Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Let Laughter Be Your Medicine

In my line of work, you often see the expression "Let food be they medicine" (Hippocrates).  A great quote that makes a lot of sense.  Here's another expression we've all heard:  Laughter is the best medicine.  This one is widely recognized and even accepted.  What isn't well known is one of the reasons why -- but I was lucky to come across it by accident years ago.

During a bad flare up of my disease, I was immobile and housebound.  I was reading many books, a lot of them self help.  Author Louise Hay mentioned Norman Cousins as someone who laughed his way out of a disease.  Another author, Susan Jeffers, who I also learned about through Louise, said Norman had A.S. (the same as me!)  And his experience was made into a book:  Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient.

This is a fascinating story of treating inflammatory linked diseases with laughter.  Too bad the title doesn't really give you a hint of that, I bet many passed it over due to the dry title. 

As we all know, chronic pain is NOT funny.  But this story shows how one man rose above a horrible diagnosis and got well again with laughter  In 1964, A.S. was considered a fatal disease with no hope of recovery.  Norman was admitted to hospital and told he would only have about 6 months to live.  After a few days, he started to see why.  The food was awful and the atmosphere in the hospital was stale and unhappy.  Norman decided there had to be another way.  And he was lucky, he had a doctor who was open minded and willing to try different methods.  So between them, they created a fascinating protocol of reducing inflammation and pain with laughter.  Norman's doctor would take a blood sample to test the sed rate, which is a marker for inflammation, then Norman would watch funny movies for 2-4 hours and blood samples were taken again. 
It was found that the sed levels in his blood were dramatically reduced!  Just by relaxing and enjoying some laughs!

Overtime, between his laughter therapy and high doses of inter venous vitamin C, Norman was able to make a full recovery and the A.S. was in remission.  In fact, he met the same doctor who told him he was to die in 6 months, on the street YEARS later!  This is pretty amazing stuff.  Read the book.

On a final note, I recently learned this lesson.  I have been in a lot of pain lately and stress is involved as well.  I went to Aqua-fit exhausted from 3 nights of barely any sleep.  It was St. Patrick's Day.  I was a bit late for class and when I came in, I saw the instructor and a few attendees had silly green hats or wigs on.  It looked pretty funny.  And throughout the class, which of course was done to Irish jig music, the instructor looked so funny in her green hat and big tie that of course said "Kiss me I'm Irish" and bopping along perfectly to the jig.  At times I couldn't look at her, it made me laugh so much I kept getting pool water in my mouth.  It was an awesome class, just what I needed.  

Despite a lot of pain and lack of sleep going in, I felt great afterwards and went to work energized and happy.  It does work.  I had forgotten how great laughter is.  Pain does that.  

So try to remind yourself, every day:  LET LAUGHTER BE YOUR MEDICINE!!!

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