Article Content

As many of you know, I am a big fan of the use of humor in healing. This is something I had forgotten myself the past several months. However, just recently, I was reminded of something I told a student years past: I will die when I stop having fun. So I decided I did not want to die so I better start having some fun. Maybe that job at Dairy Queen will still be open when I am ready.

 

The health benefits of humor have been well documented in clinical articles and research studies. Something will remind me of why I became a nurse in the first place and why I try to fit humor into my day as much as possible. It could be something simple as an appropriate joke or watching a move that always makes me laugh. But even I need to be reminded of the healing effects of humor.

 

So here is a review of some of the benefits of humor1-9:

 

1. can create a sense of well-being

 

2. burns calories (one of my favorites)

 

3. increases the immune system

 

4. can help create coping mechanisms

 

5. epinephrine levels may lower

 

6. pain levels may be decreased

 

7. lowers stress levels

 

8. may stimulate circulation

 

9. lets us break down barriers or help ease an uncomfortable situation

 

10. encourages deep breathing

 

11. may help you make new friends

 

12. helps health care providers cope with the stressors and suffering we see almost every day

 

13. people who use humor "are more energetic, decisive, creative, social, trusting, loving, and responsive"2(p147)

 

14. helps build confidence and communication skills

 

15. helps increase endorphins

 

16. may improve the cognitive process

 

17. may improve memory

 

18. a "good belly laugh is comparable to jogging internally"4(p64hnc)

 

19. can help establish rapport with another person

 

20. may help focus attention

 

21. in the classroom, the use of humor can help with teaching

 

22. relieves stress

 

23. "blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape"9(p17)

 

24. reduces hostility

 

25. can help with problem solving

 

26. may lower blood pressure

 

27. "the healthy afterglow of a few hearty laughs can last 24 hours"9(p15)

 

 

Humor can be found in many situations. Sometimes you just have to look. Common sources of humor include (1) politics, (2) comic books, (3) funny books, (4) movies, and (5) stories of everyday life.8 I always laugh when I watch the movie, Patch Adams, or make balloons out of rubber gloves, or draw funny faces on the balloons.

 

Our culture values a good sense of humor. A good sense of humor promotes confidence and a healthy perspective on life. Those who laugh and go with the flow are usually more tolerant of the flaws of others.10

 

Now that I have reviewed some of the benefits of humor, did you know there are various humor styles? These are the following10:

 

1. Put-down humor. This type of humor is a form of aggression. It is used to cause humiliation and ridicule. This type makes you look good, but others look bad.

 

2. Bonding humor. These people are fun to be with and say funny things. They like to engage in witty banter and are seen as warm and down-to-earth. This type of humor may lessen tension and make stressful situations more bearable.

 

3. Hate-me humor. In this type of humor, someone is always the subject of the joke just to make other people laugh. This type of humor may backfire and may cause depressions and uncertainty in the person who was targeted.

 

4. Laughing at life. The person who uses this type of humor usually does not take life too seriously and tries to see humor in almost every situation. These people often use humor as a coping mechanism. These people may not need other people to laugh with them, but still find fun in their own lives.

 

 

Most of us use a variety of these types of humor. Usually, though, we use the appropriate type of humor at the right time. However, we usually have at least one style that is predominant in ourselves.

 

So let me give you the gift of a few smiles for National Nurses Weeks and for all the hard work you do every day. Here is a sample of some spam mail I have received the last few weeks:

 

1. Obtain degrees without formal education.

 

2. You, too, can be a nurse.

 

3. Become a nursing assistant.

 

4. Put doctor in front of your name.

 

5. You still have time to earn your GED.

 

6. You have just won a lottery in Nigeria.

 

7. Do you suffer from erectile dysfunction?

 

 

Here are a few laughs from students:

 

1. Do I have to take the final exam? I get nervous taking tests.

 

2. What happens if I don't come to class?

 

3. My daddy paid for an A in this class so you better give me one.

 

4. What happens if I don't do the assignments?

 

5. Do we have to read research studies? (It was a class on health care research.)

 

6. One student asked why I became a nurse. I replied that I was unqualified to work at Dairy Queen.

 

 

As health care providers, we tend to use a lot of gallows humor. Again, just be aware of your surroundings and who may hear you make the jokes. They can be easily misunderstood by some people. Be politically correct at all times.

 

I hope all of you can find humor every day. It really does help chase away the blahs and make you feel better. Just give it a try. Just remember there is always an appropriate time and place. Use humor as a coping mechanism. We live with stress and suffering every time we walk into a critical care unit. Give yourself a break. I ask each of you to try humor and follow the advice of Florence Nightingale.8

 

Have a wonderful National Nurses Week and use laughter as much as you can.

 

Vickie A. Miracle, EdD, RN, CCRN, CCNS, CCRC

 

Editor-in-Chief, DCCN; Lecturer

 

Bellarmine University

 

School of Nursing

 

Louisville, KY

 

vmiracle@aol.com

 

References

 

1. Miracle VA. Humor and spam. DCCN. 2008;27(4):193. [Context Link]

 

2. Mathew FM. Laughter is the best medicine: the value of humour at work in current nursing practice. Nurs J India. 2003;94(77):146-147. [Context Link]

 

3. Ulloth JK. A qualitative review of humor in nursing classrooms. J Nurs Educ. 2003;42(3):125-130. [Context Link]

 

4. Facente A. Humor in critical care: irrelevant or invaluable? Nursing. 2006;36(4):64hn6-64hn7. [Context Link]

 

5. Buxman K. Say it with a smile. Nurs Manag. 2002;33(1):49. [Context Link]

 

6. Cinery W. Alleviating stress with humour: a literature review. J Perioper Pract. 2007;17(4):172-178. [Context Link]

 

7. Ulloth JK. The benefits of humor in nursing education. J Nurs Educ. 2002;41(11):476-481. [Context Link]

 

8. Mooney NE. The therapeutic use of humor. Orthop Nurs. 2000;19(3):80-92. [Context Link]

 

9. Fletcher M. Humour on the job: learning to laugh, at work and at life, is a surefire way to relieve tension and reduce stress. Can Nurse. 2001;97(6):16. [Context Link]

 

10. Dobson L. What's your humor style? Psychol Today. 2006;39(4). http://web.ebscohost.com.libproxy.bellarmine.edu/ehost/detail?vid=8&hid=105&sid=. Accessed May 14, 2007. [Context Link]