Using Humor for Patients and Care Givers
Just a Spoonful of Humor Helps the Stress Go Down
There is nothing to smile about when we enter a doctor's office. Hospital beds never tickle our fancy, and mentioning nursing homes never seem to make us guffaw. But we as medical professionals are in these sterile environments almost every day, and sometimes heading to work may seem bleak or dull.
But, suppose we were on the other side of things, and we had to spend our days lying in bed, waiting on a recovery that may unfortunately never come. Surely, we would want some humor to help pass the time and lift our spirits. Because of this need, studies have shown that a little humor can do more than just put a smile on our faces. It actually has some potential healing power for patients as well.
According to the Journal for Pre-Health Affiliated Students, there are several mechanisms that can improve body function. It notes that "one mechanism is by way of rigorous laughter, which can lead to reduced muscle tension and exercise for the heart, as well as to endorphin production and enriched blood". In this way, it serves as a domino effect, because the more the person continues to laugh, the better they will feel, seeking more laughter, which will eventually cause them to feel more relaxed. Kind of makes you rethink all of those angry episodes in your life, doesn't it? But, being at ease, this would certainly aid in lessening the risk of heart attack and stroke because the body is calmer.
The journal of Current Directions in Psychological Science echoes these findings, suggesting that not only does laughter have relaxing power, but humor may actually help to build up immunity. This is most likely attributed to a reduction in stress levels, which aid in good circulation and adequate white blood cell production. If these levels remain steady, the individual is that much more likely to promptly fight off infection.
However, it really doesn't take a neurosurgeon (although if you are, that's fine too) to figure out that patients in any setting would respond well to a good attitude and a humorous personality. Taking steps to provide a lighter atmosphere can be subtle in nature. Children in a pediatrician's office might be less nervous if they are able to read the jokes in a Highlights magazine before their visit. Or, hospital patients might enjoy some humorous posters on the walls of their room, rather than just looking at that big hunk of lime Jell-O.
Humor does not only provide a lighter atmosphere, but it also tends to increase the trust between medical personnel and patients, if done correctly. Tasteful humor puts the patient at ease, which would allow them to feel more comfortable in vulnerable situations. A joke used to break the ice can make someone sitting there half naked in a hospital gown feel uplifted and happy to divulge what is bothering them.
So, for all you medical professionals out there, if you really want to be healers, let's keep 'em in stitches in more ways than one!