“Hope, purpose and determination are not merely mental states. They have electrochemical connections that affect the immune system.” Norman Cousins

I often tell the story of how Norman Cousins discovered that 5 minutes of gratitude radically increased his immunity.  In 1964, Cousins was diagnosed with an incurable auto-immune disease and was told he had 6 months to live. He accepted his obscure medical diagnosis, but instead of giving in to his tragic prognosis, he decided to defy it.

Cousins engaged in a holistic protocol that involved laughter therapy, high doses of vitamins and other natural protocols.

“I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep,” he reported. “When the pain-killing effect of the laughter wore off, we would switch on the motion picture projector again and not infrequently, it would lead to another pain-free interval.”

After one year he was deemed completely cured. Encouraged by his success, he decided to write a book about how human will, positive emotion and other factors can create health. Meanwhile, UCLA school of medicine invited Cousins to be a professor of medicine. Once at UCLA, Cousins was distraught on an initial visit to the medical library to find that there was virtually zero information on how positive emotion can affect human health. He found scores of research on how stress and negative emotions will negatively impact health, but nothing documenting what he had become convinced of in his own ordeal with illness: that health can be positively affected by joy and positive emotions.

Cousins decided to do an experiment with some MD friends of his to see if joy could immediately affect his immune system. Doctors drew his blood and measured immune system components. They decided to see if 5 minutes of elation and joy could change the status of immunity. They chose 5 minutes so they could make sure that other factors, like lunch, would not influence the results.

Cousins decided to visualize something very dear to his heart at the time and something he had worked very hard for in his own life: world peace. After 5 minutes of visualizing all of humanity working together for international harmony, Cousins felt elated and told the doctors to draw blood again.

Imagine their surprise to find that after only 5 minutes of visualization, certain components of Cousin’s immune system had increased 500%! After this initial trial they discovered some important things. First, they found that in order for the immune system to really show change, a person had to GENUINELY feel joy and elation. IF a person could not truly feel joy, the results would not be conclusive.

What can we learn from Cousins experience? For thousands of years the Chinese have told us that the mind and the mental are the most important aspects of human health. Classical acupuncture theory tells us the the heart is the master of consciousness and that when a person is balanced they will naturally feel joy. Joy is our inherent birth right. It is the natural state of humanity. To return to this state we often need to practice returning there. Your mind just may have more effect on your immune system than all the supplements money can buy. So use this knowledge well, spend 5 minutes right now and see if you can create and feel joy inside your heart. The benefits to your immune system will be huge, but more importantly, you will feel the inherent joy you were meant to feel…at least most of the time.