There are individuals who suffer from a condition that results in
uncontrollable laughter. These people have damage in the part of the
brain that controls laughter. Interestingly, the study of such
individuals has taught us that laughter causes the release of substances
that reduce our stress response!
Now that, is a stress-reduction technique we can all manage! Book a
show in a comedy club, rent a DVD of a comedy show, read funny books,
get together with friends and tell jokes or funny (and embarrassing)
stories, have a tickle fight with your kids or your partner. This may
sound juvenile and overly simple, partly because it is, but it works!
Have you ever noticed that when you are very tired after a long and
stressful day there are times that the stupidest thing just gets you
going? You get the giggles and just can’t seem to stop. Let yourself go!
Your brain surely loves it and quite frankly it can use the reward.
The Power of Goodness
How did you feel when you saw people helping the victims of hurricane
Katrina or the tsunami? How do you feel when you see a teenager get up
from his/her seat on the bus and help an older adult to sit? Why are
movies/books that deal with the triumphs of the human spirit (“feel good
movies”) so touching and powerful?
It’s simple, because we are humans. Our ancestors did not only
survive because of a healthy stress response, they survived because they
formed strong social groups and helped each other. In fact, we have
hormones circulating that ensure we continue to do so.
Mother Teresa had something to add to this. A group of researchers
showed two groups of individuals either footage of Mother Teresa doing
her work or a neutral film. They then measured the levels of types of
immune cells that help to combat illness. The mere act of observing the
‘goodness’ present in the Mother Teresa film increased the participants’
When viewing the film the brain is receiving a positive message. One
that promotes affiliation, something all humans need. This type of
positive image is very powerful and can also reduce the stress response.
Ok, we are not all Mother Teresa nor do we need to be. But there are
several little things we can do in our daily lives that promote similar
types of feelings, which in turn, will help decrease the stress response.