A Note from Tonya: What's So Funny?

As we begin another new year, I am starting it off with a wager, and I’m betting it all.

I bet that not a single person in our ALS Texas community laughed with joy when your neurologist said the letters A L S.  ALS is anything but a laughing matter-for individuals living with ALS, their closets loved ones and caregivers, extended family members, friends, and for our entire ALS Texas team. 

As we all lock arms to tirelessly advance funding for research and clinical trials, to support the 12 incredible multidisciplinary ALS clinics we have throughout the state- and as our ALS Texas team does all that we possibly can to help ease the burden for Texans living with ALS, we can, however, travel the journey together…and with laughter and joy.

Laughter and joy, along with a sense of humor, can help lead to a boost in overall well-being, morale, communication skills, and quality of life. Let’s keep in mind that overall well-being is not only related to our physical wellness, but also to our mental and social health.  Let’s also keep in mind that for our friends living with ALS, communication skills are available in several different ways.

Humor isn’t just about laughing and having fun, although that’s a big part of it. It’s also an effective tool in lifting plunging spirits; a well-established notion that’s 100% supported by scientific research. The curative power of laughter, along with its ability to relieve stress and burnout, may just be one of the greatest medical discoveries of our time.

Humor, especially during extremely stressful moments, has the benefit of acting like a “release valve,” relieving tension — if even for a moment — so everyone can re-set and re-evaluate.  It can help us travel emotional tunnels and complete stress cycles. It is indeed the glue that holds our most important human connections and relationships together.

Being able to find ways to laugh and things in which to laugh at can be great for our quality of life, no matter our point in life.

Laughter relieves stress, and laughter is an excellent defense mechanism. Some people may not always feel like being angry, sad, or scared at their current circumstances. Feeling amused by circumstances and finding anything to laugh at is a perfectly healthy way to feel and express yourself.

Laughing can improve moods and lighten a situation.  Humor can be found most anywhere. Remember one of the words I mention and share most often? PERSPECTIVE.

It’s a workout for the body. When physically possible, a good belly laugh stimulates the muscles of the stomach and face and helps digestion. It produces happy hormones, pain-relieving endorphins, and tears – it’s as physically and emotionally therapeutic as crying without the sadness.

It’s good for the brain. Some academic researchers say that the brain enjoys laughter as well – endorphins help release tension and people feel better mentally.

It helps create valuable memories. Sharing funny stories and reminiscing about fun stories from the past can lead to lots of laughter and help bring everyone closer together.

It builds support and trust. Being around other people going through similar circumstances can help create strong connections, especially if you all can find humor in some situations. Our ALS Texas Connection Groups, caregiver groups, workshops and events are the perfect places to help find some humor, and to build that support and trust!

It helps you feel in control. Giving yourself permission to laugh at a situation can go a long way.

Tell me something good!

Comment below or email tonya@alstexas.org to share your funny stories, and how you’re adding laughter to your life. I’d love to hear from you, and in a final bet, I wager that many, many others would like to hear from you as well.

Happy New Year!
-Tonya Hitschmann, Director of Community Programs