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laughter2507I know a couple who works in the pharmaceutical industry. He is a sales representative and she is a pharmacist. When asked what they do for a living, he is quick to reply, "She makes drugs and I sell `em."

I believe it was Lord Byron who said, "Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine." And researchers are finding that to be true – quite literally.

A woman diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis wrote to me and talked about how painful the disease had become. Debra said that no drugs would touch the devastating pain. "At times I prayed to die because I did not think I could go on this way," she said. But in two and a half years she weaned herself from most of her medication, which had reached a high of 21 pills a day. This is how she did it.

"I began seeing a doctor who gave me the most important prescription that I ever could have received," she said. "He excused himself from the room. I watched him walking back and forth in the hall; he seemed to be in deep thought."

The doctor came back in with this prescription: he told Debra to get some funny movies and to begin laughing (the doc was a Norman Cousins fan, no doubt). If she didn't feel like laughing, then she should smile. If she didn't feel like smiling, she should smile anyway. He said that it would increase endorphins in her brain and help with her pain. In other words, fake it until you make it, like they say.

She did just as he suggested. She laughed when she could. She smiled when she couldn't laugh. She smiled whether she felt like it or not. Her children teased her about her fake smile, but she told them that it was going to get rid of her pain.

And here's the amazing thing: it did. Of course, not all of it, but a great deal of her pain eventually dissipated and in time, what was left became manageable – without all of the drugs.

Today, Debra laughs easily and is never seen without her smile. She says that she would not even feel normal without it.

It's true that laughter really is cheap medicine. It's a prescription anyone can afford. And best of all, you can fill it right now.

Steve Goodier