In 1964, the journalist Norman Cousins took a really stressful trip to Russia. Work was wearing on him, and on top of that, his surroundings were pretty unhealthy, exposing him to dangerous fumes like diesel exhaust. Those factors, doctors believed, came together to cause the grave illness that overtook him soon after: ankylosing spondylitis, a degenerative spinal disease with a grim prognosis. Cousins was told he had a 1/500th chance of survival. Over time, he would lose all physical mobility.
Stress, combined with a weakened immune system, had caused this horrible condition, doctors said. Well, if that's true, then the opposite of stress should heal it, Cousins reasoned. And so he set about creating positive emotions that would boost his immune system.
Cousins checked himself into a hotel, where he pumped himself with vitamin C and embarked on an experimental form of therapy: laughter. He watched Marx brothers movies, read humorous books, and focused his mind on all things funny.
It worked. Not only did his condition steadily improve, but within six months, he could walk, and within two years, he went back to work full-time at the Saturday Review. Ten minutes of hearty laughter, he said, would give him two hours of peaceful, pain-free sleep – which not even morphine could do.
Doctors were flummoxed, but Cousins wasn't. He wrote a book about it – Anatomy of an Illness – which kickstarted a slew of scientific studies on how laughter affects the brain, body, and health. Since then, researchers have discovered that laughter is one of the most powerful tools we have to stay healthy and happy.
Here are some of their findings:
So how can we bring more laughter into our life?
I know, times are not exactly funny right now. Maybe you've already watched all the comedies on Netflix, or maybe you're just not in the mood for a giggling fit right now. But fear not. There are dozens of tried and true ways to laugh more, even in quarantine – and I promise, the more you laugh, the more things you'll find to laugh about.
Here are some of my favorite ways to laugh more.
Mindset is serious business, but that doesn’t mean it can't be fun and light-hearted, too. In fact, laughing and humor are key to a strong, healthy mindset – one that can weather even major upheavals, whether those are global pandemics or day-to-day stress.
Let's turn to you. How can you bring more laughter into your life?
What's something you'll do today to get a really good, healthy belly laugh in?
Stay in, laugh it up, and shine.
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