Everyone knows ‘laughter is the best medicine,’ right? It’s an old saying yet recent studies have coaxed it up to the capstone of credible clichés.
Laughter is known to have all sorts of short term and long term benefits. It aids in relaxation, improves cardiovascular health, increases pain tolerance, releases powerful painkilling endorphins into the bloodstream, and of course, improves your mood. There is even evidence that laughter increases T-cell activity which benefit your immune system functioning.
A recent study from the University of Maryland looked at the physiological reactions of a group of participants to funny compared to intense movies. The group who viewed a comedy had an increase in blood flow in 95% of cases, thereby increasing cardiovascular health. On the other hand, the majority (74%) of those who watched a sad movie experienced decreased blood flow. In the “comedy” group, the cardiovascular benefits lasted up to 24 hours.
Given the scientific evidence that’s stacking up, it seems that laughter is good for us on many levels. So being easy to laugh is a trait to which to aspire.
With that said, here are some 7 of the funniest videos and websites to induce laughter whenever you need some quick relaxation or an emotional pick-me-up…
Of the many funny videos online, this skit by these two is one of my favorites. It’s of two brothers trying to record a video greeting for their mom for Mother’s Day. Anyone with a brother gets this piece at a deep level!
There is some great material on Reddit in the Funny Jokes subreddit but be warned, the material is not typically PG-13! However, much of it is funny. For example, this (old) joke…
Three old ladies are at the park talking when the topic of how wonderfully devoted their children are comes up.
The first lady says: “I have a daughter like you wouldn’t imagine. Every winter she takes me to Florida for two weeks!”
The second lady, not to be outdone, says: “Pfft, you think you’ve got it good? My daughter takes me to Hawaii every summer for 2 months!”
The third lady looks at both of them and says “You two think you have good daughters. You don’t know what it means to have a good daughter. You know what my daughter does? Every Sunday, she goes to her psychologist and pays him $200 an hour, just to talk about me!”
Positive psychologyWikipedia: Positive psychology is the branch of psychology that uses scientific understanding and effective intervention to aid in the achievement of a satisfactory life, rather than merely treating mental illness. →
And here is the third video in the series of Happiness Habits (I’m still editing the 2nd video!). It’s on a crucial skill, a skill that seems to be the most tightly connected with happiness and life satisfaction …self-compassion.
Dr. John Schinnerer
Anger Management Specialist
Dec. 31, 2013 — Researchers found that the most common emotions trigger strong bodily sensations, and the bodily maps of these sensations were topographically different for different emotions. The sensation patterns were, however, consistent across different West European and East Asian cultures, highlighting that emotions and their corresponding bodily sensation patterns have a biological basis.
“Emotions adjust not only our mental, but also our bodily states. This way the prepare us to react swiftly to the dangers, but also to the opportunities such as pleasurable social interactions present in the environment. Awareness of the corresponding bodily changes may subsequently trigger the conscious emotional sensations, such as the feeling of happiness,” tells assistant professor Lauri Nummenmaa from Aalto University.
“The findings have major implications for our understanding of the functions of emotions and their bodily basis. On the other hand, the results help us to understand different emotional disorders and provide novel tools for their diagnosis.”
The research was carried out on line, and over 700 individuals from Finland, Sweden and Taiwan took part in the study. The researchers induced different emotional states in their Finnish and Taiwanese participants. Subsequently the participants were shown with pictures of human bodies on a computer, and asked to colour the bodily regions whose activity they felt increasing or decreasing.
The research was funded by European Research Council (ERC), The Academy of Finland and the Aalto University (aivoAALTO project)
The results were published on 31 December, 2013 in the scientific journal
L. Nummenmaa, E. Glerean, R. Hari, J. K. Hietanen. Bodily maps of emotions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1321664111
One of my passions is the ways in which we are influenced without our knowledge. These are referred to as subconscious influences. And it turns out we are far more easily influenced than we realize.
