Laughter as Medicine


Today’s chat highlights a legend who fell too soon…Robin Williams.  Last night I decided to watch Patch Adams and man did I need the box of tissues.  Robin Williams always had the art of capturing the hearts of people all over the world.  In Patch Adams he portrays the real story of Hunter Patch Adams, a doctor of love of life.  In the above clip you see Patch petitioning the Board of Medicine to be able to graduate med school after he was dismissed for spreading “excessive happiness.”  Excessive happiness for reals?  Is there such a thibng?  In our chat Strength and Courage we discussed how we in society view
addictions and the treatment for it.  We also discussed the medicalization of human emotions and how we as a society have gotten into a place where we tend to pathologize any feeling that feels uncomfortable.  Interesting l enough I was thinking of just that chat last night when watching this movie.  Patch Adams had a way with people.  He believed in doctors being human beings who are helping out other human beings.  In the above clip you see him share his feelings about the hierarchy of medicine and where
it went wrong.  Just yesterday I was having a similar conversation with another social worker who I met for the first time.  Social workers inherently have been taught to work with the socially oppressed and poor as people who are having a human experience based on the context in which the live and have been raised.  It is called “person in environment” which basically means that you can not diagnose a person without looking into the context of how they are living and where they came from.  In essence the theory is very close to a holistic health or integrative health model.  But social workers now a days are mostly working within the
context of the medical model which means that this training gets left by the road side in favor of symptom management.  Where did we go wrong and how do we work ourselves back towards our core values?   Hmmmmm deep thoughts.

Patch Adams hit upon a very important aspect of healing….humor.  He believed that laughter could help bring people out of the depths of their despair.  He approached medicine much like doctors did before insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies  took over as chiefs of operations..  A doctor was the neighbor, the friend, the human who could really relate to being in pain and wanting that pain to be relieved.  The concept of laughter as medicine, while not generally practiced within the
medical model these days, has been looked at seriously (no pun intended:) in clinical research.  This is an article from Psychology Today that speaks to the biological affects of a good hearty laugh Laughter reduces pain and discomfort.  It reduces blood sugar levels, elevates endorphins, helps release dophamine (the “feel good neurotransmitter”.) It increases blood flow to the brain and heart.  Laughter has a way of bringing us into the present moment like nothing else.  It helps us connect with our spirit.  Most people who are struggling with intense cravings, depression, anxiety, chronic relapse to substances etc are generally utterly disconnected from their spirit.  They
are not present in their bodies nor their emotions.  Laughter does not come easy to a person who is spiritually disconnected.  You can’t really be in this type of desperate state and be spiritually connected.  When one connects with their spirit, they are more capable of grounding themselves in their faith.  They feel a sense of inner peace come over them and are free to be merry at a moment’s notice.

I have spoken previously in our chats that humor is something that I am truly grateful for in my life.  I have been through a lot in my life; as most of us have.  I have always been able to find a way to laugh through it all.  I use humor often in my work with clients.  I believe that if we can find our own struggles humorous, we can see that life ebbs and flows.  There will be good times and not so good times.  This is life.  We all struggle.  While our struggles feel personal, they are not.  We are all in this together…including those that may be your “treatment providers.” The important piece is what you do with your
struggle and suffering.  Do you sit in a pool of self pity, anger and despair?  (You know we all have done that from time to time!)  If so, the important piece to note is how long you allow yourself a pity party.  If you are dwelling in the past or what you don’t like about the present; stewing in your anger at yourself or everyone else, well you are screwed my friend.  That will get you no where.  Instead pull back from the ledge and find your whining funny.  We all get like tantruming two year olds at times.  Watching a kid (who is not yours I may add) who is tantruming can be funny as well as sad.  You can view the child stuck in their own proverbial shit wanting what they want when they want it and unable to get it.  Adults get like this too.  Let go, breathe and laugh.

In the end, what will matter most is the positive connections you have made with others.  Love is truly what is most appreciated as we come towards the end.  Laughing to cover up pain never works.  It certainly didn’t for Robin Williams.  He could make everyone around him light up like a Christmas tree but for some reason he couldn’t do that for himself.  Healing is a journey; one that can be quite long and winding.  Letting go a little bit along the way and laughing can help the ride become a little more enjoyable.  Being able to honor your own humanness and letting go of self judgment and pity will certainly help along the way.  Anything you do to lighten your load will surely help lighten the load of others.  The same can be true in reverse.  What helps you enjoy life?  How do you let go of focusing on your troubles to enjoy the moment and the ride?  For me?  Well lots of things but first and foremost I make sure I do something to make me laugh every day.  If needed I will go on YouTube and watch videos of babies laughing like this one

Now come on….giggle with me as we all usher in the spring!

Cheers to you all!!


  1. Yogi Ramesh on March 11, 2015 at 10:33 pm

    Laughter is the only best medicine for the prevention and stress reduction.Yogi has been teaching to doctor Andrew on CBS TV .It is 5000 yrs.old created by Yogis in India.Yogi Ramesh would like to help and heal the world with laughter.It is sweeping the world

  2. […] come alive.  Laughing freely and often is an underutilized life skill in our culture. In our chat Laughter as Medicine we chatted about Patch Adams and his commitment to bringing laughter into medicine.  Well a few […]

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