Laughter is not only a medicine, a tonic; it is the best physical, mental and spiritual exercise you can perform! Always see that your face wears a smile – for, as Mahatma Gandhi said, your dress is incomplete unless your face wears a smile!
I often tell my friends that they must laugh at least thrice a day. Thrice in the morning before breakfast; thrice at noon before you take your lunch and thrice at night before dinner. Nine, hearty laughing sessions can really get you all the benefits of Dr. Laughter – and you can be happy and healthy.
The smile of true bliss does not depend on outer conditions. It is there within us. We do not have to acquire it; we have but to rediscover it.
How laughter healed Normal Cousins
The healing powers of laughter have been well-researched and documented by medical experts in the West. A case in point is that of the well-known American journalist, Norman Cousins. He took to heart quite literally, the saying, “Laughter is the best medicine.” He was afflicted by a painful and degenerative disease of the spine. Doctors put him on strong medication to relieve pain and inflammation – but offered little hope of recovery.
Cousins had been a medical journalist early in his career, and was aware of emerging evidence that pessimism and depression could reduce the body’s capacity to resist and fight disease. By the same token, he told himself, a positive attitude should increase resistance and even help to overcome disease.
Norman Cousins took a bold decision. With his doctor’s cooperation, he decided to stop most of his medication, restricting his intake to large doses of vitamin C.
Then he began a course of positive thinking – and lots of laughter. “Nothing is less funny than being flat on your back, with every bone in your spine and joints hurting,” he wrote later, in his bestselling book, Anatomy of an Illness. He asked for a movie projector and a small screen to be placed in his room, and he began to view every day, funny movies and comedy shows recorded from the TV. Apart from this, he requested his nurses to read to him humorous books. He tells us that tears of laughter actually have a different chemical composition from tears of sadness!
“I made the discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep,” Cousins wrote in his book.
Doctors take note
Noting the marked improvement in his condition, the doctors decided to sample his blood sedimentation rate – a crucial measure of inflammation – before and after each laughter session. They found that it fell slightly after each session, and continued to fall as the laughter therapy progressed.
A few months later, Cousins decided to write about his unorthodox cure in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. His article raised a few eyebrows, certainly; but it made quite a few medical experts smile.
Try laughter therapy
Now, we know that Cousins was not an isolated case. Laughter therapy has become more and more popular, and laughter clubs have sprung all over the world. Research has proved that laughter not only reduces stress and ceases pain, but actually seems to alter the body’s stress-and-immunity chemistry. It has also proven to ease depression, improve heart health and even burn calories! Go ahead, incorporate laughter in your daily routine…and laugh away your illnesses.
Laughter in medical practice
Hunter Campbell, M.D., the American physician whose life inspired the 1998 movie Patch Adams and later the 2003 Hindi Movie Munnabhai MBBS, took laughter therapy to a new level. In 1971, Dr. Campbell and several others opened a free hospital in a six-bedroom home, a pilot health care facility through which thousands of patients received unique, humour-infused care over the next twelve years. This hospital-home evolved into the Gesundheit Institute, a not-for-profit healthcare organisation which currently offers volunteer programmes like humanitarian clowning trips to hospitals, orphanages, refugee camps and prisons, as well as educational programmes designed to help medical students develop compassionate connections with their patients. “We’re trying to make compassion and generosity the centre core of what medicine is,” says Campbell about the organisation.
— HeartMD Institute