Humour and good spirits are important ingredients in the lives of all and are especially important when times become rough and hard, such as during illness or suffering.The trick is how to get to that state – to accept and keep a light and easy mind when everything looks gloomy and difficult. Luckily, there are people who have sensitivity for those who are in need. They are there to hold a hand or crack a joke or two to brighten a hard day.

I believe you have heard about the Red Noses Clowndoctors and their objective to bring joy and laughter to sick and suffering people. So far they have been active in a number of countries and hospitals. One of their mission statements says:„Equipped with an abundance of humour, characteristic pranks, jokes and tricks RED NOSES clowndoctors take on this challenging task of conquering fear and gloominess. These masters of improvisation and spontaneous play provide a different kind of therapy. Visiting each patient directly at their bedside, they support the sick and suffering with invaluable good cheer and vitality, encouraging a profound key to regaining balance and being able to cope with the situation.” Although their work started in childrens’ hospitals, today their activity has expanded to rehabilitation centres and wards for senior people, too.

They are not alone in this noble and compassionate vocation. There are, and there should be more, wise individuals and dedicated groups who understand and truly believe in the power of joy and humour in human life. Although mortality and fragility are known facts, we often live our lives as if we are not completely aware of these. Of course, there is no need for constant dwelling on and reminding ourselves about that. There are enough events in the life of every person that make us face this inevitable truth. Knowing that, we should stay optimistic, looking forward into the precious moments we have as long as we are alive and aware.

Humour has the potential to relieve stress in patients and medical professionals. Humour gives patients the opportunity to forget about their anxiety and pain, if only for a brief period of time. When doctors share humour with patients, they create lines of communication that encourage patients to discuss difficult issues. In effect, humour can put both parties at ease in a way that more formal types of communication cannot.

Despite the preliminary work in this area, many questions remain. Do patients want their physicians to use humour on a regular basis in clinical interactions? Will the health benefits of humour be substantiated in future, well-controlled research? Only time and effort will answer these questions.

Keep on laughing…   J