A Prescription to Laugh: Healing Through Humor And Laughter
By Lynn Shaw, Laugh Therapist
"A cheerful heart is good medicine."
- King Solomon (Proverbs 17:22)
King Solomon gave us one of the earliest recorded accounts regarding the healing power of humor and laughter. In the 1300's, surgeon Henri de Mondeville reportedly told jokes to his patients in the recovery room. In the 1600's, educator Richard Mulcater recommended laughter for those suffering from head colds.
Throughout the centuries court jesters have been hired to relieve the royalty's stress from governmental duties. Perhaps the most insightful recording of the benefits of laughter and humor healing came from Dr. Norman Cousins in his book, Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient.
Laughter And Humor Can And Does Enhance Our Overall Well-Being
In 1964 Dr. Cousins was diagnosed with a crippling and extremely painful inflammation of his body. With his physician's assistance, he checked out of the hospital and into a hotel to utilize as many natural resources as possible to treat his condition. His experience became a controlled study in pain management and overall healing.
Dr. Cousins had a strong will to live and knew if he focused on love and faith, he could generate positive emotions. He decided to experiment with laughter to create a positive factor in altering his body chemistry to be in a healing mode. Dr. Cousins systematically watched Candid Camera classics, Marx Brother films, and read books like E.B. and Katharine White's Subtreasury of American Humor and Max Eastman's The Enjoyment of Laughter. He later wrote, "I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep." He recovered from this condition and spent the next 20 years teaching about the merits of laughter and humor in healing.
Experts now agree, Laughter:
Is good for you
- Boosts your immune system
- Can be shared
- Relieves tension
- Benefits the mind, body and spirit
- Is free!
Earlier in my career when presenting information on laughter therapy, it was my intention to be known as a laughter specialist, not a comedienne or a humorist. If people said, "you speak about humor." I would defend my position, "No," I would start, "I speak about the benefits of therapeutic laughter." "But, you're funny!" I would hear in return. "You're a humorist!" So purist was I in my thinking, that the idea of people finding my presentations educational AND humorous escaped me.
"Laughter is the shortest distance between two people."
- Victor Borge
What I now appreciate is that often I connect with someone through shared humor, or I connect with someone who simply hears my laugh and readily joins in laughing with me.
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