The coronavirus pandemic has sparked interest in anything that can protect against dangerous infections and boost immunity. These are not only medications, but also various foods, drinks, vitamins, folk recipes. At the same time, we do not always remember about such a simple and accessible means as laughter and laughter therapy. But the old adage: “Laughter is the best medicine” has a scientific basis based on physiology. This was proved in his time by the founder of the science of laughter – gelotology – Norman Cousins, who went down in history as a man who managed to make death laugh. He was convinced from his own experience that the psyche plays a decisive role in recovery from the most serious illnesses, confirming the words of the famous Avicenna that “panic is half of the disease, calmness is half of health, and patience is the beginning of recovery.”
Due to a rare joint disease, doctors sentenced Norman Cousins to immobility and a slow death. But he decided not to give up, but took up the works of famous doctors and scientists, and quickly found what he was looking for. It turns out that many doctors and thinkers prioritized positive emotions. The physician R. Barton, who lived in the 17th century, described his observations in the book “Anatomy of Melancholy”: “Laughter purifies the blood, rejuvenates the body, and helps with heart ailments.” Burton argued that laughter brings a cure for all diseases. Immanuel Kant emphasized in his writings that laughter activates all vital processes in the body. Sigmund Freud called humor a unique manifestation of the human psyche, and laughter was an equally unique remedy. The modern American scientist W. Frey has experimentally proved that laughter has a beneficial effect on blood vessels and heart function, on the processes of hematopoiesis and respiration, as well as on the general muscle tone of the body.
Armed with this knowledge, Norman Cousins locked himself in a room and spent hours watching the best comic films and reading humorous literature, laughing through pain and suffering. The result was stunning. A week later, the patient’s pain disappeared, after a month he began to move, and after two he went to work. Norman Cousins had his own theory that every person contains a healing energy that most of us just don’t know how to use. In 1976, he published his autobiographical book Anatomy of a Disease (From the Patient’s Perspective), which literally exploded. Based on his own experience, the author has shown that a positive emotional state can cure even a serious illness.
His experience is confirmed by modern research showing that the state of human consciousness is the most important factor in maintaining his internal ecology and immunity. When we laugh, so-called neurotransmitters are released – serotonin, endorphin, and dopamine. Laughter is a stimulant of life, and thanks to it, all biochemical processes of our body are activated, and immunity is strengthened. And in response to fear, despondency, and prolonged depression, the adrenal glands secrete stress hormones – adrenaline and norepinephrine, which, getting into the bloodstream, spread throughout the body. When there are too many of them, they act destructively on the body.
Gelotology – the science of the benefits of laughter believes that, like fitness, it causes tension in the muscles of the press and has a positive effect on the digestive system. Like yoga, it trains breathing in the “inhale-hold-series of short exhalations” type, moving us towards emotional relaxation. And it works like a medicine – when used in the treatment, laughter therapy reduces the use of pain pills by as much as 30 percent.