We've all felt it before; the wholehearted laughter that seems to come from somewhere deep in our soul. It's contagious and heartfelt, silly and liberating. Laughing is one of the best things we can do each day, yet many of us don't seem to get enough of it.
It's hard to dispute that laughter can increase your overall sense of wellbeing, but did you know that laughter might have other benefits as well? Studies have shown that laughter can help relieve pain, bring greater happiness, and even increase immunity. It increases our overall sense of wellbeing and it feels great.
And let's be honest, it is also an amazing abdominal workout. Try falling into a fit of laughter for 10 or 15 minutes and then notice how tight your ab muscles are!
But probably one of the most significant impacts that laughter has on our lives is stress reduction. Everyone experiences stress in their daily lives, and for years psychologists have recommended laughter as a way to help reduce daily stressors.
According to Dr Lee Berk, an associate professor at Loma Linda University in California, "Laughter appears to cause all the reciprocal, or opposite, effects of stress…it shuts down the release of stress hormones such as cortisol.
"Laughter also triggers the production of feel-good neurochemicals like dopamine, which have all kinds of calming, anti-anxiety benefits. Think of laughter as the yin to stress's yang."
Thanks largely to these stress-quashing powers, laughter has been linked to health benefits ranging from lower levels of inflammation to improved blood flow, Berk says, adding that: "Many of these same things also happen when you sleep right, eat right, and exercise." Because of these effects, he regards laughter as another healthy lifestyle, along with more "traditional" lifestyle activities.
Laughter comes naturally for some people; they are able to find humour in almost every situation. For the rest of us though, we may find it a little more difficult to shrug off the stress in favour of the giggles. If you tend to be a person who is more prone to stress and anxiety, fitting laughter into your day is a great way to start making this mind- and body-boosting activity a part of your life.
Here are 7 ways to get you giggling more!
1. Watch a funny movie or sitcom.
2. Read. Remember the comics section of newspapers that many people used to devour. Rediscover the benefits of the humour of comics and funny books.
3. Surround yourself with people who are positive and humorous. Try to find at least one person you can have contact with daily who makes you laugh.
4. Subscribe to podcasts, YouTube videos, and websites that send out daily bites of humour. Sometimes all we need is a quick break from the daily grind to get a good belly laugh.
5. Slow down. You can't find the humour in things if you are moving too fast. Do something outrageous that you can only accomplish with laughter.
6. Find a kid to hang out with. Kids are often the best source of laughter for us as they are uninhibited and free from the strains of life. Listen to a conversation between a couple of six-year-olds and you will be picking yourself up off the ground.
7. Start a joke jar. Gather your favourite jokes and place them in a jar. Use it at home or at work and ask people to pick and share one joke a day.
So what are you waiting for? Let loose with a belly laugh right now and see how it makes you feel.
Sara Lindburg has a B.S. in Exercise Science and an M.Ed. in Counselling. A 41-year-old wife, mother, and full-time secondary school counsellor, she combines 20-plus years' experience in the fitness and counselling fields and she has found her passion in inspiring other women to be the best version of themselves on her Facebook page, FitMom. Her inspiration for writing comes from her 6-year-old son, Cooper, and 8-year-old daughter, Hanna. Follow Sara on twitter.