The healing power of laughter was not taken seriously by a scientific world until the late Norman Cousins, former editor of Saturday Review and subsequently professor at UCLA’s School of Medicine, wrote about his life-changing experience with humor. As he reported in his book Anatomy of an Illness, laughter helped turn the tide of a serious collagen disease.
“I made the joyous discovery,” Cousins reported, “that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep.”
He surrounded himself with Marx Brothers films and Candid Camera videos. He also checked out of the hospital and moved into a hotel where, as he says, he could “laugh twice as hard at half the price.”
Cousins called laughter “inner jogging” because every system in our body gets a workout when we have a hearty laugh. Laboratory studies support Cousins’ hunches. Our cardiovascular and respiratory systems, for example, benefit more from twenty seconds of robust laughter than from three minutes of exercise on a rowing machine. Through laughter, muscles release tension and neurochemicals are released into the bloodstream, creating the same feelings the long-distance joggers experience as “runner’s high.”
So, lighten up. Learning to laugh a little more just may save your life, not to mention your marriage. To paraphrase Henry Ward Beecher, “A marriage without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs — jolted by every pebble in the road.”