Traumatic brain injury is no laughing matter — but laughing might be the best way to heal from it. Mike Lewis would know; once a hard-charging businessman, he has experienced it twice, first when his frontal lobe was shattered in a car accident, then later in a taxi accident, he sustained another trauma to the area of the brain responsible for executive function. He was unable to continue working at his job, and his marriage dissolved. He tried other types of work, assisted by a group that helps those with injuries get back into life again, On with Life.
After moving through several other lines of work, Mike became a peer counselor with the organization, showing other people with brain injuries how to rehab, and then starting his "laughing yoga classes." He also meets with four patients a day and does some counseling work. He was hired because he was able to show other injured people first-hand what they can achieve through work and hope. "It's very serious, but I like to laugh," he says.
"I tell people: We will help you overcome, adapt and persevere through a very hard time. But keep as much energy as possible into the concept of hope," Lewis told the Des Moines Register. "Miracles do happen; we see them here all the time."
In his laughing yoga classes, which meet every Thursday, he starts off with a bit of a giggle, makes a fool of himself (by doing goofy physical comedy, like wiggling around or impersonations), then gets into the belly-laughs. Research shows that however laughter occurs (whether your laughing is forced or comes from seeing something genuinely funny) it has the same physical and psychological effects.
"Part of the purpose of me being here ... is to be a purveyor of hope. I do that by being a living example of the right and effective treatment after brain injury," says Lewis in the video above. "What I say and do here is simply a product of what I've learned from other health care professionals. But the bottom line is that this entire process has simply made me a better person and I'm very grateful for that."