Laughter and Autoimmunity
“Always find a reason to laugh. It may not add years to your life but it will surely add life to your years.” —Norman Cousins
Acknowledging and enjoying the humorous moments in every day is a joy and great healing balm in what can otherwise be only serious things to overcome and accomplish in our brief time on this planet.
With autoimmune disease, we can especially benefit from the distraction from our disease symptoms to laugh at ourselves, others (as long as they think it’s funny too!), and life circumstances. Better yet, choosing to lighten up a little bit and be present to the humor in everyday moments makes each day a little more FUN!
Norman Cousins, an American political journalist, author, professor and peace advocate who lived from 1915-1990, is also famous for healing his own autoimmune disease, ankylosing spondylitis (AS), through laughter.
His book, Anatomy of an Illness: As Perceived by the Patient, describes how he realized that an extremely stressful life event triggered his autoimmune disease and how he discovered through his own research that negative emotions such as pent-up frustration and anger are linked to adrenal exhaustion. He concluded that the opposite must also be true — positive emotions like love, hope, faith, laughter, and confidence would yield tremendous healing for him.
Cousins looked to extremely high levels of Vitamin C to heal his adrenals and fight inflammation (I’m also a huge fan of megadosing Vitamin C to fight viruses in particular, as orthomolecular medicine prescribes) but to fight the excruciating pain of his disease he turned to laughter from watching Marx Brothers films, Candid Camera, and E.B. White’s A Sub-Treasury of American Humor.
For him, laughing heartily for ten minutes yielded two hours of painless sleep, and after years of self-imposed laughter therapy he mentally cured his condition and lived to age 75.
One of the biggest lessons that Cousins teaches us as people struggling with how to heal from autoimmunity is that there is power in choosing not to allow any doctor or perceived “expert” tell you what your life will become, as if you have no power over your diagnosis.
Cousins was told by his doctor (and friend) that only 1 in 500 people diagnosed with AS fully recovers and was instructed to take 38 pills of aspirin and phenylbutazone per day, which he learned, even in small amounts, could promote internal bleeding.
Instead of heading down the path of being a resigned victim to his prescription and prognosis, he decided to dig deeper for answers (as so many of you have also done; otherwise you would just pop your pills and not be reading this).
Laughter, one of many gifts that we should put in our autoimmunity toolkit, is a powerful way to a bright future for you too, empowering you to change your prognosis from one of doom, darkness, and depression to a bright new dawn of love, faith, hope, confidence, courage and personal empowerment.
If you’re interested in learning more about how laughter can help you, I recommend you check out Laugh Off Life or “LOL” (no pun intended) for more details and support for laughter therapy, as inspired by Norman Cousins’ experience healing from AS.
Ever heard of laughter yoga you can do from home? Check out expert laughter yogi Bianca Spears for an intro laughter yoga session.
Laughter yoga has such huge health benefits (and is fun and evokes JOY!) because your body does not know the difference between stimulated laughter and real laughter! It also helps you learn to deep breathe, which feels great and is so important for learning to live in a parasympathetic state (as opposed to fight or flight in a chronic sympathetic state).
I enjoyed trying it out and plan to make a more regular practice of it, especially with my kids who also start laughing with me! If you want to try it live with other people, find a laughter club near you at laughteryoga.org.
One of the greatest joys if you’re blessed to be a parent or loved one to a small child is to watch them gleefully giggle. Chasing my two-year old around as I become a tickling monster is almost always a sure-fire way to get him laughing hysterically as he tries to escape my grasp.
Let’s not miss any opportunity, big or small, to laugh despite the pains of autoimmunity. So eke out every ounce of humor you can from your day!!!
And set aside some time every day or week to laugh with your favorite comedian, author, friend, community, youtube channel, show, movie or laughter yogi!
Here’s to laughing at the small things: the packaging description on a set of Kids Training Chopsticks we got from Amazon this past winter as a Christmas gift.
Maybe the Google Translate process didn’t go so well for the Chinese manufacturers? Well, it cracked us up, and I imagine it would also crack them up if they really knew what they wrote.;)
Jaws of Death, anyone?
So glad we got these….the packaging also provided a lot of humor value
If you’re interested in getting a set for your own family, look no further: Kids Training Chopsticks-2 Pair.
Comment below to share what kind of things have recently caused YOU to get your laugh rolling and endorphins flowing!