Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A good sense of humor is cheaper than therapy

Has someone ever heard you belly-ache about a situation and sworn to you that you'd laugh about it later? Did you?

Why do we take ourselves so seriously? In the American culture it's socially expected that we internalize our woes. The problem is that repressing emotions can have negative effects on our health. Fortunately, laughter's not only an effective form of stress relief, it's also acceptable!

Formal comedy dates back to ancient Greece, where it was used for celebration and honor. Humor has an infinite variety of subjects and forms. Comedy even transcends species. Did you know that even monkeys laugh? It's true! Like crying, it's often a reaction of the nervous system and it's the body's way of releasing stress which is converted into tension by the muscles.

Besides releasing dopamine into the system, a good laugh boosts activity in the T-cells which make antibodies and kill infection. It also reduces cortisol, a hormone responsible for raising blood-pressure and decreasing muscle-tissue. Laughter is good for you and everyone around you, because laughter can be contagious. I also happen to think that laughing is damn sexy!

Even if you aren't a natural chuckler, it's a skill you can learn. It's true that laughing (like tickling) cannot be forced within yourself, but you can practice! Imitated laughter, or uncontrollable giggling originates in a different reward center in the brain, but the effects are very similar. Pretending to giggle prepares your brain and actually helps you to laugh longer and more often.

To conclude my note, I have a little challenge for you. Next time you find yourself in a situation that seems less than funny, skip the waiting period and find the humor in it immediately. The change will have a positive effect on your health, your mind, and your popularity :)

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