By Dr. Donna L. Hamilton, MD, MS

In observance of National Humor Month, consider adding humor and laughter to your personal wellness regimen. It’s a fun and easy way to work towards optimal health and well-being. It also has many documented health benefits.

One of the most famous anecdotes about the healing benefits of humor therapy is the story of Norman Cousins.  In 1964, Mr. Cousins was admitted to the hospital because of severe pain throughout his body.  He was diagnosed with a rare and debilitating inflammatory illness called ankylosing spondylitis. The disease, similar to sever arthritis of the spine and pelvis, had already advanced and his prognosis for recovery was low.

To better deal with the diagnosis, Mr. Cousins began to research the disease.  He learned there was a strong correlation between stress and the disease. There was a particularly strong relationship between negative emotions such as guilt, worry,  and anxiety.   He began to wonder if positive emotions could help maintain or even restore his health.

Determined to recover, Mr. Cousins checked out of the hospital and into a nearby hotel.  having television celebrities as friends, he was able to get copies of funny movies and TV shows  featuring people like Laurel and Hardy and the Marx Brothers. He also watched many episodes of Candid Camera.  He later described  how “ten minutes of laughter allowed two hours of pain-free sleep.” After doing this for a while he checked out of the hotel and went home.  The disease was in remission.

His doctor encouraged him to share his story with the medical community.  A professional journalist, Mr. Cousins wrote an article about his experience  to inform physicians about his innovative treatment plan.   The New England Journal of Medicine printed the compelling case history  describing his use of laughter to heal himself.  Mr. Cousins also wrote about his experience in his book Anatomy of an Illness.  Although he  attributed his recovery to a variety of factors, after reading the article many people believed Cousins literally laughed himself back to health.

Though there is still much to learn about the uses and limitations of humor therapy, stories like Norm Cousins’ offer hope and encouragement. Many health professional incorporate humor therapies into patient treatment plans.  For example, the Cancer Treatment Centers of America use laughter therapy as part of an integrative approach for treating cancer.  The members of the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor use  humor personally and professionally to promote personal wellness. Their website states they use  healthy humor and laughter to enhance work performance, support learning, improve health and cope.

For more information about humor therapy and using humor to enhance personal wellness visit the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor  website at

Remember to speak with your doctor people starting or changing any health regimen.

For more information about the health benefits of humor and laughter, wellness tips, and ideas for National Humor Month, read  Humor and Health by Dr. Donna L. Hamilton, MD

Be well!

Click here for Mr. Cousins’ book Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient: Reflections on Healing and Regeneration

Holistic Wellness Speaker Dr. Donna L. Hamilton, MD, MS, FAAP is a former board-certified pediatrician residing in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  She is Chief Wellness Officer and co-owner of Manifest Excellence, LLC.  Dr. Hamilton specializes in holistic wellness promotion and speaks nationally on this topic.  Her company Manifest Excellence teaches a comprehensive approach to health and wellness by addressing mental, emotional, social, spiritual and physical well being. For more information visit

© 2011 Donna L. Hamilton, MD, MS

Follow Me

Donna Hamilton, MD, MS, FAAP

Chief Wellness Officer at Manifest Excellence
Bestselling author, dynamic holistic wellness speaker and wellness luminary Dr. Donna Hamilton, MD, has a mission to help everyone live the healthy, satisfying lives we’re all meant to lead. Dr. Hamilton passionately teaches what being healthy really means and how to do it in a way that fits your unique needs. Her easy, practical tips assist you with assessing the entire wellness landscape and appropriately planning your personal wellness journey.

A wellness thought leader, she champions a comprehensive approach to health by addressing mental, emotional, social, spiritual & physical well-being with a simple and potent message. Her book Wellness Your Way offers a practical strategy to assist readers in creating a happier, healthier life. For more information or to book Dr. Hamilton for speaking engagements visit or
Follow Me

Latest posts by Donna Hamilton, MD, MS, FAAP (see all)