then for that brief moment, we are meeting each other in the sacred place of understanding and "knowing"...a sometimes fleeting moment of joining intellect and human bonding.


We all perceive life and humor quite differently based on our past (and current) experiences with life/humor. For instance, some of the things I find gut-wrenchingly funny regarding statements overheard from the mentally ill, are things YOU might find appalling or inappropriate to laugh at. I, on the other hand, delight in the *dark* humor found in the seriousness of the disorder...because I am FORCED to be in it, day in and day out...because, WITHOUT finding grains of humor in such a serious subject that I am SUBJECTED to every day, I would surely lose my OWN sanity.


Sometimes when I read certain MS blogs, I find myself in tears...from LAUGHTER! Yes, even in the seriousness of Multiple Sclerosis, there is humor...and many of you practice this humor in so much of what you write. When I am reading your personal *twist* on "fugly" scarves/cooling jackets, or whizzing down the street on a scooter and "looking like a turtle driving a Ferari", I feel as if I have won a free pass into an unscripted movie...I don't need the surround sound or the popcorn to settle into my seat and feel like I am watching a wonderful comedy. And, because I HAVE MS, I can relate to the humor of the metaphors, experiences, and *dark* comedy of the disease.


I've always been pretty open and up front here on CHEESE regarding the topics that send me howling with laughter...many are the unfortunate byproduct of some of my life's most embarrassing moments! But I am curious to know, what make YOU laugh? Where do you practice YOUR humor/laughter? What feeds your funny bone? Do you search for those things in life that bring a smile (or smirk) to your face?


I once posed the idea here that I was thinking about writing a book titled, "Laughing Til I Pee", which was NOT about losing bladder control because of MS (although if/when I DO lose bladder control from my MS, I'm sure it WILL make me pee myself from laughter in an ironic, vicious cycle...sure the hell beats losing my fluids from crying though). What topics would YOU include in your own MS-related book with that title?...

11 comments:

Diane J Standiford said...

It is 2:20am, I just finished a comment on another blog about this--how odd. I should cut/paste (whatever that means) anyhoo--I laugh a lot. People often are concerned, even my partner after 28yrs will ask, "Are you alright?" My nurse aide asked me, "What is so funny?" I told her I just had a funny conversation with her, in my head. She gave me a concerned look and said, "You sure talk in your head a lot." Replaying that, I'm laughing right now. I wake my partner and MYSELF up laughing! I just find life so hilarious. BC, I have yet to meet a person I couldn't make laugh...the less they are able the more I MUST. I know, yu're saying, "Diane, you dn't know the mentally ill people I deal with," true that, but to you I say: ou don't know the mentally ill people on Broadway I've made laugh. I find that they must laugh at themselves..."Oh, Diane, ye foolish chick" (see, I'm in my head with you)(and see how funny be thou?) Where was I? You are cracking me up so bad I can't think str8. FYI the lack of bladder control when laughing can strike at any age,no MS required.
Oh, right, I would argue some points as to laughter 101, but it is late. Why aren't I asleep? Why is your blog background butt pink?
Why zzzzzzzzzzzz

Diane J Standiford said...

Just one more thing, then I am seriusly going to sleep.(see, I'm starting to slur my typing)I find MS to be funny. Cold is hot, hot is cold, you get wound up in sily positions, yu ride in goofy chairs and too fast for sidewalk scooters,you drop your pennies and your pants drop, you piss under the blue light special at K-Mart and shout out,"Clean up isle 9" your wear freaky adult diapers that are less user friendly than a junkyard dog on cocaine,PLUS they bulge in places a delicate girl like ME shouldn't bulge. You talk funny, "When ibby da Buuw obon?" Cancer? Not so funny, but it has its moments. That's all folks! zzzz

Shauna said...

Linda,
Again, you are soooooooooo right. Humour is what keeps me sane. The darker the better. And irony, which is a kind of humour.

Humour is one of those things that's better shared. While watching a 3 Stooges movie by yourself may be entertaining, it's funnier when watched with other people. And of course, other people laughing encourages us to laugh, too.

The evidence that humour is better when it's shared is obvious as you look at all the jokes circulating on the net and all those links friends e-mail you.

When first diagnosed I wanted to discuss with my (ex)husband, wills etc. and what I wanted done after I died. He didn't want to have that discussion. I insisted and said I wanted to donate organs. He said he wanted me to rest in peace, not rest in pieces. That struck me as hilarious.

A couple of years later when we were separated and I had decided to divorce, my mom and I were watching Oprah and someone was on who lost a lot of weight. I said, that's nothing, I just dropped 200 pounds (I was thinking of the soon to be ex).
All was quiet for a minute until my mom started laughing.

In my job, I have to be light and amusing and I try to make other people laugh. With my blog, I've found another way to sometimes make people laugh or at least smile. And I will add that reading your blog has made me laugh as well (at the appropriate posts).
Shauna

Miss Chris said...

Your sense of humor is a gift! It always gives me a good laugh and I thank you for that!

harkoo said...

The graphics you have on your blog often make me laugh outloud--where on earth do you find them!

BRAINCHEESE said...

DIANE:

LOL...I'm stuck on the "butt pink" portion of your comment, so here's my unofficial answer: "BRAINCHEESE background is *butt pink* because *butt pink* matches the color of most people's brains...which may be the reason why it is so difficult for some to get their head outta their a$$!!" LOL
But I AM open to other explanations and probably should run a contest on the matter...I'll bet there will be MANY comical responses!!!

LD

BRAINCHEESE said...

DIANE:

Now THAT is funny...yes, the big "C" not so funny I suppose unless you've experienced it, such as yourself. I figure some topics are off limits for comedy, unless one has their OWN experience to perform under...then, it's really about YOU and the cancer, or ME and the MS, etc. I certainly DON'T repeat some of the black jokes my black friends tell! But it IS open season on PWT (Poor White Trash), which I can totally relate to.

LD

BRAINCHEESE said...

SHAUNA:

The "ex" weighed 200lbs?!? Hmmm...there ought to be another joke there, but since I am a fat heffer myself, I'll just do as they say in Canine Obedience School and "Leave It"!!!

Just getting into YOUR blog, but laughing/smiling along the way there, too...

LD

BRAINCHEESE said...

MISS CHRIS:

*blush, blush* Why, thank you!

LD

BRAINCHEESE said...

HARKOO:

Graphics well-kept secret...I STEAL THEM OFF THE INTERNET! Oh, and then many I "alter" in a program called PhotoShop and PhotoImpression...like Dr. Phil with his pants off, for instance. :)
Now, see...even YOU, too, could write a blog with this secret knowledge! (?hint?)

LD

Have myelin? said...

I have to laugh at my life and yours as well because by golly who would believe it?