April Fool’s day and the benefit of laughter

Written on Monday, March 31st, 2008 at 4:56 pm by Christiane

Tomorrow is April Fool’s day and here I am with a fitting question: Is laughter really the best medicine?

Based only on my gut feeling, I would wholeheartedly say yes. I always feel so relaxed and stress free after a good laugh. This must be good for my body and health, don’t you think so?

Imagine my surprise when I discovered, researching the topic “laughter and health” that there are actually conflicting results with respect to the stress-reducing effect of laughter.

Laughter evolved to bring people together. It’s a social activity, and consequently we laugh much less when we are alone. The physiological effects are described as an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.

According to a Swedish study, laughter activates the fight or flight system and thus increases the release of certain stress hormones. Another study points to a stress relieving effect of laughter, and consequently a reduction in stress hormones.

Studies about another supposed effect of laughter convey less confusing results: Laughter seems to make people less sensitive to pain.

One effect for sure is: We are in a better mood, if we have something to laugh about.

Therefore, any ideas for April fool’s day?

CNN lists today the 10 best pranks; among them all female employees told the boss confidentially that they are pregnant: http://www.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/worklife/03/31/fool.pranks.work/index.html

The top ranked prank on the list of the Museum of Hoaxes is a BBC TV story. In 1957, BBC announced that thanks to a mild winter Swiss farmers would have a record spaghetti harvest. The report showed footage of people pulling strands of spaghetti down from trees. After the show, many people called BBC wanting to know where they could get a spaghetti tree. BBC’s advice: “Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.” This story and 99 more pranks at: http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/hoax/aprilfool/index

(Information about laughter is based on an article by Robert R. Provine, Ph.D., published in Psychology Today, 11/01/2000)

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