Any disability can be experienced as a huge challenge and be hard to live and deal with. Impacted people have to (re)discover themselves and find different ways to fulfill their dreams without slipping into the realms of depression and frustration. It is easy when faced with intense adversity to let oneself experience more intense negative feelings and emotions, yet these undermine one’s rationality and give rise to confusing mindsets regarding one’s own image and capabilities. What usually follows is an all time low and sensations of self pity and loss of worthless set in. Laughter is a powerful tool that can help manage physical pain and emotional distress. It has the ability to elevate the mood state by releasing endorphins, a feel good hormone that alleviates pain and provides a feeling of comfort and safety.
How laughter helps to cope with physical disabilities
- Mobility: many people with a physical disability are sometimes unable to move parts of their body without regular physiotherapy exercises. Due to lowered mental functions, they often find it difficult to follow commands properly. Anecdotal evidence suggests that laughter sessions help people in this situation be much more compliant with physiotherapy commands, leading to notable physical improvement in motor functions. Also, because the exercise revolves around laughter all physical challenges are approached positively. Participants do the best they can physically and always feel they succeed because they are invited to laugh on their own terms, and that’s always a win (if you can breathe, you can laugh).
- Pain: Laughter triggers the release of a natural opiate called endorphin into our bloodstream. While this usually provides an immediate pain relief that’s either partial or full, what is worth noting is that people’s relationship with pain “shifts” as they find that they can laugh about what before was a source of physical and emotional pain. This simple realization is sometimes life changing.
- Anger: Life is not fair, and neither are physical disabilities. Why me? is a nagging question many people with disability ask themselves sooner or later. Trying to live with a disability can be very frustrating as it forces one to be dependent on others. Laughter Yoga focuses on the exhalation, “letting go”, and through this helps people focus on what is here, now, with a positive attitude. It is an ideal exercise that helps people be at peace with who they are, as they are, always now.
- Sadness or depression: People with disabilities often find it hard to express their feelings and emotions and are therefore more prone to depression. Anecdotal evidence all over the world for the past 15 years suggests that Laughter exercises help people be more expressive and joyful. In particular they help to lift depression.
- Fear: It is natural to experience a certain amount of fear in the face of physical disability. But when this fear takes on an unbearable dimension, it can lead to severe damage to the psyche. Laughter Yoga provides an immediate feeling of safety and security. This may be due to the effects of endorphins, natural opiates. It helps to overcome fear and anxiety because it forces people into the “here” and “now” and as such disengage them from past and future. You cannot define who you are and who you are not when you have no past and no future. All there is “here”, “now” is balance and equilibrium.
- Stress or anxiety: Any form of disability can be the cause of immense stress and anxiety. Frustration anger, aggressive behavior and irrational logic overcome the power of reasoning. Laughter has been shown scientifically to provide a substantial and immediate reduction in stress levels as it lowers stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine and enhances the levels of health hormones and neuropeptides that alleviate the negative symptoms of stress within minutes.
- Shock and denial: Physical incapacity can put people in a state of shock and trauma. There is not just the physical pain but a mental denial that can lead to blockage of feelings and an inability to express one’s emotions freely. The group dynamics of laughter sessions leads to more openness and helps people to share their grief. The exercises and the deep breathing relax the body and the mind and assist one to accept reality. Laughter sessions are a safe haven for people to release their inner feelings without fear and pain.
- From MS And A Wheel Chair To Stress Free And Walking: Laughter Big Part Of Therapy
- Advanced osteoarthritis of the knee joints: Laughter Yoga has changed my life
- Dr Topher Stephenson: laughter helps reduce pains
- Nick Vujicic: From a life without limbs to a life without limits
- Morris Goodman: from quadriplegic to walking again
- Patrick Henry Hughes: born blind and crippled but not hopeless