I stumbled upon this topic during my research into various forms of alternative healing. I have always been familiar with the old saying “laughter is the best medicine” but just dismissed it as an old cliché that is said as a simplistic way to get over our troubles. However, I have noticed that there has been an increasing shift towards incorporating laughter in today’s modern alternative healing therapies. Doctors have begun to recognise the benefits of laughter and positive emotions on their patients’ physical well being and recovery period.
A groundbreaking book written by a patient dealing with terminal illness called “Anatomy of Illness” by Norman Cousins, referred to the research conducted by scientist Hans Selyes in relation to the adverse physical effects on the body from harbouring negative emotions. Based on this research Cousins hypothesised that if negative emotions could have such a detrimental effect on the body, then on the flip side, positive emotions potentially had a positive effect on the body.
Cousins decided to test the theory on himself and treat his severe and chronic pain. After discussing it with his doctor, and receiving support, he decided to cease all medicated pain treatment and begin trialling laughter therapy solely for pain relief. He arranged to watch comedic movies for a few hours a day, periodically, and discovered that after at least ten consecutive minutes of “genuine belly laughter” he experienced an anaesthetic effect on his body and was able to enjoy up to two hours of pain-free sleep.
His book inspired laughter clubs around the world, where groups of people from various backgrounds meet together with one goal, to laugh. The groups would meet generally once a week at a park or an outdoor venue and perform a series of exercises and breathing techniques that would induce a kind of artificial laughter until eventually genuine laughter would erupt. Many peopled joined the laughter clubs for various reasons, such as, for the treatment of asthma and respiratory problems, stress relief, depression, or for companionship or as an opportunity to socialise with different people. Whatever the reason, laughter, as a form of therapeutic exercise seemed to provide its participants with a multitude of happy vibes and endorphins.
After hearing so many positive reviews on the benefits of laughter I was inspired to test the theory on myself. Serendipitously, I woke up the following day with one of my usual painfully debilitating migraines, which apart from being extremely painful come with an unpleasant side of nausea. I saw this as an opportunity to test the laughter therapy, so I logged onto Youtube, and watched for over an hour, clips of my favourite comedians performing stand up comedy. This triggered a continuous period of over 20 minutes of full blown, pee your pants, crawling on the floor in stitches, belly laughter. It felt incredibly invigorating. I could feel my body being flooded with endorphins and my migraine and nausea soon cleared. I also noticed a few other side effects that I did not anticipate, I began to feel joyful and a sense of motivation to do something exciting, I also noticed it assisted my arthritic pain. My depression began to lift and my mood was cheerful and positive for the rest of the day. I continued the laughter therapy everyday for a week and noticed that after just a week of dedicated laughter my blood pressure readings reduced to a healthy level and the negative pattern of thoughts that ran through my mind were beginning to transform predominantly into optimistic and creative thoughts. I also noticed it began to have a noticeable effect on my skin, it felt more supple and had a noticeable glow. Ultimately, I discovered that laughter had many incredible effects on both my physical and mental well being, but most importantly pain relief.