What laughter has to do with chronic pain?
admin 4 November, 2009
I was always intrigued by the fact that laughter and joy can heal the diseases. In my opinion life should not be taken seriously, because it is too important. I know many cases where laughter turned out to be the best and most effective medicine of all. It is a well known fact, that the act of laughing has got healthful properties and positive effect on our physical and mental state.
A person who described this phenomenon was Norman Cousins. To some of you he may be known as the author of holistic health revolution, explained in his book titled “Anatomy of Illness.” The story of Cousins affliction started when he was a prosperous NY editor. At the peak of his career Cousins was diagnosed as having an ankylosing spondylitis. His chances for recovering were very poor. The disease was destroying collagen material, and his body was literally falling apart. In a very short period of time he became a disabled person. Feeling constant pain limited his movement abilities, and evoked depression. The disease sprang out of nowhere, and was successively destroying his life. He was not expected to live more than two months. Not having much time, all of his friends, family and physicians he knew, started to look for an answer, “Why his body was self-destroying itself?”, and “what can be done to save him?”
And then something strange happened. Mr. Cousins refused to believe in the prognosis, and resigned from the treatment. He did not want to be a burden for the hospital staff, so that he moved into a hotel suit. When there still was a chance to save Cousins, his physician decided to take a dangerous step, and give him a huge does of vitamin C. Here it should be said that this event took place years before Pauling’s finding about massive doses of vitamin C used in treatment. Fortunately for Cousins, his wife was a great fan of healthy food. She even had a garden at home, where grew some vegetables and fruits. Appalled by the food served at hospital, she has decided to bring Cousins home made meals, with healthy vegs and other ingredients.
His physician was criticized by other doctors for allowing Cousins to leave the hospital, and for giving him the vitamin C. But while leaving in the hotel suit, Cousins was not left alone, only kept under the nurse observation. His main aim was to show the world that he can treat himself with laughter and joy. He asked for a projector, and watched all of the old comedies whooping with laughter. Cousins was also having fun watching reels of Candid Camera show, sent to him by Allen Funt. His wife, in turns with the nurse, read him some funny stories, books, and everything amusing that they could find. Cousins had also asked to have a lab work done after watching the comedies, or listening to the books of humor. To all utter amazement, his sedimentation rate was always going down after the time spent on giggling and laughter. Mr. Cousins claimed that laughter has got healthful properties, not because it provides exercise for the immobilized body, but because it activates positive emotions which heal the body. He believed that laugher makes a perfect environment for the good things to happen
After a while, Mr. Cousins recovered enough to return to his normal life. He was said to “had laughed his way to wellness.” Yet, some people say that it is impossible to recover from anklylosing spondylitis, hence they do not believe that he had this illness. But Cousins got its own way, and proved everybody that laughter and our health are closely connected. It was not a completely new finding, though it became very popular thanks to Cousins influential connections, and dedication to the cause. Fifteen years later, after having a heart attack, he once again proved the laughter theory to be true. To heal himself he used the same methods as during the treatment for connective tissue disease. This time the principles also turned up to be effective. After successful laughter therapy he wrote a book titled “The Healing Heart.”
In 1978, Cousins started to teach students at UCLA about his findings. But he did not give up searching for more proofs to his theory. Till the rest of his life Cousins tried to convince people that patient’s approach does have a strong influence on effectiveness of the treatment, especially if positive emotions and attitude are involved. Cousins even hired many scientists, from different fields to prove his theory, and analyze the phenomenon of laughter in depth. This research was called a UCLA Program in Psychoneuroimmunology, and later renamed into Cousins Center for NPI.
Doctor Albert Schweitzer once wrote, “There is a fellowship of those who bear the mark of pain.” This man definitely knew what he was saying, since he himself got through a serious illness, but never lost his characteristic sense of humor. According to writer C.S Lewis, pain may also be perceived as a reveille for the deaf world.
As you can see, nobody should feel lonely with his or her pain. Yes, I agree that there are a lot of people who suffer. But at the same time, there a thousands of people who eventually get better and return to their normal lives. It is a well known fact that stress can kill, so why not believe that laughter can heal? It sounds quite convincing that worries and fear replaced with joy and happiness can cure. People die from anxiety, concerns and anger. But have you ever heard about someone who died from being cheerful? In September issue of Arthritis Today, I have found a really interesting paragraph. From its few lines I have learned that scientists in Japan are examining the effect of laughter and joy on rheumatoid arthritis. They have already compared the level of blood before, and after the patients read an amusing story. And it turned out that after a solid burst of laughter the number of cytokines in patients’ blood was significantly reduced! (Cytokines – chemicals affecting the inflammation).
Most of you will probably say that things are rarely funny. People who dare to say something amusing are often criticized for their misbehavior. Believe me or not, it is true that you won’t get better if your heart is full of negative emotions, anger, fear and anxiety. Those of you, who think that it is only a load of rubbish, can at least try it, simply to make their days more pleasurable. It is up to you, how you will spend the rest of your life, in what mood, and how much joy you will feel. Only remember that the time never stops. In my opinion happiness is an indispensable element of life. It creates the beauty of every hour spend on this planet. So do not be afraid to giggle, chuckle and guffaw! Laugh at everything you can! Be a child again, and remind yourself how it was to laugh till your sides ache. Now here comes the end of my message. But forgive me, I just could resists, and I had to finish it with a funny story.
I hope you do not know a joke about four keen golfers, because it would spoil the whole ending. Once there was a group of four men loving to play golf together. They were so enthusiastic about the every week game that they made a pact. It said that no matter what happens, they would always carry out the weekly game, and so they did. Nothing could put them off from playing golf, even a bad weather, or personal problems. But one day something terrible happened. One of the golfers, called Henry, was struck with a heart attack, and none of his friends could help him. They kept on playing golf, because they had to act according to the pact. Henry died on the golf course. To commemorate the deceased it was “hit the ball, drag Henry.” Sometimes, I myself feel like I was Henry. There are days when it is really difficult to get through. But we should not give up. Life can be full of happiness and joy, if we only let it.
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