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Laughter is good for your brain Laughter’s: Effects on the Body
In the last few decades, researchers have studied laughter’s effects on the body and turned up some potentially interesting information on how it affects us:
• Blood flow. Researchers at the University of Maryland studied the effects on blood vessels when people were shown either comedies or dramas. After the screening, the blood vessels of the group who watched the comedy behaved normally — expanding and contracting easily. But the blood vessels in people who watched the drama tended to tense up, restricting blood flow.
• Immune response. Increased stress is associated with decreased immune system response, says Robert R. Provine, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and author of Laughter: A Scientific Investigation. Some studies have shown that the ability to use humour may raise the level of infection-fighting antibodies in the body and boost the levels of immune cells, as well.
• Blood sugar levels. One study of 19 people with diabetes looked at the effects of laughter on blood sugar levels. After eating, the group attended a tedious lecture. On the next day, the group ate the same meal and then watched a comedy. After the comedy, the group had lower blood sugar levels than they did after the lecture.
• Relaxation and sleep. The focus on the benefits of laughter really began with Norman Cousins’ memoir, Anatomy of an Illness. Cousins, who was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, a painful spine condition, found that a diet of comedies, like Marx Brothers films and episodes of Candid Camera, helped him feel better. He said that 10 minutes of laughter allowed him two hours of pain-free sleep.
HERE'S HOW TO LAUGH
Looking for ways to bring more laughter in your life? Start with these basics:
Laugh at yourself. Share your embarrassing moments. The best way to take ourselves less seriously is to talk about times when we took ourselves too seriously.
When you hear laughter, move toward it. Most of the time, people are very happy to share something funny because it gives them an opportunity to laugh again and feed off the humour you find in it. When you hear laughter, seek it out and ask, “What’s funny?”
Spend time with fun, playful people. These are people who laugh easily–both at themselves and at life’s absurdities–and who routinely find the humour in everyday events. Their playful point of view and laughter are contagious.
Surround yourself with reminders to lighten up. Keep a toy on your desk or put up a funny poster in your room. Choose a computer screensaver that makes you laugh. Frame photos of you and your family or friends having fun.
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