Laughter healing benefits and healing with laughter have become synonymous with Norman Cousins, the man who laughed himself to wellness.
Norman Cousins was the editor of Saturday Review for over 30 years, and was the author of a number of books including ‘Anatomy of an illness.’
In 1964, he returned home from a meeting in Moscow, Russia, experiencing severe joint pain and fever. He was diagnosed with Anklyosing Spondylitis, a collagen illness that attacks the connective tissues of the body.
He was told that most likely the cause was from his exposure to heavy metal poisoning. He questioned this diagnosis, because his wife who had accompanied him on this trip never experienced any of these symptoms.
While hospitalized, he began to research the effects of stress on the body, and found that it could be detrimental to the immune system.
Because of his position as editor of Saturday Review, he was able to utilize the magazine’s research department for information on his symptoms.
He read about the theory that negative emotions are harmful to the body, so he thought that if negative emotions were detrimental to health, then positive emotions should improve health.
He checked himself out of the hospital and into a Manhattan hotel suite. He hired a nurse who read humorous stories and played Marx Brothers movies for him.
Although his physician did not endorse this, he took massive doses of vitamin C. The only reason the physician went along with this was that Cousins so strongly believed in the vitamin C supplement.
The treatment proved to be so effective that in very little time Cousins was off all painkillers and sleeping pills. He found that the laughter relieved the pain and would help him sleep.
He returned to work and wrote about his experimental treatment in his book ‘Anatomy of an Illness.’ In 1989, it was finally acknowledged in the Journal of the American Medical Association that laughter therapy could help improve the quality of life for patients with chronic illness and that laughter has an immediate symptom relieving effect.