Laughter just may be best medicine

A wise man who lived more than 200 years ago once wrote, “The most wasted day of all is that on which we have not laughed.”
What an odd way to define success or failure!
Most of us count a day well spent if we do all the tasks on our list. Move one step closer to our long-range goals. Volunteer in a needy situation. Or make visible progress on the upkeep of our houses or lawns.
For us, only that day is wasted on which we have not worked.
But Sebastien Roch Nicolas Chamfort saw it differently. For him, the test of success or failure was the presence of laughter.
Let’s just suppose for a few minutes that Chamfort was right. How did you do today? Did you waste the day? Or did you laugh? Did you laugh out loud?
And when you laughed, how did it make you feel? How did it make the people around you feel?
To laugh is “to show mirth or joy” with such gusto that your smile breaks into a chuckle. To laugh is “to find amusement or pleasure in something.” And to laugh, according to the dictionary, is to inspire joy.
In short, to laugh is to feel good—and to make other people feel good.
Many of us have laughed over the years with Steve Allen, the famous piano-playing comedian. And now, like his father before him, Steve Allen Jr. also is a comedian.
But with one difference. Steve Allen Jr. also is a doctor.
And Dr. Allen really believes that laughter is good medicine. Medicine that helps us to cope. Medicine that gives us courage.
For years, medical researchers have known that a roaring laugh works like aerobic exercise–increasing the heart rate, respiration, and circulation, helping to fight infections and reduce pain, and even boosting the immune system.
Now that’s easy medicine to take!
Norman Cousins was the first to tip us off on this phenomenon. Most of us remember Cousins as the long-time and respected editor of Saturday Review. But he won his greatest fame as “the man who laughed himself to health.”
Faced with a serious illness, Cousins worked with his doctors to develop a program of therapy that included, along with traditional treatments, heavy doses of laughter.
Cousins watched old film clips and funny television shows. He read books of humour. With this program, Cousins was able to gain hours of pain-free sleep.
And slowly, he regained full health.
An expert communicator, Cousins went on to write and lecture eloquently about the role of positive emotions in healing. Eventually, he joined the faculty of the UCLA School of Medicine to do further research and to teach medical students the importance of laughter in healing.
“You have to work at making joy,” said Cousins.
“There’s an awful lot of fun out there.” But, he continued, “I think most people are starved for fun.”
So whatever you do, don’t let this day be a wasted one. Watch a segment of “I Love Lucy” on cable television. Read a book of Stephen Leacock stories.
Rent a funny video. Or tell jokes at the dinner table.
It doesn’t really matter where you find the fun and laughter in life. Just make sure you find it.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at