Priming studies have consistently shown that we are influenced by a task as simple as unscrambling four sentences. Given the right word, these priming tasks have been shown to effect short term memory, pace of walking, aggression, degree of politeness, and body posture.
So it was with great interest that I looked at this new study looking at the effects of music lyrics on alcohol consumption in teens in the United Kingdom. As one in five songs in the top ten in the UK reference booze, do these lyrics have any impact on teen drinking? Which raises other critical questions, if behavior is affected by lyrics, what effect are the myriad of songs referencing prescription pill use, marijuana use, illegal drug use having?
Mention of alcohol is so blatant in songs, I’ve wondered if alcohol companies are paying musicians for product mentions in songs. What better way is there to market to the younger generation?!
Several experts argue that recent evidence shows that public health messages on alcohol may be drowning amidst the louder and more ubiquitous messages from some genres within the music industry.
Researchers from Liverpool John Moores University found that older children and teens listen to more than two hours of music daily. Researchers in the United States have documented a rise in alcohol and drug references, including mention of specific liquor brands and types (e.g., Patron), in popular music. But until recently, little data was available on comparable UK trends. Hardcastle’s team selected four years for analysis, comparing music charts across four decades. They discovered a significant increase in the number of times alcohol was mentioned.
Top ten songs in the early 1980s contained relatively few references to alcohol, with the number declining further in 1991. Rave culture was popular in this period; a music scene linked more to Ecstasy than alcohol. But alcohol references returned by 2001, showing up in eight percent of popular hits. This figure continues to rise, more than doubling by 2011, with almost one in five (18.5%) top ten songs featuring alcohol-related lyrics. This pattern is consistent with US trends, although UK charts still have fewer alcohol mentions than their US counterparts.
Alcohol-related song lyrics are associated with hip hop and rap and US artists, with lyrics generally putting a positive spin on alcohol consumption. Drinking is linked to confidence, outgoingness or physical attractiveness, as well as outcomes such as money, fame, and sex. Popular artists sing about the negative effects of alcohol far less frequently.
Lyrics have an impact beyond the US and UK, pointing out that US and British songs often have global appeal. For example, US artist Katy Perry’s 2011 single “Last Friday Night” detailing excessive drinking and risk-taking behavior, achieved a top 10 position not only in the US and the UK, but also in 15 other countries.
So what impact do these alcohol references have on young people? It is highly likely that we underestimate the true impact of exposure to pro-alcohol messages young people hear, says lead researcher Katherine Hardcastle:
“Public health concerns are already focused on the impacts of alcohol advertising on the drinking behaviours of young people, yet the growing reference to alcohol in popular music could mean that alcohol promoting messages are reaching much larger audiences; regardless of restrictions (e.g. age) on direct advertising.”
The study concludes that:
“The exposure of young people to alcohol in the media is a major concern given its potential impact on drinking behaviours […] A greater understanding of the impacts of alcohol-related popular music content on young listeners is urgently needed. Health and other professionals should be vigilant for increases in alcohol-related lyrics and work to ensure that popular music does not become a medium for reinforcing and extending cultures of intoxication and alcohol-related harm.”
Given that we listen to our favorite songs hundreds, if not thousands, of times, it seems safe to assume that frequent repetition of pro-alcohol and pro-drug lyrics will normalize such behaviors making them somewhat more likely to occur.
In my private practice, I see this frequently with male adolescents who are listening exclusively to rap and hip-hop. While I enjoy several songs of Wiz Khalifa and 2 Chainz, I also know enough to listen to them infrequently. Our emotional mind is trained most effectively via repetition. Listening to pro-marijuana lyrics thousands of times is likely to influence minds which are already open to suggestions.
Keep an open mind!
John Schinnerer, Ph.D.
Positive Psychology Coach
Anger Management Specialist
Katherine A. Hardcastle, Karen Hughes, Olivia Sharples, and Mark A. Bellis. Trends in alcohol portrayal in popular music: A longitudinal analysis of the UK charts. Psychology of Music, September 2013 DOI: 10.1177/0305735613500701