Saturday, 28 February 2015

Laughter...and Health?

Have you ever laughed so hard that your cheeks started to hurt? I have! Laughter is arguably one of the simplest ways to feel happy. It can be because of a silly joke, a funny movie clip, or even an embarrassing moment...but the results are the same: when we laugh, we feel better. We feel good. It is almost as though for a single quick moment, our worries are gone from our minds. For that quick laugh, we can think of nothing else but the hilarity that has just occurred. Now, more than ever, the world needs some laughter...

Wouldn't it be great if we actually had studies to support that laughter is good for our health? Well. it appears that we do! I did a lot of research on this, and there is quite a bit of literature out there on this topic. For the sake of time and my fingers that have to type all this out, I have chosen a few articles to discuss here. The first was a large, cross-cultural study that tested the relationship between laughter and health: This study attempted to correlate laughter with disease prevalence  - that is, the presence of disease. The results? Those who laughed more had fewer chronic (long-term, 'on and off' illnesses) than those who did not laugh as much (or at all).

Now, here is an important point: this is a correlation. That means that laughter and less disease are related/ It does not mean that laughter CAUSES less diseases to be present. But what it DOES indicate is that there is some sort of relationship between the two, such that more laughter may indicate that the same person may experience less disease.

I like what the authors in this study conclude: laughter is really an important part of our lives. Whether it is related to less disease or simply a better mood, laughter is critical! Imagine how beneficial laughter can be if we implemented it in various areas of our lives. For example, what if we used more humour in stressful situations, like when we are freaking out because our assignment is due in two days? Or what if we can turn a tense moment, such as in a heated argument, into a joke? (Note that laughter always needs to be introduced appropriately. For example, it clearly is not a good time to bring in a joke if your loved one is furious that you forgot about their birthday).

In terms of healthcare providers, what we if simply smiled more at patients? Think about this: how do you feel when your doctor or nurse walks in and is frowning? Probably not great. But what about when they come in smiling or make the situation light-hearted? It makes a huge difference! This is truly what I have tried to implement in my own nursing experiences. I always walk in with a smile on my face, and when possible, make the situation fun or funny. There is always time to be serious. But then again, there is always time to have fun and laugh! It is amazing how simply making something humorous can change the way we feel, the way we think of situations, and our abilities to problem-solve and cope.

Of course, we cannot always laugh. But one thing we can do: make laughter a priority. Try to joke around (when appropriate) and get some humour into your life. Make others laugh and feel contentment as you realize how you've made their day jut a little more special, a little more tolerable. Try watching a funny show or reading some good jokes...and feel your face ache as you cannot stop laughing. Then feel the relief on the inside, that for a quick moment, all you could do is laugh. For someone who struggled with a degree of depression in the ICU, I can assure you that laughter works! Three years from then - today - I am strong in my recovery and do not suffer from depression. I have learned ways to cope, to heal, and to sustain my health. And allow me to fill you in on a secret: laughter is one of the best things that I have discovered. There is nothing like a smile or a good laugh to make the situation more manageable, to give hope, and to renew strength. (P.S. Note the hilarious joke in the picture about the tuna sandwich named Kevin!)

Please, take some time today (and tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that!) to laugh! (Also, if you look online for jokes, please - search for CLEAN jokes. Here is a site that got me laughing - check it out! (P.s. Also note the funny joke in this picture about laughter and medicine. Yes, so it is a little silly and 'nasty' ... but I seriously laughed out loud!). See the joke below to get you started - it really made me laugh out loud!

A Minnesota couple decided to vacation to Florida during the winter. They planned to stay at the very same hotel where they spent their honeymoon 20 years earlier. Because of hectic schedules, it was difficult to coordinate their travel schedules. So, the husband left Minnesota and flew to Florida on Thursday. His wife would fly down the following day.

The husband checked into the hotel. There was a computer in his room, so he decided to send an e-mail to his wife. However, he accidentally left out one letter in her e-mail address, and without realizing his error, he sent the e-mail.

Meanwhile.....somewhere in Houston, a widow had just returned home from her husband's funeral. He was a minister of many years who was called home to glory following a sudden heart attack. The widow decided to check her e-mail, expecting messages from relatives and friends. After reading the first message, she fainted.

The widow's son rushed into the room, found his mother on the floor, and saw the computer screen which read:

To: My Loving Wife
Subject: I've Arrived
Date: 16 May 2003

I know you're surprised to hear from me. They have computers here now and you are allowed to send e-mails to your loved ones. I've just arrived and have been checked in. I see that everything has been prepared for your arrival tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing you then! Hope your journey is not as uneventful as mine was.
P.S. Sure is hot down here!

