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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.
It's Friday afternoon. That means it's gratitude journal time. Thank you, thank you, thank you for...
Suryia the orangutan and Roscoe the bluetick hound, who wrote a book together and held their very own book signing (via The Washington Post)
Kids acting like kids, even when (or especially because) it involves playing dress-up
The 90-year-old woman who started online dating, met an 82-year-old man, and, dear reader, she married him
The possibility of an everlasting laptop battery. One that would be powered by typing?
When that day comes, we will blog like the wind. Until then...what's on your list of things to be happy about?
[After the jump, learn more about the diet drawbacks of "sensible snacking."]
Turns out it's delicious too—smoky, earthy and, if you cook it right, just a little crunchy—and a fresh alternative to the usual grilled portobello mushrooms, zucchini, peppers and eggplant.
[Next, the one thing you need to know before you slice it, plus marinade ideas]
Men! What are they thinking? We can't always answer that, but we'll be posting our favorite glimpses into their world in this space every Thursday.
* "Bank shots took the form of therapy. I was angry about my dad dying—even if I didn't show it—and I needed to hurl the ball against the backboard. But I was in a tender enough emotional state that I needed to be good at something too. The fiberglass backboard came through on both counts." — Bryan Curtis, from his moving essay "The Fiberglass Backboard" for Grantland
* Del Monte turned former Baywatch star David Hasselhoff into a Hoffsicle to celebrate National Ice Cream Week. Watch a ridiculous (and hilarious) video of him posing with the summer treat—which, naturally, is sporting a Knight Rider jacket. (Via Foodiggity)
* As H&H, the beloved Manhattan bagel institution, closed its doors, Thomas Beller looked back on his time working there: "I could feel myself falling, gleefully falling in H&H bagels, into its reality, the beautiful, sensuous, arduous world of bagel making." ("Portrait of the Bagel as a Young Man," from How to Be a Man)
* If Bad Teacher stars Justin Timberlake and Jason Segel could be real teachers, what class would they choose? Whatever it would be, we know we'd take it. (Via MTV)
In a world where you have opportunities to check yourself out at every turn—in a store window, a rearview mirror or a particularly shiny piece of cutlery—it's hard to imagine not seeing your reflection for a day, let alone a month. But that's exactly what Marianne Power did—she describes her experiment in the Daily Mail as "mirror detox."
[Read more about why it's worth it to take a vacation from your face]
If having the wind in your hair and Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild" cranked up on the radio is more appealing than baggage fees and stripping down to your socks for airport security, then an all-American road trip might be your best bet this summer.
But before you take off, you might want to know that hitting the highway might put at least half of you at risk—researchers at the University of Washington, Seattle, discovered that 52 percent of melanoma cases and 53 percent of Merkel cell carcinoma cases occurred on the left side of the body, or your driving side (as reported by Time.com).
Rolling the windows up doesn't necessarily keep you protected, says Heidi A. Waldorf, MD, director of laser and cosmetic dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. "UVB rays are blocked by the glass, but UVA rays still get through unless your windows have a special UVA coating." Bottom line: Even if you're not a truck driver on the road 365 days a year, before you buckle up, slather on a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30 during the spring and summer months (SPF 15 is adequate for the rest of the year), says Waldorf. Look for UVA protective ingredients like titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, avobenzone or mexoryl.
[Next, how choices you make can affect the acne you get]