The history of the emergence of laughter therapy
Humanity has known about the benefits of laughter since ancient times. Practices aimed at activating this emotion have been encountered even in the teachings of Buddhist monks. However, in the Middle Ages, laughter experienced a crisis. The churchmen considered him one of the intrigues of the devil, and a monk or commoner who showed others a smile was immediately punished. Knowledge of the healing properties of laughter spread throughout Europe in the 17th century through the scientific work of Dr. Robert Burton, which he called "The Anatomy of Melancholy." In them, the doctor wrote that laughter cleanses the blood, helps with heart disease and rejuvenates the body.
Fortunately, we have had a chance to live in a time when laughter is an integral part of a fulfilling life. Moreover, for 50 years now there has been gelotology (the science of laughter), which has officially confirmed the well-known assertion that laughter prolongs life. Its founder is the American psychologist and journalist Norman Cousins, known as "the man who made death laugh."
Cousins built his career in journalism in the 70s and excelled as editor-in-chief of Seturday Revue magazine. His life was divided into "before" and "after" when he was diagnosed with collagenosis (a rare disease in which the immune system aggressively affects the connective tissues of the body). Within a short time, Cousins lost the ability to move to the point of being unable to open his jaw. Despite all attempts to heal, this did not work, and Norman's loved ones were already preparing for the worst. But death was not part of his plans. Cousins managed to survive after rethinking the words spoken to him by the treating doctor Hitzig. He told the writer about how the body of women changes during pregnancy. During this period, various diseases often recede, endurance increases, since the endocrine glands work as actively as possible. So the body itself builds a protective barrier, managing its state. And pregnancy in this context is not a fundamental factor. The main condition under which the body accumulates its resources is the attitude towards health with positive reinforcement.
Inspired by this information, Cousins decided that it was in his power to help himself. The only thing he could do then was to activate the protective barriers of the body through positive emotions. Cousins asked to be provided with videotapes with the best comedy films and watched them for days under the supervision of doctors. Making yourself laugh at first was not easy, especially when every nerve was aching with pain at the slightest movement. Gradually, the laughter was squeezed out and then Cousins laughed for about 6 hours a day. The efforts were justified: after a week, the physical pain subsided. The anesthetic effect lasted for about two hours, after which Norman turned on comedy films again. After a month of this regime, the body began to move, and after two months, Cousins was already working. Later, he learned that according to statistics from the disease he suffered from, only one out of 500 patients is cured. Cousins contributed invaluable experience of recovery to his autobiographical book The Anatomy of a Disease from a Patient's Perspective (1976). The writer's life was long and active. He lived 88 years and after an illness went through several crises, the same laughter therapy helped him to cope with them.
Physiology of laughter: how are positive emotions treated?
As the example of Cousins showed, it is really possible to make death laugh, thereby delaying its arrival. With the light hand of the writer, laughter therapy is widely used today by foreign psychologists and psychotherapists to treat phobias, anxiety and depression. Moreover, it is prescribed for rehabilitation from drug addiction, alcohol addiction and even for cancer. In India, Japan and China, the course of laughter therapy is included in the treatment program of many hospitals, and their patients note the high effectiveness of such innovations. In the post-Soviet space, laughter is still underestimated. But, perhaps, the recognition of laughter therapy as a powerful auxiliary lever for the treatment of diseases is only a matter of time.
How does the mechanism of laughter therapy work at the biological level? Its effect occurs under the influence of hormones. They control our reactions, behavior, well-being, and, as a result, regulate the quality of life in general.
It is known that adrenaline and norepinephrine released in the brain on negative emotions destroy the body, and the hormones of happiness and joy, neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin, endorphin), on the contrary, contribute to the accumulation of resources. Together, these three hormones form a relaxing anesthetic substance, similar in effect to morphine, only safe and non-addictive.
Happiness hormones have a beneficial effect on:
work of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems;
reduction of inflammatory processes;
reduction of pain sensations.
On an emotional level, laughter therapy helps to reduce negative reactions (anger, anger, shame and fear) and to accompany