Earlier today, we posted a fictional story in honor of April Fools’ Day. You might think we were just messing around, but we were trying to help give your brain a little boost! It turns out that a day full of surprises and laughter gives the brain a good workout.
We often hear that “laughter is the best medicine,” and while that may be an exaggeration, we do have proof that it has positive and healing powers. Laughter is an excellent source of relief from stress and anxiety. One study found, via brain scans, that watching comedians perform stimulates the brain’s reward system. Another showed that hearing a baby laugh can elicit an oxytocin response which has the effect of improving the functional brain connections. Further research concluded that while the exact effects of laughter on healing and well-being may not be well-understood, there is no question that it confers “physiological, psychological, social, spiritual, and quality-of-life benefits.” The same study also points out that unlike other kinds of medicine, laughter appears to have no negative side effects. Other studies have shown that laughter helps us bond socially and form deeper connections with one another. Still more research has found benefits for the immune system, heart health, and much more.
Surprises are also great for your brain’s health. Every time the brain is surprised, a little dose of noradrenaline (also known as norepinephrine) is released. This “surprise” brain chemical puts your brain on alert: Is the surprise dangerous? Is it important to remember? When the brain gets a noradrenaline burst, it is primed to be more alert. In fact, the brain is sort of like a “surprise junkie,” just waiting in stasis until something unexpected occurs. A day full of unexpected jokes and pranks is full of these surprises and gives your brain a great workout. Diverging from routine and expectation is one of the best ways to boost your brain.
Hopefully, today you experienced some funny and surprising jokes that made you laugh and gave your brain a jolt or two. You may want to keep this all in mind during the other 364 days of the year, too! Your brain will thank you for it.