Health… through FUN…!

A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

gesundheit 

PRONUNCIATION:
(guh-ZOONT-hyt)

MEANING:
interjection: Used to wish good health to someone who has sneezed.

ETYMOLOGY:
From German Gesundheit (health), from gesund (healthy) + -heit (-hood). Earliest documented use: 1914.

USAGE:
“‘A friend was on an Aeroflot flight crossing Russia when the woman next to him sneezed. He said ‘Gesundheit!’ She said: ‘Thank goodness, someone who speaks English.'”
Peter Spencer; Column 8; The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia); Jul 23, 2011.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
The art of medicine consists in amusing the patient while nature cures the disease. -Voltaire, philosopher (1694-1778)

——————————————–

Dear visitor to this blog, I hope you have dutifully read all of the above… and that, line after line, all of it has set you already in the right mood for this post, looking at your screen with a big grin on your face, or perhaps even chuckling with glee, if not altogether ‘LOL’ (Laughing Out Loud) yet!!!

By the way, did you ever notice how much younger everyone immediately looks when they are smiling or laughing?! Everything lifts up on their face, the eyes spark up, one feels at once more alive, and more pleasantly so!…

I enjoyed so much this whole little article from A.Word.A.Day, usually quite serious, but on that day happily indulging into plain fun, that I decided I would make it the beginning of the overdue post I always wanted to write on those two things people would normally not put together:  Health and Fun.

The young lady sitting on the little mound of snow must have a good sense of humor, for still saying ‘Gesundheit!’ (but adding ‘Dummy!’…) to the painter who just sneezed and covered her body and the snow with colored dots from all the paint he had on his brush and palette!!!

And this young lady is a living illustration of the power of fun to keep you in good health: there she is, sitting there right on the snow, naked as models are supposed to be, aren’t they, while the artist, with all his warm clothing and hat on, is the one with the drippy and sneezy nose, and with the cold!!!

I’m ever so grateful to all the human beings gifted with a solid capacity for  seeing the funny side of practically any situation and for making jokes about it. I myself don’t have the funny bone at all (although I find I seem to be improving of late!), so I depend almost entirely on the jokes and farcical talents of others to get to really laugh. I am basically a gentle person with a tendency to smile, yes, but to go all the way to belly laughter usually requires some help from outside. Let’s face it: I am generally too serious. And, worse: I tend to be a ‘worrier’, apt to worry about everything and nothing, in spite of all the faith I otherwise do have in the Divine, God, or whatever you would call That. A Message through a post by Pat Cegan on her blog ‘Source of Inspiration’ reminded me recently that this was totally superfluous:

I know, all researchers  – especially the ‘spiritual’ ones like me – are supposed to be serious, otherwise no one would take them seriously.  But in spite of all my natural seriousness I had noticed even as a child how happy I felt when I laughed. And that seemed to be the case with everyone else too – except those most horrible persons who would make horrible jokes, what is called, I learned, black humor. Even simply sarcastic jokes I didn’t like so much either, because I noticed they were apt to hurt those who were laughed at, and who didn’t find it funny.

But surprisingly some other people, on the contrary, didn’t mind at all being made fun of, they were anyway pretty much making fun of themselves all the time as well, being the clowns in parties who kept everyone laughing and in good spirits, to the great satisfaction of the hostess. When much later I studied Astrology, I discovered that these natural clowns generally were born during the month when the Sun is in the Zodiacal Sign called ‘Sagittarius’; or such people had to have their Moon, or at least some planet important in their astrological map/chart, in ‘Sagittarius’; or ‘Sagittarius’ had to be the ‘Ascendant’, the Sign that was rising on the horizon at the time of their birth; or else Jupiter, the planet corresponding to the Sign Sagittarius, had to be in some important position in their chart, sitting right next to their Sun, for example, or  to the Moon, or to the line of the horizon.

The first time I read something more than the hints in Edgar Cayce about Fun being good for Health was in ‘Anatomy of an Illness’, a marvelous little book (followed by another one, ‘The Healing Heart’) written from his own direct experience by a funny and very courageous American man: Norman Cousins.

Here is an excellent summary of Norman’s story, as told by Joe Guse, which I found on his just discovered site, ‘The Healing Power of Laughter‘ (http://www.joeyguse.com), which  seems to be a veritable gold mine on this so important topic:

Friday, July 20, 2007

How the Marx Brothers brought Norman Cousins back to life.

Of all the research I’ve done on the healing power of laughter; none has failed to top the amazing story of Norman Cousins, as his life truly speaks to the incredible power of laughter. Having read several varying legends about Cousin’s actual story, I decided to read his book Anatomy of an Illness and get to the source of the legend of the man who claimed to have literally laughed his way back to health. 

His story began in 1964, where doctors found that the connective tissue in his spine was deteriorating, which a condition is known as Ankylosing Spondylitis. The doctors, one of whom was a close friend of Cousins, speculated that his chance of survival was approximately 1 in 500.

