Laughter as Medicine

By The Spiritual Explorer | Published 5 November, 2016

Doesn’t everybody enjoy a good belly laugh? We are always asking: When is the last time you’ve had a good time? How about when is the last time you had a good laugh, one that reached from the bottom of your gut all the way to viewing laughter emitting from your eyes. One thing you cannot fake is a good laugh. While it indeed feels really great to enjoy the camaraderie of joining in laughter with others, let’s explore laughter as medicine.

Norman Cousins facilitates laughter as medicine

In the 60’s I remember reading about a man named Norman Cousins who contracted a degenerative disease called ankylosing spondylitis. It is a breakdown of collagen in the body which creates terrible pain. In fact, his doctor told him the disease would kill him within a few months. Norman Cousins, probably not realizing the far reaching repercussions of his reaction to his diagnosis, checked himself out of the hospital into a hotel across the street. He began taking high doses of Vitamin C, while also exposing himself to a continuous stream of humorous films and other laughing matter.

Mr. Cousins claimed that 10 minutes of belly rippling laugher could give him two hours of pain-free sleep, when even morphine was of no use. Diagnosed in 1964, he lived to 1990. While the idea of laughter as medicine was not an unknown concept, Norman Cousins breathed life into it and his reliance upon laughter remains with us to this day.

Laugh Your Way to Grace explores laughter as medicine

laugh-your-way-to-grace-199x300-2650725Reverend Susan Sparks in her book Laugh Your Way to Grace also speaks about the influence of laughter as medicine in her own bout with cancer. After experiencing the six stages of grief, she finally enters Stage 5 of acceptance. In that stage she calls upon King Solomon, Proverbs 17:22: “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” In her book she talks about how letting humor into her life eased the pain that she endured. She entitles one of her chapters: A Joke a Day Keeps the Co-Pays Away. She also cites Voltaire: The art of medicine consists of keeping the patient amused, while nature heals the disease.”

Further endorsing laughter as medicine, the University of Maryland conducted a study where people were shown laughter provoking movies to gauge their effect on cardiac health. They find that laughter appears to cause the inner lining of blood vessels to dilate, increasing blood flow and avoiding vessel constriction.

Here are some more effects that one sees from laughter as medicine:

  1. Boosts the immune system
  2. Lowers blood pressure
  3. Improves heart and respiratory function
  4. Regulates blood sugar.

In fact, hospital and treatments centers such as the Cancer Treatment Centers of America now employ humor therapy as part of their treatment options.

Suggestions to bring laughter as medicine into life

Somebody’s next question to me might be: How do I bring more laughter in my life? Well, you might start by actually choosing not to tune into some of those television shows that feature macabre and gloomy subjects. What passes for a good time might not necessarily be what is wholesome for you. Conceivably, you might choose more light-hearted fare for a time at least. Here are some other suggestions in your efforts at bringing laughter as medicine into your life

  1. Some of your favorite comediennes have written some really funny books. Go to your favorite bookstore and ask to see the humor section.
  2. Netflix has lots of comedies to choose from.
  3. Find a child you can laugh with. They love to laugh.
  4. Begin to see the humor in life’s situations.
  5. See an old friend and enjoy reminiscing.
  6. Go see some animated movies.

In conclusion, you might attempt to seek out laughter as a daily discipline to integrate into your life. Good luck.

If you have a question about “laughter as medicine,” or anything else, you can write me at Ask The Spiritual Explorer.

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