How Humor Makes You Friendlier, Sexier

How Humor Makes You Friendlier, Sexier - Scientific...

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Scientific American Mind - March 25, 2009 How Humor Makes You Friendlier, Sexier Seeing the bright side of life may strengthen the psyche, ease pain and tighten social bonds By Steve Ayan Norman Cousins, the storied journalist, author and editor, found no pain reliever better than clips of the Marx Brothers. For years, Cousins suffered from inflammatory arthritis, and he swore that 10 minutes of uproarious laughing at the hilarious team bought him two hours of pain-free sleep. In his book Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient (W. W. Norton, 1979), Cousins described his self-prescribed laughing cure, which seemed to ameliorate his inflammation as well as his pain. He eventually was able to return to work, landing a job as an adjunct professor at the School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he investigated the effects of emotions on biological states and health. The community of patients inspired by such miracle treatments believes not only that humor is psychologically beneficial but that it actually cures disease. In reality, only a smattering of scientific evidence exists to support the latter idea—but laughter and humor do seem to have significant effects on the psyche, even influencing our perception of pain. What is more, psychological well-being has an impact on overall wellness, including our risk of disease. Laughter relaxes us and improves our mood, and hearing jokes may ease anxiety. Amusement’s ability to counteract physical agony is well documented, and as Cousins’s experience suggests, humor’s analgesic effect lasts after the smile has faded. Cheerfulness, a trait that makes people respond more readily to laugh lines, is linked to emotional resilience—the ability to keep a level head in difficult circumstances—and to close relationships, studies show. Science also indicates that a sense of humor is sexy; women are attracted to men who have one. Thus, in
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various ways, life satisfaction may increase with the ability to laugh. Amusing Exercise Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle viewed laughter as “a bodily exercise precious to health.” But despite some claims to the contrary, chuckling probably has little influence on physical fitness. Laughter does produce short-term changes in cardiovascular function and respiration, boosting heart rate, respiratory rate and depth, as well as oxygen consumption. But because hard laughter is difficult to sustain, a good guffaw is unlikely to have measurable cardiovascular benefits the way, say, walking or jogging does. In fact, instead of straining muscles to build them, as exercise does, laughter apparently accomplishes the opposite. Studies dating back to the 1930s indicate that laughter relaxes muscles, decreasing muscle tone for up to 45 minutes after the guffaw subsides. Such physical relaxation might conceivably help moderate the effects of
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How Humor Makes You Friendlier, Sexier - Scientific...

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