[FOUNTAIN]The healing power of a good laugh

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[FOUNTAIN]The healing power of a good laugh

The writer Norman Cousins had been diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, a rheumatic disease that strikes the spine and the sacroiliac joints; eventually, in some cases, it causes the body of the patient to stiffen up like a robot. It is known to be essentially incurable.
His condition was getting worse. His arms and legs were becoming paralyzed; the pain was worse than ever, and it was hard for him to sleep. There seemed to be no hope left for him.
One day in the hospital, he watched a movie in his room, a comedy. It was so funny that he laughed hysterically. Suddenly he couldn’t feel any pain. He realized that laughter was a miracle cure.
After that, he watched comedy shows intently. He asked his nurses to read him humorous books. Through this treatment, Mr. Cousins says, he recovered his health. He wrote about his experience in an article for the New England Journal of Medicine in 1976.
Many practicioners in the medical world took note of Mr. Cousins’s story, because at the time, the remedial effects of laughter were not well understood. More recently, the idea has been embraced by the business world.
A conference titled “The New Leadership Paradigm: Successful Corporations Are Putting Humor to Work” was held in Switzerland in 1998; there, it was theorized that laughter relieves stress, speeds up blood circulation and releases huge amounts of endorphins, which relieve pain. Ball Memorial Hospital in Indiana State has reported that laughter reduces the amount of cortisol, the stress hormone.
A booklet titled “Mental Health” that Johns Hopkins University Hospital gives out to its patients includes this bit of wisdom: “Laughter is internal jogging.” In other words, laughing makes you healthier on the inside. Another authority tells us that laughing activates the production of white blood cells, which are key to the immune system. Some even say that laughter can help cure cancer.
It was good to see delegates from North and South Korea smiling broadly after the latest round of economic cooperation talks came to a close Tuesday. How long has it been since we have seen such big smiles at an inter-Korean conference? The delegates had overcome a critical moment. Some of the stress between North and South has been alleviated.
The key remaining issue is North Korea’s nuclear weapons. Will we see bright smiles after this month’s round of six-party talks? It is up to North Korea. Shakespeare said that merriment “bars a thousand harms.” That’s something for North Korea to keep in mind.

by Lee Sang-il

The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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