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The Truth About Humor

Written by Cherie Kerr. Posted in ExecuBlog

When writing my book on this topic, I sought the expertise of Dr. Bruce Rabin, M.D. , Ph.D., a highly-renowned and noted professor of pathology, psychiatry and psychology in Pittsburgh, who was, and is, considered one of the top experts in the world on the subject of psychoneuroimmunology, which is a fancy way of saying how our brain affects our overall health.

Though the explanation in my book is much more in depth, for the purposes of brevity, I will just say that Dr. Rubin and I were on the same page. We both agreed that stress cannot be avoided; it simply needs to be managed better. Rabin advocates several remedies to mitigate stress, ranking humor high among them.

In brief, what he explained to me (and I go into much more detail in my book) is that when the part of the brain that houses the humor muscle is active, the other part of the brain that entertains depression and anger cannot be active. He says, "As best we can understand, the area of the brain involved in humor is in the frontal cortex. This region of the brain sends projections to the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus and the locus coeruleus." He went on to explain that when we laugh there is suppression of the activation of the latter two portions of the brain, thus slowing our metabolism and reducing heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate. Amazing!

 What he was trying to do was paint a picture for me, explaining that the brain was like a stove, and that if the humor "burner" is ignited, the other burners seem to take a back seat. In other words, you can't be depressed and angry when you're "cooking" with humor. Makes sense, doesn't it? I know it's impossible to stay angry at anyone (even momentarily) if they suddenly make you burst out laughing.

So, for starters, know what it is that is going on in the brain and how powerful that frontal cortex region is! I have great respect for mine now and try to focus on activating it, when under the most difficult of circumstances.  I would like you, the reader, to do the same!

 

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