Faced with the real prospect of his impending death, Cousins thought long and hard about what role, if any he could play in his own recovery, and eventually did three things utterly contrary to medical opinion.

First he began his own research on all of the various drugs he was on. He discovered that his condition was depleting his body of Vitamin C and, based primarily on Cousins’ personal research, doctors agreed to take him off several of the drugs he was on and inject him with extremely large doses of this supplement, as Cousins felt this may be his last hope.

Secondly, Cousins made a decision to check himself out the hospital and into a hotel room. Cousin’s had concluded that hospitals, with their haphazard hygiene practices, culture of overmedication, general feelings of negativity, and routines that disrupted basic sleep patterns, all contributed to his feeling that, in his words a hospital was “no place for a person who is seriously ill.”

The third thing Cousin’s did was procure a movie projector and a large supply of funny films, including numerous Candid Camera tapes and several old prints of Marx Brother’s movies. On his first night in the hotel Cousins found that he laughed so hard at the films that he was able to stimulate chemicals in his body that allowed him several hours of pain free sleep. When the pain would return he would simply turn the projector back on and the laughter would reinduce sleep, and he was able to measure the changes in his body by measuring his blood sedimentation rate, a key measurement of inflammation and infection in the blood, and found that this rate dropped by at least 5 points each time he watched one of these videos,

Now off every drug excepting Vitamin C and laughter, Cousins described being in a state of euphoria over the next week as he continued to laugh himself back to health. Within a few weeks the beloved editor was back to work at the Saturday Review, and, although he still had some minor physical difficulties, his body continued to recover as he continued with his self- directed wellness program.

How in the world did this happen? In exploring this question it is interesting to consider Cousin’s own state of mind, and how much his personal will to live as well as his personal attitudes contributed to his miraculous recovery. While in the hospital Cousins hypothesized that if negative emotions such as anger and frustration could contribute to poor health, why couldn’t positive emotions such as joy and laughter have the opposite effect? Cousins soon embraced this idea, and this contributed to an optimistic attitude that may very well have saved his life.

So could Cousin’s recovery be considered a mechanism of the placebo effect? In answering this question Cousins himself spoke to famous endocrinologist Ana Aslan who posited that creativity was the central trigger of the placebo effect, as it sets up a chain of events in the body’s systems that eventually restores homeostasis and feelings of wellness, The implications of this assertion are potentially enormous, and certainly deserves further study.

In analyzing the potential placebo affect in his own case, Cousins attributed much of his own success to the close personal friendship and relationship he had with his doctor who fully supported his contributions to his own recovery and encouraged his highly experimental approach despite it not fitting with his preconceived medical model. This idea once again speaks to the power of the relationship between doctor and patient, which is now nearly universally accepted and statistically verified as the single most important predictor of positive outcomes in talk therapy. But could this also be true for physicians and patients in the world of medicine? A great deal of research seems to suggest that it is, and Cousin’s case certainly speaks to this idea.

Most fascinating about Cousin’s story though is the laughter. Despite intense pain and discomfort, Cousin’s made a point of laughing so hard his stomach hurt during the early stages of his Marx brother’s intervention, and this “unquenchable” laughter never failed to produce a strong reduction in his feelings of pain. Cousins goes on to mention many prominent thinkers throughout the ages who knew about the healing power of laughter, and this list includes Sir Frances Bacon, Immanuel Kant, Sigmund Freud, as well as the great Albert Schweitzer. This list could be much longer, and Cousins own story has given rise to many knew ways of thinking that helped contribute to the rise of phenomena such as the laughter club. Ultimately laughter may represent the rapture of the human spirit, and in finding this rapture we also find our way back to health. Norman Cousins certainly thought so, and his journey back to life through laughter is an inspiration to us all.

(Posted by Joe Guse)

I remember how Norman Cousins’ telling of his story in ‘Anatomy of an Illness’ sparked in the US medical establishment a whole new awareness of the importance of laughter for our health. Ultimately, it is how not only nice pastel colors were gradually introduced into hospitals, but even clowns, doing live presentations at first only for the kids, but nowadays often also for the adult patients – and it is spreading to more and more countries too. Even here on WordPress, there is  support expressed for an Organisation called ‘Mediclowns’ which I was very happy to learn existed, and am very happy too to mention in this blog as well.

Besides Norman’s books and personal influence, one film did much also later on (1998) to make this new way of healing known and practiced: the hilarious and so moving film about the life and work of ‘Patch Adams’, with Robin Williams in the role of the bold medical student… now a well-known doctor who has a big, very interesting project (www.patchadams.org/) for his ‘Gesundheit’ Institute!…

… And here we are, having come full round back to where we started from: ‘Gesundheit’!
In French, we do have an identical way of blessing those who have just sneezed: we say ‘Santé!’
While working on this post, a funny title for it came to me, but in French, so I kept it for this ending of it:
 “Guérir?… Gai Rire!!!” (Healing?… Merry Laughing!!!)

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