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Watch my Latest Presentation: NEDIC's EDAW Conference

Last week, as I mentioned, I was asked by NEDIC to be a special guest panelist at their event, 'Healthy Bodies, Healthy Attitudes". It was an honour to be invited by NEDIC to be a speaker at this event!

For those of you who came, thank you! For those who could not make it, my family was so kind as to record my portion of the night. You can watch me relay my story at the conference here:

My hope is that my story can inspire others. I hope that my story shows others that regardless of how ill you or someone may be, there is always hope. You ought not to give up. I hope that my journey demonstrates how perseverance, God, love, support, and hard-work can truly produce positive outcomes. I pray that the message is clear: ED are mental illnesses, not choices. But that doesn't mean that those who suffer are hopeless. On the contrary. It may take time, effort, pain, and struggles. But recovery is fully possible. And it is definitely worth it.

When I was ill, I never thought that I would ever eat again. I never thought that I would be healthy one day. Nor did I ever think that I would be sharing my story with others - on this blog, in my book, on TV and radio shows, in newspapers, at schools and organizations, and at conferences. God is so good!

To all my readers, friends, and family - thank you. Speaking at a well-known NEDIC conference was something I never thought I would be doing...and here I am, spreading the word, raising awareness, and hopefully, helping and inspiring others. I would not be here without you all, or without the love and strength of God.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Eating Disorder Awareness Week! (EDAW)

This week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week (EDAW). This is a week that pays special attention to increasing awareness about eating disorders: what they are, how they can be prevented and treated. and how to support others throughout their own journeys. Of course, raising awareness about ED should happen all year - but having a special week dedicated to the cause makes us more aware of the key issues. (P.S. Purple is the colour for Eating Disorder Awareness - so please try to wear purple or incorporate purple into your lives this week to show your support!)

I have certain goals for EDAW. I hope that someone will hear of ED and know that it is a mental illness, and not a choice. That struggling with an eating disorder is a challenging, emotional, and painful experience - and not simply a quest to lose weight and be thin. I have hope that society will let go of false ideas that women and men need to be tall, thin, muscular, etc. in order to be strong and beautiful. That the media will realize that depicting individuals in unrealistic measures does more harm than what we may see on the surface. That friends and family can avoid speaking about food as good or bad, as healthy or unhealthy. That all foods can be eaten in moderation, as part of a healthy and balanced life. That nutrition will be viewed as something necessary for life - that food is the sustenance that enables our bodies and minds to carry out normal functions. That weight will not be seen as a measure of one's self-worth or achievements. That exercise will not be seen or depicted as a chore, as something that we need to do because we want to look a certain way, fit into a pair of jeans, brag about our muscular strength, etc. That beauty will be defined as simply being yourself - the amazing, talented, special individual that you are, the awesome creation by God.

Does this seem far off? Perhaps, seeing as where society is at now. But it isn't impossible. Already, strives and successes have been made. Think back to your previous knowledge about ED, and think about it now. Do you understand more about ED as a mental illness? Can you appreciate why recovering from ED is challenging? Do you know how to support someone with ED? I guarantee that your knowledge has increased...and this is the way it should be. When we understand more about something, we become less ignorant and more informed. You can make a difference. You can educate yourself and others about ED. You can be a positive example for your friends and family by enjoying food (ex. not talking about how awful it is that you ate that piece of cake), by accepting your body and not shaming it (ex. don't complain about how you don't look like you did give years ago), by approaching physical activity in a healthy manner (ex. no one cares how much you 'lift' or that you woke up today and had a fun run in the sun), etc.

As a final shout-out, I am honoured to say that I have been invited to present at a NEDIC workshop/conference On Tuesday February 10, 2014 in Toronto (see for details, scroll down to the Toronto events and see the second large poster). This is a major annual conference that never fails to educate and inspire! I will be speaking about my experience with ED, my recovery process, and tools for support. The event is free and open to all - members of the community, healthcare professionals, teachers, friends, etc - so if you are able to come, please show us your support! I am excited to yet again have an opportunity to share my story (through my presentations, book, and blog) to others, in hopes that it will not only help those currently battling ED, but also in raising awareness and sharing this message:

Eating disorders are life-threatening mental illnesses. They are not choices. But eating disorders don't have to persist. They can be identified and treated. And recovery is 100% possible.