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health (209 posts)
This morning, MSNBC's The Body Odd posted a story on whether you can die from laughter. (Spoiler: You can in cases of intense overexcitement, plus you can also black out from "overbreathing.")
But I prefer to think about the upside of cracking up. Laughter can lower your heart rate and blood pressure as well as reduce the constriction in your blood vessels. It can also help with your mental health. The problem is, we don't do it enough.
Enter psychologist Dr. Steve Wilson, founder of the World Laughter Tour, who trains nurses, doctors, social workers and lay people to run group therapy laughter circles. "Like music, art and certain physical movements," says Wilson, "laughter can help you work through emotional issues or simply help you feel better. But sometimes in life, we're told that our laughter is too loud, or too snorty. We're told to stop doing it. And we do.""
Surprisingly, he doesn't use jokes to help clients refind their inner laugh. Jokes can make the listener feel obligated to respond. "Fake crying doesn't help anybody," he says. "Why should fake laughter?"
Wilson, who formerly worked with celebrated laughter yoga guru Dr. Madan Kataria, uses a series of exercises designed to make you chortle, chuckle and just plain giggle like a fool. For example, there's the Hawaiian Handshake, where you say a rolling "aloha-a-a-a" which turns into a "ha ha" burst of laughter. Or there's the Burning Hot Sand, during which you imagine you're tiptoeing across boiling sand (ah, oo, oo, ah) ending in an ah-ha-ha. Over the phone, he demonstrated the Roller Coaster, ending in a long, sputtering round of ho-ho-hos. It wasn't funny. But I laughed. I couldn't stop, in fact.
"All humans are born to laugh," he claims. "Look at a baby. He lies in his crib, laughing at nothing. He's doesn't even have a sense of humor yet."
Groups, though, are the most effective way to get the laughter rolling. Accordingly, Wilson has been asked to run his workshops at weddings and bar mitzvahs, to bring family members together. I am considering inviting him to my mother's Fourth of July barbecue, sometime before Mom gives my kids their third red-white-and-blue Popsicle for breakfast but after my husband tries to grill on her tiny, toppling, coal grill from the '70s which requires an entire bottle of mind-numbing lighter fluid to produce sufficient flames for one very black hot dog.
[After the jump, learn more about the diet drawbacks of "sensible snacking."]
[After the jump, the explanation behind the study, plus five things that are comforting to touch that are not George Clooney]
Imagine my dismay when I
read in this month's O magazine that jet dryers actually increase the amount of bacteria on users' hands—it's because the air inside isn't exactly sterile. Even worse, the dryers blast bacteria all over the restroom (and presumably, those inside), "spewing germs more than six feet." After reading this, the jet dryer morphed in my mind from a
futuristic time saver to a potential weapon of germ warfare. O writer Ramona Emerson explains that the superiority of jet dryers is actually a myth. The hand-drying
researcher whose work she cites says that paper towels are more sanitary, but this still doesn't solve my eco-dilemma.
Here's an idea: We could take a cue from the Japanese, who have taken hand drying (among many other things) to a new level. Many public washrooms in Japan lack towels or dryers, and it is common for Japanese people to carry small, personal hand towels or handkerchiefs (okay for drying your hands, but not for blowing your nose). The towels are so ubiquitous that there's even a museum dedicated to them. By tucking my own little reusable towel in my purse, I'll at least be able to keep my germs to myself. But I admit: I'll miss the roar of the jets.
After the jump: The moment that left the lead surgeon almost at a loss for words
[After the jump, hearts that don't have a beat and songs that barely have a pulse.]
1. In the beginning, man created treadmills. These personalized conveyor belts allowed fitness-crazed humans to work out any time of the day or night in the comfort of their own homes. With treadmills, they could avoid workout obstacles like traffic, darkness, cold, snow, heat, pollution, unwashed clothes, angry dogs and angry neighbors. Finally, there were no excuses for missing a workout.
2. The humans soon found other uses for the treadmill. These alternative uses often served as excuses for missing a workout.
[After the jump, fast-forward to the treadmills of the future.]
However, a recent study has deflated my hopes that calcium supplements are the magic pill to prevent fractures and osteoporosis.
Snap quiz: Your friend tells you she's participating in a fundraiser and asks you to donate money to her cause. You've got the funds, and you adore the friend. In which situation would you be more likely to pony up?
(a) Your friend is training for her first marathon with a group that raises money for cancer research.
(b) Your friend is hosting a masquerade charity ball to raise money for a children's after-school program.
[Find out which option most people choose, after the jump.]
Even those people who are tone deaf and so lacking in rhythm as to be unable to find the beat in a Katy Perry song have taken comfort that in a planet-wide dance-off, they'd outlast most other species on earth.
That admittedly and pitiably small consolation just went "Oh! Oh! Oh!" and shot across the sky-y-y-y. This was made clear in an article on the research of neurobiologists Aniruddh Patel and John Iversen in the Brain special issue of Discover magazine. Patel explains to Discover that our sense of rhythm may have evolved from the brain development that allowed us to learn to speak. Therefore, Patel says, the only other animals that can boogie to a beat would be those that are advanced in "vocal learning," or the ability to mimic the sounds of others: parrots, an Asian elephant and Snowball the sulfur-crested cockatoo, a YouTube phenom whose dance moves and habits were studied by Patel and his team.
In their experiments with Snowball, the bird was videotaped reacting to music that was sped up and slowed down under a variety of circumstances (in isolation, with verbal encouragement, with another person). The videos showed that Snowball can not only synchronize his moves to different tempos, but can do it when no one else is in the room (although he danced the most when he had a human partner). This cockatoo loves mainstream pop like Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga, and he's a huge fan of the Backstreet Boys (wonder if he knows they're on tour this summer? I'd love to see him get pulled up on stage to lead the crowd in a dance to "Everybody").
What about the salsa-dancing retriever, you are undoubtedly wondering? When I shared this video with my husband, an enthusiastic freestyle dancer, he dropped the phone. Patel tells Discover that he suspects booty-shaking pets like this are reacting to cues from their human trainers, instead of innately responding to the beat. So for now, in this species-wide dance-off, the cockatoo is the true champion—at least from a scientific perspective.
But the story isn't over yet! Patel and Discover are looking for other examples of animals that can dance to a beat. If you have a video of an animal grooving in time to music, please send it to them at email@example.com.