Laughter by Brian R. Clement

Ever since Norman Cousins wrote his best-selling book, Anatomy on an Illness, in which he described how he conquered a degenerative illness through a steady diet of laughter, there has been a growing interest in laughter therapy as a curative. Even staunch doubters are gradually accepting this idea in light of the growing store of research evidence.

At the DeKalb General Hospital in Decatur, Georgia, a humor room was established that contains no medical equipment at all. Doctors order their discouraged and listless patients to visit this room regularly as an important adjunct to other treatment.

The cheerful, brightly-lit room contains a large video library of old television comedy shows and old movies featuring Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton, W.C. Fields, Red Skelton, the Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello, and other comics.

Some results have been truly remarkable. Most have been encouraging. Nurses have noticed that after spending only a couple of hours a day in this room, patients usually perk up and have a rekindled desire to become well and return home.

Patients in other hospitals in Orlando, Schenectady, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Stockholm, and London are also being offered laughter therapy. Some hospitals have found that group humor sessions comprising joke telling, humorous anecdotes, recitation of comic plays, and skit presentations are enhanced by the positive energy of a social dynamic.

Besides these social and psychological benefits, research reveals that there are many physiological benefits that are derived from laughter sessions. Blood pressure is reduced and the cardiovascular system is stimulated. Also, muscular tension is reduced, and the respiratory system receives a beneficial increase of oxygen.

Laughter also affects the production of endorphins, which are the body’s natural pain killers. It seems that the eighty facial muscles involved in laughing affect the cranial blood flow and alter brain temperature which, in turn, influences the synthesis of endorphins. Also, there are indications that laughter may stimulate the thymus gland, which helps the body to withstand disease.

Family members who care for sick relatives are also very good candidates for this therapy. These caregivers are particularly vulnerable to fatigue and anxiety, which may result in unacceptable stress levels. Both the patient and the caregiver can benefit from daily humor sessions. Norman Cousins reported that five minutes of intense positive thinking, such as laughter, can cause a 53 percent increase in the disease-fighting ability of blood. Even a few minutes of laughter has been found to result in hours of relaxation. Starting today, FIND SOMETHING TO LAUGH ABOUT!