Guest blogger Debra Joy Hart, RN: “Potentiation”

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po·ten·ti·ate [puh-ten-shee-eyt] 
–verb (used with object),
1. to cause to be potent; make powerful.
2. to increase the effectiveness of; intensify.

Humor, laughter and mirth can potentiate health and happiness. Sure, you can take all your vitamins, prescribed medications, get your teeth cleaned twice a year and eat a rainbow of vegetables, and most likely you will lead a fulfilled life. But, when you add laughter and humor to your daily regime, you potentiate all your other healthy habits.
Potentiate is a term I learned long ago in pain management. When giving a narcotic medication, the medical team must be alert to the fact that certain OTC’s (Over The Counter) drugs, can potentiate the narcotic.  If a patient was taking a particular OTC, you might actually administer less of the narcotic. Think of it as “getting more bang for your buck” (that’s NAANT: Not An Actual Nursing Term).

The psychological and physiological effects of laughter potentiate your immune and cardiovascular system.  The physical act of laughter in combination with the emotional state of mirth (mirth is needed for health benefits) has a potentiating effect. Laughter, humor, and mirth, potentiate your mental health, brain power, and spiritual being. Systematically leading others to mirthful laughter and humor helps to potentiate their navigation of the perilous seas of fear, shame, helplessness and hopelessness.

In nursing, I often see how certain terms or abbreviations can be applied in different areas of my life. The abbreviation WNL stands for Within Normal Limits. I often ask my therapist, “Am I at least WNL?”  SOB can have many meanings; however, in nursing it means Shortness of Breath.

Laughter and humor potentiate the discharge of emotional tension. When I was a nurse and teacher in a detox/drug rehabilitation unit, I took my rehab inpatient group to a public park where I led them in laughter exercises. Many were ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) who initially reacted with skepticism and dismay about laughing in a public place (without the aid of alcohol or drugs), followed by expressions of fear of being laughed at by others. In order to process and learn from the experiences, a discussion followed the session. With repeated efforts, mirthful laughter eventually potentiated this group’s ability to do healthy risk-taking, invest in future healthy happiness, and adopt healthy coping skills.

Leading laughter circles in long term care units, I see how laughter, humor and mirth can potentiate many therapies, which can then lead to increased compliance in medicine regimes, ADL’s (Activities of Daily Living), and other healthy behaviors. As evidenced by their fingers wiggling, hands clapping, and feet tapping, laughter exercise has potentiated mobility in residents who were previously slumped in their chairs during the day, virtually stock-still.

I hit a humor-home-run for myself when I can use my humorous perspective to potentiate my own sanity and balance the stresses of my responsibilities. For example, I can have fun with both the aging process and the ‘alphabet soup’ of text messaging.  These make me smile. I hope you smile at them, too.

BTW: Bring The Wheelchair
BYOT: Bring Your Own Teeth
DWI: Driving While Incontinent
LOL: Living On Lipitor
ROFLCGU: Rolling On Floor Laughing, Can’t Get Up
FWB: Friends With Beta-blockers
FYI: Found Your Insulin
IMHO: Is My Hearing -Aid On?
FWIW: Forgot Where I Was

Debra Joy Hart RN, BFA, CLL is part of World Laughter Tour and the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor. She owns M.I.R.T.H. (Medicine is Relationships Trust and Humor) [tm]., [email protected]

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About the Author

Steve Wilson

Award-winning psychologist, Steve Wilson, also known as The Joyologist and The Cheerman of the Bored, has spent 30 years specializing in applied and therapeutic humor with a humanitarian mission. As Director of National Humor Month, he intertwines science and ancient wisdom with substance and humor to create practical methods to lead the world to health, happiness and peace through laughter. More than six thousand people have completed his unique training in how to create therapeutic laughter, and tens of thousands more around the world have been uplifted by his talks, classes, books, and articles. He established the World Laughter Tour, Inc., in 1998, to be a rich resource and inspiration for improving productivity, health, and well being in business, healthcare and education. For more information and