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Elemental
Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

Humor

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After a cancer scare, the experience was pure joy

Photo: Bike_Maverick/Getty Images

About a year ago, while hiding from my children in the shower, I discovered a lump in my breast.

As an Ashkenazi woman over the age of 40, I was being watchful and groping myself regularly. I wasn’t really expecting much, but during this shower hideout, I felt something I couldn’t ignore. I got a hollow feeling, and the look on my obstetrician's face a few days later when I pointed it out to him didn’t make me feel much better.

After a biopsy that yielded good news, I met with the recommended “breast guy.” He explained to me that…


Joking and laughing does a lot more than just lighten the mood

A smiling nurse jokes with a boy patient in a hospital bed.
A smiling nurse jokes with a boy patient in a hospital bed.
Credit: FS Productions/Getty

By the end of my first trimester, all the nurses at the local emergency room knew my name. Thanks to a four-month bout of hyperemesis gravidarum — basically, intense and frequent nausea and vomiting during pregnancy — I had wound up at the hospital for fluids about once a week for a whole summer. I definitely didn’t feel like having fun, but I did want to feel less alone (and, admittedly, to woo the person responsible for stopping my vomiting). Making a joke felt like a reflex.

“I should just rent a room here,” I told the kind-eyed RN as…


What happens in your brain when you get the giggles?

Credit: PeopleImages/Getty Images

People laugh about five times in every 10 minutes of conversation. They are also 30 times more likely to laugh when they are with other people compared to when they are alone. It’s common to think of laughter as a loud reaction to a funny joke, but most of the time it’s simply a recurring feature of normal social interaction.

Sophie Scott is a scientist and professor at University College London who leads much of the current research about laughter. …

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