With thanks from humor-laughter.com
Humor and laughter have a long history, as they have been a part of the human culture for as long as we can go back. The benefits of humor are even referenced in the bible – Book of Proverbs 17.22, where it states: “A cheerful heart does good medicine, but a broken spirit makes you sick.”
King Solomon gave us one of the earliest recorded accounts regarding the healing power of humor and laughter.
The ancient Greek physicians prescribed for their patients to visit the hall of comedians. They would send their patients to the theater to be entertained as part of the healing process.
Early Native Americans had clowns who worked with Witch Doctors. They too realized the powerful effects of humor and laughter in healing, The 3rd most important person in the tribe was the clown.
In the 1300’s, surgeon Henri de Mondeville reportedly told jokes to his patients in the recovery room.
Throughout the centuries Court Jesters were hired to relieve the royalty’s stress from their governing duties.
During the course of the ages, humor and laughter were recognized for bringing joy and happiness as therapy to speed recovery from surgery; as therapy and counseling of depressed people; as a cure for melancholy; release for excess stress and tension; treatment of the sick; and the regaining of emotional equilibrium.
In the 1600’s educator Richard Mulcater recommended laughter for those suffering from head colds. However, the most significant recording of the benefits of humor and laughter came from Norman Cousins in his book ‘Anatomy of an illness.’
In 1964, Dr. Cousins was diagnosed with a crippling and extremely painful inflammation of his body, which doctors diagnosed as Anklyosing Spondilitis.
He did not accept his doctor’s death sentence. He checked himself out of the hospital, hired a nurse and moved into a hotel.
Along with mega doses of vitamin ‘C’, he watched comedy movies such as Candid Camera, the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy and many other comedy movies.
He later wrote. “I made the joyous discovery that 10 minute of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least 2 hours of pain-free sleep.
He recovered from the condition and spent 20 years teaching about the merits of humor and laughter in healing.
Experts now agree, laughter is good for you. It boosts you immune system, it relieves pain, tension and stress, it stimulates the heart, lowers blood pressure and much more…..
Overview of humor throughout history
14th Century French surgeon Henri de Mondeville used humor therapy to aid recovery from surgery. He wrote “Let the surgeon take care to regulate the whole regimen of the patient’s life for joy and happiness allowing his relatives and special friends to cheer him and by having someone tell him jokes.”
16th Century Robert Burton, an English parson and scholar used humor as a cure for melancholy.
16th Century Martin Luther used a form of humor therapy as part of pastoral counselling of depressed people. He advised them not to isolate themselves but to surround themselves with friends who could joke and make them laugh.
17th Century Herbert Spence, sociologist used humor as a way to release excess tension.
18th Century Immanuel Kant, German philosopher used humor to restore equilibrium.
18th Century English physician William Beattie used humor in treatment of the sick.
20th Century Modern humor therapy dates from the 1930’s, when clowns were brought into the U.S. hospitals to cheer up children hospitalized with polio.
20th Century – 1972 The Gesundheit Institute is founded by U.S. Doctor Hunter ‘Patch Adams. This is a home-based free hospital to bring fun, friendship, and the joy of service back into health care.
20th Century – 1979 Norman Cousins publishes his book’Anatomy of an Illness’ based on his own experiences he had been suffering from anklyosing spondylitis and decided to use his own brand of ‘Humor Therapy’ by watching episodes of the television show ‘Candid Camera’ and Marx Brothers movies. He caimed that 10 minutes of laughter could give him 2 hours of pain relief.
20th Century – 1998 Renewed interest in the uses of humor as therapy thanks to the release of the movie ‘Patch Adams’ starring Robin Williams and based on the real Doctor Hunter ‘Patch Adams.’