When you get diagnosed with any serious illness it not only affects your physical health but also your psychological and emotional health and can affect every aspect of your life.
My focus when I work with those with serious health issues such as at my local adult hospice is to help relieve any stress associated with their illness and to elevate their mood. The physical benefits of laughter are an added bonus and can obviously be helpful too but stress can often be a trigger to some of their physical symptoms so by relieving some stress it can help the other unpleasant symptoms too such as helping to relieve pain (even if just in the moment of laughter as they forget their discomfort), boosting their immune system so they are more resistant to viruses and helping to relax muscles that may otherwise be quite tense.
So many things can change with the diagnosis of a serious illness – family relationships and dynamics especially when one becomes the carer, friendships, mobility, carers coming into the home, family finances and thoughts of the future. All of this can lead to stress.
Laughter can make people feel “normal” again – whatever that means for them.
And as laughter lowers cortisol levels and increases the happy chemicals so stress is relieved.
When you are laughing you are not thinking about how ill you are or your external worries because due to the nature of laughter you are focused entirely on the act of laughing.
So to conclude – a good belly laugh can leave you feeling joyful but relaxed and more resilient to facing the daily stresses of living with a serious illness.