Laughter is no doubt an entertaining thing to do, yet sadly many only focus on that small tiny aspect and miss the chain of mountains of life-changing benefits that are right behind it that they would get with only a bit more engagement.

Allow me to talk today about the value of laughter in health-care.

Every medical professional knows (or should know) about the six Ps to effective administration of medication, and how paying attention or ignoring them greatly improved or lessened the desired impact of the drugs:

  • Colors and shapes of a patient’s Pee and Poo, because medication may not work if they are dehydrated, and it will merely pass though the digestive tract if they have diarrhea.
  • Pain level negatively affects the effectiveness of medication.
  • Puss. Its presence is a sign that there could be another – yet undiagnosed – infection.
  • Pills. Communication between different doctors and departments of the same hospital is not always what it should be. Is the patient already taking other pills, and are they contraindicated?
  • Position of a patient receiving medication is important. Are they standing, bedridden or in a wheelchair?

What is rarely spoken of, however, is the 7th P that changes everything, and that’s the Presence of laughter. Caring for the body is important but what about something even more important, the mind? Laughter is a simple intervention that, when used sensitively and respecting the gravity of the situation, can help with:

  • Positivity.Laughter helps create a positive mental attitude and unlocks an entire range of positive emotions.The mental state of a patient is very important because it impacts his or her biology. Laughter is nature’s counter to stress. They are physiological opposites (the predominance of one tends to prevent the other) as laughter dilates blood vessels and fosters muscular relaxation. Medication will always work better when the body is relaxed than when it is uptight.
  • Perception. Laughter changes our perception of the world around us for the better. How you view a situation determines if you will respond to it as threatening or challenging. Laughter dispels fear and fosters acceptance, which in turn relaxes the body making it better prepared for medication.
  • Pain control. Laughter is regarded as the most easily accessible analgesic for pain and depression. It is not possible to laugh about something you believe cannot be changed, and resistance may well be the most painful thing about pain and discomfort. Laughter creates perspective.
  • People. Everybody wants to be valued and validated. Professor Patrick Murphy Welage says: “When you look into someone’s eyes and laugh with him or her, you recognize one another’s humanity. This is non-threatening and non-judgmental. It transcends your culture, race, gender or sex and reminds you that we are all in this life together.”
Situations when laughter is not appropriate include when a patient (or anybody else in the immediate vicinity) is having an acute physical or emotional crisis, experiences intense pain, is coping with bad news or is very sick. There is a time to laugh, and a time not to laugh.

How to educate patients in hospitals

Here is where you can start: Educate your patients via a simple flyer explaining the benefits of laughter and how laughter interventions work, and ask at the beginning of a relationship with a healthcare professional or before checking into a hospital if they are open to them or not (ask the laughter consultants if you need help getting this started or thriving). Considering that hospitals in the USA have become increasingly competitive, this is a simple way to boost patient satisfaction levels and improve job satisfaction for staff members, not to mention the value of the associated health benefits. Studies suggest that laughter may speed healing and recovery, and help patients to cope, leading to shorter hospital stays (Devine, E. C. (1992). Effect of psychoeducational care for adult surgical patients: A meta-analysis of 191 studies. Patient Educ. and Counseling, 19, 129-142. Methods used include clown doctors, humor carts, laughter interventions and humor or laughter rooms.

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