Could Laughter Save Your Life?

To laugh during a pandemic is doubly important. Laughter not only relieves anxiety, it boosts immunity, big time. How do we know?

We all love a good story, so here’s the story of a man named Norman Cousins and how he used laughter to resolve his terminal illness, for which there was no cure. His experience led to the launch of a new field of medicine known as psychoneuroimmunology.

In 1964, following a stressful trip to the then Soviet Union, Cousins was diagnosed with a degenerative disease that causes the breakdown of collagen, the sticky stuff that keeps our muscles attached to our bones. He was, quite literally, coming apart. This condition was paralyzing and extremely painful.

Doctors had no cure and gave him a few months to live. Cousins wasn’t ready to call it quits on life. Since he was familiar with research connecting unpleasant emotions such as anger, frustration and stress with a weakened immune system, he reasoned that if difficult emotions weaken our immune system, then uplifting emotions could strengthen it.

With his doctor’s support, he began a regimen of vitamin C for inflammation, along with viewing funny movies and television shows. No Netflix in those days! Initially, he found that ten minutes of hearty belly laughter gave him two hours of pain-free sleep, which even morphine wasn’t able to do.

Fast forward, Cousins recovered fully. He returned to activities like golf and horseback riding, and to full-time work. He also became an adjunct professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Science at UCLA. Thus, psychoneuroimmunology (PNI), the study of the interaction between our psychology, nervous system and immune system, was born. Laughter is now used in hospitals around the world as an adjunct to cancer treatment. 

How can we apply this to our daily lives to improve our performance and our health?

While laughter boosts our immunity, it also releases endorphins (happy hormones), relieves muscle tension and stress, protects our hearts with oxytocin, oxygenates our blood and brain so we think more clearly and calmly, gives our insides a workout, connects us with others and makes us feel good! When we feel better, we function better. Win-win!

Until there is a COVID-19 vaccine, we still need to be vigilant about our health. In addition to thorough hand-washing and a healthy diet, perhaps a daily dose of laughter is still the best medicine.

What do you think? 

Stay well!

Enjoy this Benefits of Laughter infographic.