Humor is the secret to a healthy brain

by Romana Greene

You need to laugh more. I have no idea how often you laugh on an average day but I am sure you need to laugh more. I am certain of this because I am certain that everyone needs to laugh more. I am not saying this as some sort of vague statement that you might see writing in fancy writing on a bathroom wall “laugh more and you will worry less”. I am saying it because it is now scientifically proven that laughing more will make you smarter, happier, and even sexier.

There really is no downside to laughing more, except for the pain you sometimes feel on the side of your mouth from laughing too much. If you have never felt that pain, then you have never truly laughed. 

Recently a neuroscientist by the name of Ori Amir tried to look into the relationship between humor and brain function. Ori is a neuroscientist by day and by night he is actually a comedian so he has a lot of interest in the results. The results he found were in line and even exceeded his expectations. 

The brain is a very complex organ. Often after a long hard day, we feel mentally tired, exhausted, and like to veg out in front of Netflix for a while before bed. We have tired out the muscle that is our brain and need that downtime. However for our muscles to grow, to become more efficient we need to use it and use it often. It has been proven that processing information is like a workout for our brain. A study found that the more complex the piece of information was the more neurons that became activated in the brain. For years now this has been widely understood and it is why brain games have taken off and some people like to keep their mind in gear by playing chess or sudoku. 

Yet Ori Amir’s latest study suggests that humor is another form of information processing and is one that is great for the brain. When you break down any joke it is usually the observation of information that doesn’t immediately make sense. The punchline of the joke is often that information being represented in a way that does make sense. Your brain has being doing mental loops trying to make sense of this whole joke and when it does it releases endorphins in your brain.

Amir’s study showed that when people processed complex information their neurons lit up but when that same information was presented in a humorous way, it lit up far more. Even more interesting is that Amir discovered when a joke is heard it results in a quick short burst of chemicals in the brain and neurons firing. When a joke is created it results in a longer burst. This means that writing jokes is like steroids for the brain muscle.

Humor is also shown to be a great stress reliever and numerous studies have now shown that people who enjoy something funny before trying to learn will have more success. Ok, that is great but how does laughing make you sexier?

Well, some other studies suggest that humans are always seeking the best match for procreation. One thing that they look for is intelligence. As this can be difficult to measure the human brain sometimes uses humor as a proxy. Laughing makes the brain think you are funnier and so in some strange way may make you sexier.

That last part sounds like a bit of a stretch to me but it all comes from verified scientific studies. The key point here is not to be too hard on yourself. Sometimes we cram for exams and get so worked up and so stressed that we do badly. Taking a little time out to laugh could be the best idea and the key to doing well in your exams and in life.

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