Have you ever heard of Norman Cousins? He was a political journalist, an activist for world peace, and long-time editor of the magazine Saturday Review. However, he’s probably most famous for his book, Anatomy of an Illness (as Perceived by the Patient.) In it, he details how he was diagnosed with a serious, life-threatening disease. When he didn’t respond to standard medical treatment, he added something he’d long thought was good for your health: the healing power of humor.  

Laughing His Way to Recovery 

With his doctor’s permission, Cousins left the hospital and started watching hours and hours of funny movies and TV shows at home. As reported by NPR, he found out that a good belly-laugh resulted in being able to sleep pain-free. Little by little, through hours of laughing at humorous books, movies, and TV shows, Cousins made a full recovery. Even though his doctor had said there was only a 1 in 500 chance that he could do so. 

Convinced that watching funny movies and TV shows had cured him, Cousins wrote an article in the New England Journal of Medicine about his experience. This spurred a new way of thinking among medical professionals about humor’s impact on the immune system.

Further Evidence of Laughter’s Benefits

Cousins’ example is extreme. But even patients who are responding well to treatment or recovering according to a schedule can benefit from laughter. It may speed their recovery, take their mind off of fear or pain, and even help them bond with their visiting loved ones.

Today, according to the National Institute of Health, many research studies indicate a connection between laughter and healing. “Virtually all studies of laughter and health indicate positive results.” 

Man and Woman laughing next to one another in a field.
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez

TIME magazine reports that laughter “may even compare to a proper diet and exercise when it comes to keeping you healthy and disease-free.” They go on to note that humor heals us by reducing stress levels, boosting our immune system, and improving blood flow. 

Give Your Patients the Chance to Laugh

One of the best ways for patients to induce laughter’s healing properties is the same way Norman Cousins did–by watching funny shows or comedies. A hospital will support its patients by providing access to on-demand movies and shows. With products like the Hub or RoomMate, patients will have easy access to hilarious content. Other options include humorous games or “joke of the day” apps. Resting after helps the healing process for the patients. They will be allowed to have a full nights sleep and a smile on their face.

Learn more about HCI and the RoomMate’s vast movie library.

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