Norman Cousins was a famous American journalist. In 1964 he headed a cultural delegation to Russia and had a very stressful trip. Upon his return to the USA he became very sick and was quickly diagnosed with a fatal illness and given at best 6 months to live. He reasoned that if stress had made him sick, surely the opposite emotions would make him feel better. He checked himself out of hospital, rented a hotel room, hired a nurse to attend to him and started to watch everything funny he could find: Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, I Love Lucy, Candid Camera, etc. Within 2 weeks he was off his medication. Within 6 months he was back to work. He died 16 years later.
One of his very famous quote was that when he was in so much pain that he could not sleep, 10 minutes of belly-rippling laughter would typically give him 2 hours of pain-free sleep where nothing, not even morphine could help. What is unique about this man is that he stayed in touch with his physician and had a very positive and supportive relationship with him throughout his illness. Mr Cousins wrote a best-seller book on this story titled “Anatomy Of An Illness.”
Here is his “prescription for health”:
- Realize that each human being has a built-in capacity for recuperation and repair.
- Recognize that the quality of your own life is all-important.
- Assume responsibility for the quality of your own life.
- Nurture the regenerative and restorative forces within you.
- Utilize laughter to create a mood in which the other positive emotions can be put to work for yourself and those around you.
- Develop confidence and the ability to feel love, hope and faith, and acquire a strong will to live.
More Online Resources
- Norman Cousins talks on positive emotions and health (transcribed from the original radio broadcast on KCRW-FM, Los Angeles, California, August 1983): http://www.bobrosenbaum.com/transcripts/nctalks.pdf