Laughter is the cheapest and best natural cure available to man and it has no negative side effects; this free cure has helped lots of people overcome chronic and rare diseases and lived longer than expected.
I have heard about how laughter is beneficial and has therapeutic effects on the body and how laugher is the best medicine but I didn’t really take it serious until last two years when I came across an old book “Anatomy of an Illness” by Norman Cousins published in 1979.
This increased my curiosity and made me to research more on the subject. Before I tell you what the book is about and the amazing ways laughter heals the body; let me first tell you the story of Norman Cousin.
Norman Cousins was a popular figure in the early 90’s. He was a long time editor of the Saturday review, a respected magazine in New York; he was a global peacemaker and he received hundreds of awards including UN peace medal and he received nearly 50 honorary doctorate degrees.
In 1964; after a stressful trip to Russia where he worked very hard and inhaled toxic fumes emitted by large diesel trucks working round the clock at his hotel, his immune system was affected and he was diagnosed with a very rare, fatal and incurable disease.
He was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis which is a degenerative disease that causes the breakdown of collagen and connective tissues; this left him in constant pain and extreme fatigue and he was nearly unable to move his jaw. The doctors could not handle his condition and gave him few months to live and “get his affairs in order”.
Norman Cousins refused to accept this; he reasoned that stress had caused this condition and as a journalist he did more research and discovered that the condition he was going through was caused by depleted levels of vitamin C in the body and to make matters worse he discovered also that the medicines he was taking to treat the illness was also depleting the levels of vitamin C in the body.
So he decided to take his life into his hands, it was a do or die affair for him; Cousins fired his doctor and checked into a hotel room opposite the hospital. He found a doctor who agreed to work with him as a team instead of being in charge as usual.
He began to take massive doses of Vitamin C injections; he also obtained a movie projector and got a pile of comedy movies including the “Marx brothers”, “the three stooges”, “laurel and hardy” and “candid camera” shows; he read humorous stories, jokes and comic books. He also wrote original jokes which he would read aloud to himself then laugh like crazy.
Despite his excruciating pain, he made it a point of duty to laugh until his stomach hurts. As he exposed himself to continuous laughter; he noticed that every time he laughed, his pain was eased and 10 minutes of belly ripping laughter would give him two hours of pain-free sleep which nothing else, not even morphine could help him.
His condition started improving steadily; he slowly regained the use of his limbs, he was back on his feet within six months and he returned to his full time job at the Saturday review within two years. His recovery baffled many doctors and the scientific community; they examined him and found no trace of the dreaded disease, he was completely cured.
They asked him what medicines he took that cured him and they didn’t believe him when he told them he didn’t take any medicine since they told him that his ailment was incurable.
They said “You must have done something you never did before” and he finally replied “All I did was to laugh myself to health.” This also inspired lots of research projects; he published his book Anatomy of an Illness in 1979 and gave an interview on the impact of positive emotions on health in 1983.
Do you know Norman Cousins lived for 26 years after the diagnosis of this rare disease? He died on 30th November, 1990 at the age of 75. Laughing added 26 years to Norman’s life and he is known as “the man who laughed in the face of death” and like he always say that he laughed his way back to health. His popular quote is “Hearty laughter is a good way to jog internally without having to go outdoors.”
He depended on hearty laugher to cure his condition and massive doses of vitamin C to repair the damages done to his immune system by stress. Norman Cousins was the man who spread the knowledge of laughter’s positive impact on health and that is what his book is all about.
What happens to the body when we laugh?
When we laugh, the entire brain is activated; endorphin the happy hormone is also released which does lots of wonders in the body and leads to a positive feeling and attitude. The release of endorphin makes one smile and the act of smiling releases more dopamine which in turn makes one feel happy.
A study showed that joyous and taunting laughter activated the regions of the brain sensitive to processing high levels of social information; tickling laughter activated the brain regions sensitive to greater acoustic complexity.
Scans from the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) showed that joyous and taunting laughter produced different connectivity patterns in parts of the brain involved in sound association, thinking and visual imagery.
Amazing reasons why we should laugh often
Laughter burns calories: A study revealed that increases the heart rate by 10 to 20% and it also raises energy expenditure; 10 to 15 minutes of laughter burns approximately 10 to 40 calories per day which equals close to four pounds a year.
It improves respiration: Laughter purifies the respiratory track with the help of coughing and hiccups in extreme cases; it also increases the intake of oxygen which helps in clearing the lungs by exhaling the residual air left behind as a result of normal respiration. Laughter also works out the muscle of the diaphragm and this improves respiration.
It gives the muscles a physical workout: The act of laughing is equal to doing an aerobic exercise that workout most of the body muscles; 25 to 80 muscles are used when we laugh but this varies among individuals because some would use 15 muscles to laugh while some will literally roll on the floor and laugh out.
The contraction of all these muscles gives one an aerobic workout; Norman Cousins called it a form of internal jogging and a minute of laughter workout will have the same effect as an actual work out on a rowing machine for 10 minutes.
