Laughter Might Indeed Be the Best Medicine

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Although children laugh unabashedly all day long, adults might be lucky to laugh a dozen times a day.

But those belly laughs might be just what the doctor ordered to relieve the stress of a demanding profession such as nursing.

Cardiothoracic surgeon Gulshan Sethi led an early morning round of laughter therapy Tuesday in honor of National Nurses Week.

While nurses are vital to patient care, Dr. Sethi said, they do face a number of challenges, from dealing with the emotional needs of patients and families to juggling so many tasks that they almost need an extra set of arms.

Noting prolonged exposure to stress can lead to a state of mental and physical exhaustion, the doctor warned that too many nurses opt to leave the profession.

Armed with the knowledge they are in a profession at high-risk for burnout, Dr. Sethi urged the standing-room-only group to learn self-calming techniques. “You need to give yourself time to relax,” he said.

Those techniques can take many forms, from meditation to guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation and reciting mantras.

It might include making a conscious effort to breathe. “Most of us don’t know how to breathe right. We do not pay attention to our breath and we take it for granted,” Sethi said, adding most people tend to breathe shallow and fast when they should breathe deeply and quietly.

Meanwhile, he noted, laughing boosts the immune system, relieves tension and helps relax the body. Even faking laughter has therapeutic benefits, since it often prompts the real thing.

“As we get older, there’s so much going on in our brains that we stop laughing,” Dr. Sethi said. “I believe we have to do something to help us laugh again like children.”

Maybe one more reason to dig out those old family photo albums.

Comments

  1. Barbara Clarihew says:

    Dr. Sethi has such a loving expression — I’m certain he easily brings smiles to all his patients and colleagues.

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