When was the last time you had a good laugh?
April is National Humor Month, and the saying, Laughter is the best medicine, couldn’t be more true than in healthcare. Laughter fuels resiliency, and with more than half of physicians reporting symptoms of burnout, laughter is always welcome at hospitals and healthcare facilities across the country.
National Humor Month was founded in 1976 by comedian and best-selling author Larry Wilde to heighten public awareness of the therapeutic and restorative values of laughter. Like exercise, laughter boosts your heart rate and increases blood flow through the body. The mere act of smiling can boost your mood almost immediately, and (doctors know) laughter can reduce pain because it produces those natural pain-killing hormones called endorphins.
Physicians come face to face with emotionally draining tasks every day.
From sharing bad news with patients, to dealing with confrontational situations, to comforting patients’ loved ones or helping relieve a patient’s anxiety doctors are juggling all of this in a fast-paced environment that requires no mistakes so it takes its toll on even the most experienced caregivers.
We are here to provide support, to provide comfort, we are here to absorb it all, and ultimately, we find our own ways to release what we put on our shoulders, explains Dr. Cindy Winebrenner, an emergency physician. Humor helps physicians face whatever their next challenge may be with renewed energy and compassion and laughter is the best way to decompress and increase your energy. Laughter may the best medicine because it can help you focus and recharge.
The benefits extend to patients, too. Humor can serve as an initial icebreaker for a new nervous patient or soothe someone who’s grieving. Patients and their families may be facing the most stressful times of their lives, but bit of humor can relieve the tension. After all, doctors are human, too, and humor helps bridge the gap.
There are a lot of reasons for physicians to add a little humor and laughter to their lives. We mentioned burnout earlier, which is at an all-time high in healthcare (per a 2018 report from Medscape). If you’re affected more deeply by burnout or depression you are not alone.