It leads to mental wellness: Humor has a positive effect on memory; it can heal age-related memory loss and boosts mental functions and activities. It stops distressing emotions like anger, sadness or anxiety; it reduces stress, increases energy and helps one feel focused and accomplish more, it also keeps one relax and recharged.
It helps in shifting perspective and draws you closer to others. It improves memory and learning; it also enhances good mood which leads to greater preference for healthy foods over junks and indulgent foods.
It releases feel good chemicals in the brain: When one laughs hysterically; the brain releases endorphins which makes one happy. It is even reported that physical act of laughing; that is the muscular movement involved in producing the sounds prompts and increase in endorphins. A study revealed that even the anticipation of laughter decreases stress and helps “positive psychological mood states.”
It promotes creativity: A study result showed that laughter has a large number of effects on chemical processes in the body; these processes reduces the stress hormone, increase endorphins and oxygenation of the blood and brain which will in turn increase creativity.
It also increases productivity by improving the overall health of the brain and bolstering its natural support system; it activates the entire brain and both hemispheres can work together more efficiently, this fosters and grows creativity.
It improves sleep: Laughter induces positive feelings and it also relaxes the muscles; this can trigger the release of the body’s natural painkillers which can help someone fight insomnia and get a good sleep.
Scientists claim that people who laugh often have a higher threshold for pain; they react more positive towards medicines and require less painkillers because laughter promotes increased tolerance to pain.
It regulates blood pressure: Stress can lead to high levels of Cortisol which can result in high blood pressure and suppress the immune system; other medical conditions can also lead to high blood pressure but laughter helps in lowering high blood pressure.
During laughter, the production and secretion of cortisol is reduced; this leads to a drop in blood pressure which is usually normal, it also helps the blood vessels to expand more thereby allowing easy flow of blood.
It cuts the risk of diabetes: Researchers in Japan found out that laughter lowers blood glucose in patients with type II diabetes by altering gene expression.
It activates the whole brain rather than just one hemisphere: A study revealed that just seconds before we laugh after hearing the punch line of a joke, a wave of electricity sweeps through the cortex; this wave carpets the entire cerebral cortex rather than just one region.
It increases the intake of oxygen: Heavy laughter makes one gasp for air, this makes one to inhale more oxygen while laughing; laughter also dilates the blood vessels at the same time and this leads to increase flow of oxygen to the organs of the body.
The harder one laughs the more oxygen goes in. increased amount of oxygen in the blood leads to healthy functions of the brain.
It is good for the heart: Mirthful laughter makes the brain to release endorphins which signals the increased production of nitric oxide; nitric oxide protects the heart from cardiovascular problems, it is responsible for vasodilation and also reduces the aggregation of platelets in the blood vessels and reduces vascular inflammation.
It strengthens your bond with other people: Report from a study revealed that endorphin release induced by social laughter may be an important pathway that supports formation, reinforcement and maintenance of social bonds between humans. The endorphin released gives a pleasurable and calming effect which signals safety and promote the feelings of togetherness.
It suppresses physical pain: Laughter eases pain by producing beta-endorphins which are effective in releasing physical pains; this hormone also helps in the dilation of the blood vessels.
It relieves anger: Laughter is an effective tool in diffusing anger and conflicts; this will also prevent negative emotions like resentment, bitterness and unforgiveness which can harm the health.
It relaxes the whole body for up to 45 minutes: Laughter can release physical stress and tension and it also relaxes the muscle.
It prevents and fights against cancer: A study showed that laughter increases the levels of interferon gamma (IFN) in the body; this stimulates the B-cells, T-cells, NK cells and immunoglobulin which are all part of the immune system and the first lines of defenses against cancer and the abnormal growth of dangerous tumors in the body. It also regulates cell growth and prevents uncontrolled growth of cells in cancer.
It strengthens the immune system: Hearty laughter increases the production of the T-cells which are the main cells involved in fighting infections, parasites and foreign invaders in the body; it also increases the production of antibodies and this helps in strengthening the immune system.
Hearty laughter stimulates the muscles connected to the thymus gland located in the neck; this gland produces T-cells for the immune system. It also increases the production of gamma interferon which tells various parts of the immune system to turn on.
Studies also revealed that watching a humorous movie for 30 to 60 minutes will increase the secretion of immunoglobulin A; this is an antibody that protects against cold, flu and other respiratory problems. It increases the production of immunoglobulin B which helps antibodies pierce through dysfunctional and infected cells.
This wonderful therapy also makes one look younger by exercising the facial muscles; it helps one go through difficult times easily and with a positive attitude, it is a powerful anti-depressant and it distracts from negative things that can cause stress, anxiety and anger.
Laughing every day can keep all sorts of doctors away and like some diseases; this free cure is highly contagious. Laughter will not only lift your spirit but the spirit of those around you; this is a great tool to heal yourself and others.
Now that you have known the tremendous ways laughter positively impact your health; you should make it a point of duty to laugh every day. Watch humorous movies, read comics and jokes, hang out with funny and positive people and sometimes laugh at yourself and the negative things happening to you.
When you look for a reason to laugh in any situation, it will help you cope and prevent negative emotions like stress, anxiety, depression or sadness from having a negative impact on your health and immune system.