On laughter… November 30, 2017 by Jamie WestermanLaughter is the best medicine. Really. It is. If I could prescribe laughter, I would get out an old-fashioned prescription pad and write “laughter” on it in swirly cursive to be taken multiple times daily with unlimited refills. I’m a pretty upbeat, optimistic human, but there are times when I leave a patient room feeling like my energy has literally been zapped like a bug flown too close to a flame. It’s the opposite of laughing, it’s as if a burden is transferred through my stethoscope in an instant and I must carry the misery for hours. There are also times I walk out of a room having seen one of my favorite patients, smiling and flying high for an entire morning just because I started my day with laughter. Laughter is an underutilized antidepressant. When do we get so serious about it all? Kids laugh constantly, for the smallest reason, because their optimism about the most seemingly mundane instance erupts from inside of them in the form of giggles and silliness. They stop only when they LEARN adults don’t carry inside of them the same goofy nature and ability to see amusement in the everyday. As I’ve said before, we have a lot to learn from the little people in our life. Think about how you feel after a really great belly laugh. The kind that brings tears to the corners of your eyes and reminds you there are abdominal muscles under the layers of fluff. There is pleasure and joy and hope that comes from laughing like that. It can take your mood from despondent to engaged in moments. This kind of laugh is not typically had alone, but is more likely to occur with others present. Laughter is intensified by relationships and connection. Who do you laugh hardest around? Your sister, best friend, crazy coworker? We laugh together and relationships grow, that is not a coincidence. When we laugh, we change. We become more childlike, optimistic, hopeful, present. That can stay with us for hours. It leaves us engaged and connected. And with that, we impact those around us who now feel more positive and light. They may smile, even laugh themselves, and the cycle perpetuates touching all those we surround. Days the staff in my clinic jives in this way, we are unstoppable. The energy suckers don’t even touch us. We joke and laugh and maybe even leave those people with a brighter day. Then we carry this enthusiasm with us, as we stop at the grocery store, pass by our neighbors grabbing the mail, as we come home and greet the people who need our laughter most. Our infectious sparkle spreading and creating an uplifting epidemic of quiet glee. We need more laughter in our lives. We need the shared experience of an inside joke with someone, the fits of uncontrolled howling, the emotional release we feel when we prioritize fun. We need the contagious humor to remind us we have too short a time to dwell on the gravity of it all. Imagine living in that world, without the heavy diagnosis of imposing misery, which too happens to be contagious. Choose to spread the cheer, the wonder, the enjoyment of laughter in your life, and you will choose happiness for yourself and all you touch.