Sunday, September 28, 2008

Please do it again, Charlotte...

Charlotte Green is one of the best news readers in the world. She regularly reads the news authoritatively and dispassionately for BBC Radio 4, in a rich, resonant voice that never betrays a trace of emotion or of bias. She is a pleasure to listen to and, through her reading, all the news - good and bad – becomes a sober and unemotional record of events. She makes listening to the news a pleasure, and thus even manages to lessen the displeasure that one may have at hearing about certain events.

Except on one occasion (though I understand there have been others) when she got the giggles. Apparently, someone whispered something in her ear that made her crack up!

And what a pleasure it is to listen to her bursting into laughter, which I have done several times. I have read that many people wrote to the BBC that day, not to complain but to ask them to replay the excerpt, so much had they enjoyed it.

So they should!

Laughter is very infectious, and why it should be so is a most interesting neurological problem. But it also has other, more physiological, benefits. Apparently it boosts the immune system, reduces stress hormones, massages the heart and diaphragm (thus providing some “internal” exercise for muscles) and engenders a “feel good” factor.

Of course, it would be most interesting to find out many things about laughter - why it is so infectious, how nervous activity relating to laughter is communicated to the immune system in such a beneficial way, and through what neural mechanisms it changes one’s subjective state to make one feel good, or better, even in difficult times.

It will take a long time to understand these mechanisms. But, while waiting, we can go on and treat ourselves to a good laugh.

So, instead of sending a birthday or greeting card to a friend, just send them this link on the occasion:

It will make them happy, boost their immune system, exercise their muscles, put them in a "feel good" frame of mind…and cost you nothing.