Thursday, June 11, 2009

Laughter Is the Best Medicine

Today my 13-year old granddaughter, Katie, was playing with her 6-month old sister, Chloe. A simple peek-a-boo game elicted belly laughs from Chloe. All of us in the car were laughing as we listened to Chloe squeal and giggle with delight.

Scientists and philosophers both know that one of the fastest ways to find peace amid sorrow is to laugh. Laughter is healing, therapeutic, and enlivening. Scientists have discovered that mirthful laughter released two healing hormones: beta-endorphins, which elevate mood, and human growth hormone, which strengthens the immune system. Laughter also decreases three harmful stress hormones: cortisol, epinephrine, and dopac.

Norman Cousins, who was diagnosed with a severe auto-immune disease in the 1970's, decided to fight his disease with laughter. He watched lots of funny movies and hilarious television shows and eventually his disease went into remission. He wrote a book about his experience, Anatomy of an Illness: A Patient's Perspective, which became a best seller and started a new field of medical research and care, known as integrative medicine.

In the Koran, we read, "He deserves Paradise who makes his companions laugh." King Solomon knew the the value of laughter. Almost three thousand years ago, he wrote, "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." Nietzche said, “Perhaps I know best why it is man alone who laughs; he alone suffers so deeply that he had to invent laughter.”

Mirthful laughter--which is pure and peaceable--brings joy to the one who is laughing and to those who share in the laughter. Laughter eases grief, mends broken hearts, and binds up wounded souls. Bob Newhart said, "Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and then move on."

Today take a few minutes and enjoy a laugh or two.

© Carol Brown

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