Dealing with sorrow and grief in our lives.

Sorrow and grief are normal reactions to tragic circumstances that can happen in our lives. It is also helpful not to place a time frame on how long it takes to recover. However, if you feel that it has been too long, and you are finding it hard to move on and get back to as normal a life as possible then this story may be helpful. I remember reading this story many years ago and its principles have stayed with me all these years. Sometimes I practice them well and other times not so well, but one thing is certain, at least from my own experience, it works, it really does.

“There is an old Chinese tale about a woman whose only son died. In her grief, she went to the holy man and asked, “What prayers, what magical incantations do you have to bring my son back to life?”Instead of sending her away or reasoning with her, he said to her, “Fetch me a mustard seed from a home that has never known sorrow. We will use it to drive the sorrow out of your life.” The woman went off at once in search of that magical mustard seed.

She came first to a splendid mansion, knocked at the door, and said, “I am looking for a home that has never known sorrow. Is this such a place? It is very important to me.”They told her, “You’ve certainly come to the wrong place,” and began to describe all the tragic things that recently had befallen them.

The woman said to herself, “Who is better able to help these poor, unfortunate people than I, who have had misfortune of my own?”She stayed to comfort them, then went on in search of a home that had never known sorrow. But wherever she turned, in hotels and in other places, she found one tale after another of sadness and misfortune.

The woman became so involved in helping others cope with their sorrows that she eventually let go of her own. She would later come to understand that it was the quest to find the magical mustard seed that drove away her suffering.”

While it may not be advisable to knock on stranger’s doors asking if they need help or support, it is feasible to maybe pick up the phone and speak to a friend or neighbour who is struggling. If emotional support is not your strength, then possibly provide some practical help like helping a friend or neighbour with something around their home. It is amazing how therapeutic it can be to help another especially when we are in pain. Life is a great leveler and just knowing what other people have been through can help to ease our own pain. You might even find some helpful tips on how to move beyond your own grief from those who have travelled a similar path. Negative emotions are a bit like stray cats, if you don’t feed them they won’t stay.

Wishing you all the best in your journey

Phil Miranda

Mindfulness and Grief: With guided meditations to calm the mind and restore the spirit

Laughter is the Best Medicine

No doubt we have heard this statement at some time in our lives. There have been numerous quotes over the years about laughter and its benefits to our wellbeing. I remember as a child our family subscribed to the Reader’s Digest and I would always read the jokes section which was called “Laughter is the best medicine”. Humour has always been a large part of my life, but it has only been recently that I learnt of the measurable health benefits of laughing.

The body/mind connection has been known for some time and its effects have been well researched. The placebo effect is a good example of how the mind and the body interact. In the placebo effect, the mind which believes it is taking a substance that will heal the body, appears to have an influence on the body’s healing.

Dr. Lee Berk, is an associate professor at Loma Linda University in California and has spent many years researching the effects of laughter on health. Much of the current research was driven by anecdotal stories of people who had healed themselves by watching funny videos and shows. Berk and his colleagues found that not only laughter, but the anticipation of it led to a decrease in stress hormones in the body. The role of stress in the body as a catalyst for disease is well known and researched. Stress hormones are one of the factors that are attributed to poor health outcomes and decreased longevity in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) sufferers.

I wrote about this previously in Childhood Trauma and Poor Health Outcomes.

Academic research is now at least partially explaining why this might be the case. Laughter appears to lower stress hormones and inflammation in the body.

There is an important distinction to made however between laughing on one’s own and laughing in a group. Laughter like most human emotions is contagious and is therefore much more intense and pronounced when shared with other people. The relationship between good social connections and better health outcomes is also well known. Some of the benefits of laughter may be due to social inclusion. Therefore, the social aspect of laughing cannot be ignored.  Ella Wheeler Wilcox alluded to this when she wrote “Laugh, and the world laughs with you; Weep, and you weep alone” in her well-known poem Solitude.

So, what if you are someone who is not well connected socially? does that mean you cannot enjoy the health benefits of laughter. Not at all. With so much access to TV, DVD’s and the internet there is always an opportunity to watch or listen to something that makes you laugh. As your mood improves you may just find that you not only feel more social, but that you also draw likeminded people to you. As Wilcox wrote: “Rejoice, and men will seek you, grieve, and they turn and go, they want full measure of all your pleasure, but they do not need your woe”.

Even if there were no other benefits from laughing it just feels good. So why not give yourself the gift of laughter and then share it with others. Humour is subjective so find what makes you laugh. It may be a funny TV show, a stand-up comedian or videos on youtube of cats or people doing stupid things. Do it now. Bookmark then close this page and find something that you think is funny.  It could just change your outlook on life as well as your health.

Wishing you all the best in your journey

Phil Miranda