Acceptance and Laughter

Here are two article written by Ackli Howell, a member of Grace's Health Cabinet, about healthy attitudes.



The reality of life is that sometimes, despite our best efforts, we can't avoid illness or disease. When we are diagnosed with a chronic condition, one lesson we learn is that not all problems are solvable. Often those with chronic conditions become tired of vacillating back and forth between the hope of a cure and the despair that one doesn’t exist. However, when we fully focus on acceptance, a sense of freedom takes over. Despite illness, one thing we do have control over is how we relate to ourselves and the world around us; specifically, whether we accept what is or struggle against it.

When most people hear the word "acceptance," they think of giving up or caving in. But giving up is not acceptance – it's submission. And there's a crucial difference between the two. Acceptance simply refers to the recognition that the moment is as it is. That's it.  It is not a value judgment. Accepting that something is true in this moment doesn't mean that we endorse it or approve of it. It just means we recognize that it “is” in the particular moment.

Nor does acceptance mean anything about the future.  If we accept that something is true in this moment, that doesn't mean we can't work toward changing it in the future – perhaps even in the very next moment.  Acceptance transcends hope or despair, future or past.  It is simply seeing reality as it is.  When we accept what is, we become free. Free to be at peace with the circumstances of our lives, no matter how undesirable or difficult they are. Free to continue to do everything in our power to improve the conditions of our lives (or life in general) in the moment.

Acceptance is a fundamental tenet of every major spiritual and religious tradition. In Christianity, acceptance is expressed as putting your faith in God or Jesus.  In Islam, the phrase "insha'Allah" means "as God wills." Cultivating acceptance opens our hearts and our minds to allow us to recognize the significant ways in which illness affects us. It makes us stronger, more resilient, much more sensitive to other people, helps us align our priorities, gives us an appreciation for what we have taken for granted, fuels a fire within us to use each good day more productively, and deepens our faith.

If you are struggling with any type of chronic health condition and the impact it has had on your life, we invite you to Finding Hope, Grace’s support group for those suffering from chronic medical conditions.  Finding Hope meets the first Tuesday of each month, from 7:15 to 9:00 pm in the Grace Library. For more information, contact Grace.

Humor is Healthy

We are a serious people. This may be particularly true if your heritage is German or Scandinavian Lutheran (or if your birth order is an only or an oldest). There is certainly plenty to be serious about these days. In addition to the routine stressors of daily life, we have an economic climate of uncertainty and depression. Our moods reflect this state of being. We are more on edge, more fearful, and sadder.

Last month was National Humor Month.  Unless one had a reason to take note of these innocuous, nationalized topics of the month, (like writing for Thinking of You), it probably went unnoticed.  But if we reflect on this topic of last month, how was the state of your humor? (Yes, it was Lent.)  How many smiles did you share?  How many times did you laugh till your sides hurt?
Proverbs 17:22 observes, “A merry heart does good like a medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.”

Our emotional response to stressors – fear and/or anger - can have adaptive purposes.  But when experienced for too long, and too frequently, the physiological impact can have negative consequences for the body, mind, and spirit.

Bob Hope, many years ago, used laughter to help the military troops cope, in a healthy way, with the incredible stressors of war.  George Burns used humor to lighten the journey into old age.  Norman Cousins, author of Anatomy of an Illness, lauded the effects of laughter on his physical well-being in his pursuit of health and healing.  The American Cancer Society discusses laughter therapy as a way to reduce tension, decrease blood pressure, and reduce stress hormones.   Some say a good belly laugh is a massage for the internal organs of our bodies.

When we are in good humor, when we laugh, we connect with others. It is hard not to love the people you laugh with.  Laughing at yourself can also help you to love yourself, and others, more. Life will always have opportunities to be serious.  Let us love the life we are given. Laugh often, laugh loud, love more – your self included.

With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.
William Shakespeare