The Healing Power of Humor, Part II
Do you like to laugh? The ability to find humor in life’s situations, especially these days, may be more important than you realize. It’s often said that “laughter is the best medicine,” and since the 1980s, much research has been done on the role laughter plays in aiding the physical and mental healing process. We are bombarded by information about the importance of healthful eating and staying in shape for optimal living— especially during a pandemic. Let me add another crucial component to overall health: the need for more laughter in life. Jessica Breitenfeld, Club President of Spreeredener in Berlin, Germany, is a therapist with expertise in “laugher therapy.” She volunteers as a hospital clown and says, “Laughter breaks down awkwardness. When you want to make people feel comfortable, help them laugh. Realizing you laughed at the same thing as a stranger makes you feel like-minded and in a trusted circle. You have then can make both you and the audience feel better. Norman Cousins is credited with launching the humor and healing move- ment in the United States with his 1979 book, Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient. Diagnosed with a debili- tating autoimmune disease in the 1960s, with no cure or hope from the medical community, Cousins, at the time the chief editor of the Saturday Review magazine, started a self-prescribed vitamin regimen and humor process to reduce the stress in his life. While confined to his bed, he found and watched comedy clips and funny movies (such as Marx Brothers classics) to make him laugh. Heartily.
We are experiencing times of stress throughout our world right now, so take advantage of humor as a coping tool.
“I made the joyous discovery that 10 minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep,” he wrote.
Cousins eventually published his per- sonal research results in the New England Journal of Medicine and helped fund early research on the topic.