Monday, January 25, 2010

The Best of all Medicines

You've heard this a hundred times, I'm sure: "Laughter is the best medicine."

Apparently this isn't just a belief - it's a physiological effect that the activity of laughing has on the entire body and mind.

To take laughter apart - but not too technically or scientifically, the brain reacts to laughter as if the act of laughter has just been a 'reward' of some sort.

Laughter activates something called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. In plain English, this is a place in the brain that makes endorphins following a rewarding action or activity. Endorphins contain 'the stuff' that makes us feel better or feel elated, somehow 'lifted up.'

There are a whole bunch more brain spots, neurons and chemicals involved in the laughter process but I like the idea of laughter as being a 'rewarding activity' and the good feeling that follows laughter as being connected with 'reward.'

Sometimes, particularly when we are stressed or are afflicted with mental illness to any degree, things in life don't seem very rewarding at all.

I like to think that if we take the time to laugh, we can be rewarded. Even if we have to (just at first) manufacture a situation where laughter is possible, I think that the rewards can be worth the effort of releasing endorphins that make us feel better - even if just for a little while.