Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The 28-Day Break-Up Cleanse, Part VI

Week 4: Fill your calendar with fun

Still no word from him? It’s time to move on then. Fill your calendar with fun activities. By "fun activities" I mean activities that are bound to make you laugh (or at least smile), things that would have been fun if your ex hadn't just broken up with you. You may not feel that this is something you can do. But you really need to do it.

Laughter is the best way to survive a breakup. Norman Cousins, a layperson with no prior medical training, was the first to suggest that humor can improve physical health through its miraculous effects on the brain. When diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, a chronic inflammatory disease that can cause the joints in the spine to fuse, Cousins invented a healing system that combined massive amounts of vitamin C and humor. He recovered from near-paralysis and wrote the book "Anatomy of an Illness." He later used the same method to recover from a heart attack. Cousins' work has appeared in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.

Dr. Lee Berk, an immunologist at Loma Linda University's School of Allied Health and Medicine, has studied the effects of mirthful laughter on the regulation of hormones since the 1980s. Berk and his colleagues found that laughter helps the brain regulate the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. They also discovered a link between laughter and the production of anti-bodies and endorphins, the body's natural pain killers. Even the expectation that something funny is coming suffices to bring about positive effects.

Humor also helps the brain regulate the brain's dopamine levels, reports a Stanford research team in the December 4, 2003, issue of the journal Neuron. The Stanford team examined the brains of 16 study participants looking at cartoons that had been previously rated as funny or non-funny. They found that the funny cartoons activated a cluster of areas in the brain's limbic system that are crucially involved in the regulation of dopamine. The findings indicate that humor can have positive effects not only on mood, but also on motivation and feelings of reward.

To get the fun going, call friends you have ignored for weeks and arrange to meet them in the near future. If you don't have all that many friends, it's time to make new ones. Get a new hobby or two. Sign up for boxing lessons or rock climbing. Learn how to paint or join a single people's network.

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