I remember reading once that the Ancient Celtic prescription for physical and emotional healing was “laughter, sorrow, and rest.” (If you know where I heard this, please let me know and I’ll give proper attribution!)
This weekend I was reminded of this great advice when I had an opportunity to hear the Celtic band, “Cherish the Ladies,” at a small performing arts center near my home.
Joanie Madden’s Irish wit made me laugh all through the performance.
The ballads and the Irish whistle sounded so wistful, it touched a deep sadness in me and brought tears to my eyes.
The music and dancing, traditional as well as original, was the best I’ve heard or seen in a concert, and completely took me away from my daily cares.
Laughter. Sorrow. Rest. It makes sense to me.
We know that laughter is great medicine anytime; numerous studies show that laughter decreases stress, improves social bonds, and boosts our immune systems.
We rest if we’ve been ill, and when we’re going through a severe emotional trauma, we lose our energy and often take to our beds. (One way to view depression is as a natural mechanism to keep the body at rest so it can heal from injury).
What might not seem so intuitive is the Celtic advice about Sorrow. Aren’t we told to look on the bright side? Use positive affirmations? Get over it already???
Actually, denying our sorrow or holding in our feelings of sadness will only cause them to become “stuck” in our mind and body, and can lead to symptoms such as headaches, gastric upset, and muscle aches and pains.
As we learn more about mind-body medicine and take a gentle, holistic approach to self-care, we can see that making space to express Sorrow is an important component of any healing regimen.
In the coming weeks we’ll be looking at some different techniques that support the expression of Sorrow and other emotions we often think of as “negative,” so we can make room for all that is good and find the balance and wellness that we seek.
In the meantime, I would love to hear your comments about this bit of Celtic Wisdom.
And be sure to Laugh when you can. Cry when you need to. Have a l-o-n-g nap.
And put on some great Celtic Music!
Lisa Kendall is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a special interest in supporting self-care. In addition to her practice in Ithaca, NY, Lisa is a sought-after speaker, retreat leader, and an “Eden at Home” Educator committed to changing the culture of care for Elders and their care partners.