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The Best Medicine: Here's How Laughter Can Improve Your Mental and Physical Health

Do you remember how much you used to laugh as a kid?

As children we laugh many times a day, but as adults laughter may grow more infrequent. But laughing often and remembering our inner child is still one of the best ways to lighten our hearts and keep us healthier and happier.

Laughter can relieve pain, bring happiness and even bolster our immune systems by increasing the number of antibody-producing cells. Laughter also reduces stress hormones like cortisol and increases health-enhancing hormones like endorphins.

Because we use our diaphragm and contract our abs when we laugh, it can also be an internal workout and a physical release. A good, hearty laugh can leave your muscles relaxed for up to forty five minutes afterwards.

Adding humor to your life can also help change your perspective. Staying lighthearted may help you reframe stressful events, as our response can change depending on whether we see something as a threat or challenge.

You can bring more laughter into your life by remembering that humor is a habit, not a talent. Instead of worrying about being funny or clever, get in the habit of seeing the humor in everyday situations. What if you can’t find something funny? Simulated laughter can be just as beneficial as the real thing. A study at Georgia State University found that incorporating simulated laughter into exercise programs helped boost older adults’ mental health and their endurance. Plus, laughter is known to be contagious – hearing someone else laugh, even without an apparent reason, can trigger genuine laughter.

Start by taking a five-minute laugh break. A well-planned fifteen-minute break for humor can bolster productivity, so try setting an alarm on your phone to watch something quick and funny, and then a second alarm to go back to work. Laughter can even help you strengthen your memory by building an emotional connection to what you learn, in turn improving your ability to understand and retain information.

Laughter is a healthy distraction from heavy emotions and a wonderful chance to boost the mood of those around you — so remember to share the laughs with your friends and family to brighten everyone’s day.

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