Tag Archives: stress relief

Don't Worry Be Healthy: Is Laughter Really The Best Medicine?

laughing

-Marissa Tomko

I’m 21 years old. I am not naïve, nor am I wise. I just have the ability to buy a bottle of wine if I want to. And while I’m no sociologist either, I think it’s fair to say that your teens and your twenties are the most dramatic times of your life. Even though I haven’t had the life experience of my parents and grandparents, I feel like I’ve been around long enough to experience most of the feelings life has to offer. I’ve cried from joy, I’ve been floored by heartbreak, I’ve lashed out in extreme anger, and I’ve made myself sick with sadness. No matter what, though, I’ve always used a single coping mechanism: laughter.

We’ve all heard the saying “laughter is the best medicine,” and if we’re being all lovey-dovey-wishy-washy, then yeah, it’s easy to agree with that. Generally speaking, I have found that people who laugh more are happier. They are the optimists who don’t take anything too seriously, and the people who move on from bad things faster than those who dwell on them. But I’ve always wondered, in addition to giving you a brighter disposition, does laughter actually provide you with health benefits? Apparently, it does.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the physical benefits of laughter stem from its general power to relieve stress in our lives. When we laugh, we take in more oxygen than when we exhibit normal breathing patterns. This stimulates our organs, bringing oxygen to our heart and other muscles, and makes us feel happy due to the rush of endorphins to our brains. A faster heart rate and higher blood pressure make us feel relaxed, which is often translated into the physical relaxation of our muscles that get tense when we are stressed out.

Over time, chronic laughers receive the benefit of a better immune system due to the release of neuropeptides, which are molecules that aid in stress relief and other bodily imbalances. Laughter can relieve pain, regulate blood sugar levels, and save us fifteen minutes on an exercise bike! Now I don’t feel so bad for choosing to have a Friends marathon instead of going for a run last weekend.

It’s possible you think I’m just some weirdo with access to the internet trying to justify ditching the gym. And I wouldn’t blame you for that—I am pretty weird, I love the internet, and fine, I avoid the gym sometimes. But I can honestly say that the times in my life when I am laughing have been the ones where I have felt my best. I have more drive to get moving, be productive, and better myself and my relationships. If you’ve been dragging due to these rainy months, it might not be a bad idea to crack a smile, tell some jokes, and see if your overall health improves!

Don't Worry Be Healthy: Cracked Out

 

-Marissa Tomko

There is some freaky stuff on the internet.

For instance, I think that most of you can relate to the moment in my early adolescence when I conducted an innocent Internet search, only to have something completely inappropriate come up. Yes, I may have become scarred for life. But since then, I’m not really surprised by all of the insane stuff the Internet has to offer. That is, until I found Jointcrackers, an online forum for people to tell the tales of their best joint cracks and to vent about their compulsive needs to perform them.

Joint cracking, specifically that of the knuckle variety, has been a habit of mine since I was twelve. I do it during tests, I do it when I go out, I even do it in my sleep. I live to crack and crack to live. I can’t explain it, it just feels right. The sound of it makes some of my friends cringe, but I don’t even notice it anymore. It’s like chirping birds or the sound of the ocean; just part of the fabric of my life!

I realize that I sound like an insane person. Such a realization leads me to wonder: why do some of us become so obsessed with releasing carbon dioxide from the synovial fluid in our joints, and what is it doing to us? And am I crazed enough that I should sign up for this nutty forum?

There are different reasons that people find joint manipulations to be so satisfying, but the most common theory lies in the idea that it offers a physical release of stress. Our friends over at Jointcrackers point to this reason, as well as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and pain relief. Some say that they feel a pressure in their joints that can only be relieved by cracking, a sensation that some users feel may be purely psychological. Some Jointcrackers love the need to crack, while others are on the forum to find ways to ditch the habit.

Whether you are trying to quit or not, chances are you catch some flack when you crack. I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve heard “That’s going to give you arthritis!” when I absentmindedly indulge in a pop or two. But good news for me, and possibly you! Studies cited in articles like this one at Discovery all say that there is no correlation between knuckle cracking and arthritis. However, the Washington Post says avid crackers should be wary of damaging ligaments and weakening their grips over time. These effects are far and few between, and can be helped by cutting back on the crack—if you can.