Do you ever laugh so hard that your belly hurts? In the moment, you feel amazing.  Laughter is your body’s response to enjoying your life and relieving stress. Your brain reacts to the response of laughter, and lately more research has investigated the therapeutic benefits of laughter. Laughter helps us combat stress. It helps us in our social relationships.  By giving us a more upbeat perspective on life, laughter gives us the power to change our lives.

Plus, there’s a science behind it.  Laughter can improve heart health by making our blood vessels more pliable and reduce the risk of heart attacks, as recent research shows. And laughter promotes the growth of protective cells and cancer-fighting antibodies.

Scott Weems is the author of the 2014 book Ha! The Science of When We Laugh and Why.  He is an expert on the benefits of laughter. Weems says, “Our bodies need exercise, both physically and mentally.  And humor is a great way to do that.” He emphasizes that humans benefit from humor from exposure to it. You don’t need to be a master comedian to enjoy laughter. You don’t need to be the one telling the jokes, you just need surround yourself by joyous and happy folks.  As Weems says, “We don’t need to be funny to make humor an important part of our lives.”

So how can you get the benefits of laughter?

  • Take some time everyday to laugh. Even if you force yourself to laugh for five minutes every morning, you will feel better throughout the day.
  • Pick up a comic book.  This is a great way to crack a smile during a long train ride. My favorite is The Complete Far Side Collection with the classic illustrations by Gary Larson. Animation expert Charles Solomon suggests that the collection is so funny that it should come with a warning that says “Caution: reading this book may result in hyperventilation from uncontrollable laughter.”
  • Join “laughter yoga”. Workshops are popping up world-wide purporting laughter as the most effective form of therapeutic stress relief.  In laughter yoga, participants provoke contagious laughter in a freeform environment.

The more you laugh, the more positive you will feel. So start giggling today!