The Power of Laughter to Cure Mind and Body
Late in his life, Norman Cousins, world famous author, professor, and journalist, developed a painful disease his doctors told him he had little hope of surviving. As part of his self-prescribed treatment, Cousins, the Adjunct Professor of Medical Humanities for the School of Medicine at UCLA, locked himself in a room and watched Marx Brothers comedy movies. As he revealed in his book, Anatomy of an Illness, he discovered that ten minutes of “genuine belly laughter” would result in hours of pain-free sleep. He ended up living for many productive years, eventually succumbing to another ailment.
Is laughter really the best medicine? Clearly, by itself, laughing won’t cure what ails you. But, in conjunction with other forms of medicine, laughter and having a good sense of humor is invaluable. Here are just a few things that laughter does that are beneficial for improving your health and keeping you healthy:
1. Exercise. When you have a big belly laugh you exercise the diaphragm (the biggest muscle in the body), as well as your abdominal muscles and even your shoulder muscles. The movement of the diaphragm helps your breathing and increases air flow. A good laugh is actually good exercise for your heart and lungs.
2. Stress, Hormones and More. The body produces lots of hormones. Some hormones, such as cortisol, epinephrine, dopamines and others increase stress levels. Laughter has been shown to reduce the formation of these hormones, thus preventing the increase of your stress levels and the negative effects of stress. At the same time, laughter increases hormones such as endorphins which increase feeling of well being and lower stress levels. Since increased stress levels are associated with stomach problems, insomnia, asthma, fatigue, high blood pressure, psoriasis, and even some types of heart disease and alcoholism, it is clear that laughter can help you in conjunction with your regular medical therapy.
(“Whatever it is that is causing you stress, most likely it is there to teach you a lesson. If you are feeling continued stress then you aren’t paying attention. Sometimes the truth stings a bit.” – William ext. 5131)
Laughter also increases the quantity of disease fighting antibodies and enhances the ability of your T Cells to fight disease. It makes your immune system stronger and more effective.
3. Mental Clearing. After a good laugh you have a physical and emotional release, making you better able to deal with illness, stress, and just daily life. Laughing lets you look at the stressful events in your life differently, so you are less likely to face the negative impact of anger, disappointment, stress, guilt, and other negative emotions. And when you’re laughing and feeling good about yourself other people will be attracted to you and you’ll increase your circle of friends.
There’s no doubt about it, laughter is fantastic for your mental and physical well being. But is there a right way to laugh for health?
How to Laugh
Just little giggles or snorts for a second or two don’t seem to have the health effects that can be brought on by deep laughter. Instead, you need a good, long, drawn-out belly laugh, the type where your sides hurt (from exercising the muscles) or your eyes tear. Laughing like this for just ten minutes a day can literally change your life.
But what if you don’t feel like laughing? Studies show that if you fake your laughter it can be just as good as a real laugh. So go ahead and fake laugh. Do it enough and you’ll probably start laughing for real, anyway.
A recent study at UC Berkeley and the University of Zurich showed that people who can laugh at themselves are more cheerful, less serious, and had better moods throughout the day. So learn to laugh at yourself and not take yourself so seriously. You’ll be happier and healthier.
Finally, here is my 100% non-medical, unofficial prescription for improved health, better healing, more friends, and a happier life: Take time out to be silly every day. If you haven’t been silly, take a silly break. Learn to laugh at yourself and the world around you. Laugh by yourself and with your friends and family. Make them big, joyous, belly laughs.
And best of all, you don’t need insurance and you won’t be charged a co-pay. Laughter is free. So for the price, laughter is the best medicine.
“Be kind and forgiving of yourself. We are all human and we all make mistakes.” – Rivers ext. 5273
Donald Michael Kraig graduated from UCLA with a degree in philosophy, and has become a certified hypnotherapist and Master NLP practitioner. His book, Modern Magick, is the most popular step-by-step course in real magick ever published.
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