HeartNote, August 1, 2019: Laughing at Illness

Norman Cousins.

In 1979 he wrote "Anatomy of an Illness" a bestselling book about the link between laughter and healing.

Cousins was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, a painful disorder that destroys the collagen, the major component and protein that makes up the connective tissue in your body.

Although Cousins took huge doses of Vitamin C to see address the inflammation, he discovered that when he laughed hard for ten minutes, he was blessed with two beautiful hours of uninterrupted sleep. From watching Marx Brothers Films, Laurel and Hardy, Candid Camera and reading selections from E.B. White's "Subtreasury of American Humor," Cousins eventually placed the illness into remission.

Without going too far into the book, largely because I urge all of you to read it, he asserts that he was able to address and reverse his illness through medication, Vitamin C but, in his assessment, most importantly through laughter. "It is reasonable to expect the doctor to recognize that science may not have all the answers to the problems of health and healing" is one of his more famous quotes and a thesis statement of his philosophy on the relationship between humor, and wellness.

After combing through a bit of research, I found that there is general consensus that laughter does the following: "combat fear, comfort, relax, reduces pain, boosts the immune system, reduces stress, spreads happiness, cultivates optimism, and also helps communication." In addition, "children who are born with disabilities, for example a child being deaf or blind, can laugh. Even if the child has never heard the sound of laughter, or has never learned how, they to can still laugh."

And, to reflect on a previous essay this week, another quote: "Dr. Carl D. Marci found that the brain’s mirror neurons cause (us) to be empathetic. When we see other people laughing and happy, it automatically makes us laugh and happy too."

Yesterday's goofy video doesn't seem that goofy anymore, huh? However, you should know that yesterday I put up the wrong video. This one, the one I wanted to put up, is from a TED talk on Laughter Yoga. Watching this still makes me self conscious and I'm writing this in my room, by myself.

Still, if laughter can change this much of your life, maybe this should be part of our daily morning or evening practice. Wouldn't our lives be so much better if we could laugh like this when we wanted to?



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