We are Stardust: Friendly Friday

 Laughter as medicine

“You can’t lie to radiologists. They can see straight through you.”

Okay, that’s a weak joke and you've heard it before but your lips turned up at the corners, didn’t they? You couldn’t help a small smile. The weight of the world shifted from your shoulders just a little bit.

This Friendly Friday is about the things that gladden our hearts like humour and that dreadful cliche “positive thinking” which I’ve spurned and then returned to at various times in my life. (I now think there’s something in it - a lot in fact.)

 About humour. After my first and worst cancer diagnosis, I had a young son still living at home. We were terrible as a family at talking about the threat to my life and teenage boys are pretty monosyllabic anyway. However, every Tuesday he forced me to sit down and watch three back to back comedies on TV2. (It was a long time ago.) I remember one of them was the sitcom Ellen Degeneres was in before she got famous and had her own show. I couldn’t help laughing and the humour did a lot to lighten the load.

There’s a guy writing a series on Stuff called a A Mild Touch of Cancer .  His is a serious cancer for which he is now on his second round of chemo. He’s a comic writer and tells his story in a wry, self-deprecating way.

I admire his courage and think the writing process and his humour does a lot to keep him on track.

I don’t want to suggest that humour is suitable in all situations but I think it helps us look at ourselves in a compassionate manner. Laughter is great for getting us out of our self-absorption, something that is totally understandable but which can drag us down.

Real health benefits? For the heart there might just be.

The power of positive thinking?

Positive thinking is another way of shifting our brains from anxiety to more salubrious thought processes. No, I don’t think it can make cancer cells shrivel up and die although funnily enough positive thinkers do better in some studies. I guess they stick to their treatment and look after themselves better.

Adopting a more positive outlook is fantastic for our coping skills but it's harder than people think. 

It doesn’t work if people are beset by deep anxiety or clinical depression. It can be taught by psychologists, though, and for many of us, it is just a cognitive shift, a veering of our thinking into different channels.

This Mayo Clinic piece is fantastic.

It is about stopping the negative self-talk that is the opposite of positive thinking. It looks at choosing optimism as a way of handling stress. Believe me, I know how hard that is but it’s worth considering. Here’s an extract.

 “Indeed, some studies show that personality traits such as optimism and pessimism can affect many areas of your health and well-being. The positive thinking that usually comes with optimism is a key part of effective stress management. And effective stress management is associated with many health benefits. If you tend to be pessimistic, don't despair — you can learn positive thinking skills.”

I've always been against artificially forced positive thinking, though.  "The problem with positive affirmations is that they operate at the surface level of conscious thinking and do nothing to contend with the subconscious mind where limiting beliefs really live." We need to dig a bit deeper to change our thinking. And maybe get help.

But  just remember. We are stardust. It’s true.




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  • Some of the darkly humorous pieces you have written but not shared would knock the socks off people. I forgot to mention Tommy Donbavand who wrote a hilarious piece about the fellow patients in his ward. 

  • Thanks Maureen. Humour can be quite dark in a Cancer journey but there are still things that make you laugh. I like the Mild Touch of Cancer guys "cancer cards". You pull them out one by one when you want your own way. Could be useful!
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