Norman Cousins was a very busy man. He was the editor of the Saturday Review, a global peacemaker, and received hundreds of awards which included the UN Peace Medal and around 50 honorary doctorate degrees.
In 1964, Cousins went on a business trip to Russia and was placed under heavy loads of stress. Upon his arrival, Cousins received life-altering news. He was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, which left him with only months to live but in plentiful amounts of pain. Even with this news he was optimistic. He thought that if a negative emotion like stress somehow caused this, then positive emotions could help cure the disease. He checked himself into a nearby hotel and then began his experiment. He consumed large doses of vitamin C and watched a constant stream of laughter invoking movies. Within 6 months, he could walk again, and within 2 years, he went back to a full time job at the Saturday Review.
Norman Cousins perplexed the science community and thus inspired a number of research projects.
Micheal Miller, director of preventative cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical center performed a research experiment, testing the blood vessel's before and after they watching a comedy and a drama movie segment.
After comedy: laughter significantly imporved the working of the endothelium. For folks that don't know, endothelium is the lining of the blood vessels. The blood vessels after watching a comedy became dialated and the participants' average blood flow improved by 22%
After drama: overall participants' blood vessels became more constricted and their average blood flow decreased by 35%
A randomized experiment using laughter therapy was performed on all the cancer patients admitted at Namazi Medical Sciences and AMIR Oncology Hospital in Shiraz, Iran. The clinical trial lasted 16 weeks using eight thirty-minute sessions. The laughter therapy included CDs containing funny videos and clips.
BEFORE: the control and therapy groups had a similar mean fatigue score. A significant difference in the scores was observed after the eight sessions of intervention with the therapy group having way lower levels of fatigue.
AFTER: A significant difference in the scores was observed after the eight sessions of intervention with the therapy group having way lower levels of fatigue.
This study concluded that laughter therapy is effective in reducing the fatigue of cancer patients. It is also noted in this study that providing a happier environment for cancer patients could improve their health as a whole.