We all love to share a good laugh, but did you know it can actually improve your health? A good chuckle can boost your mood and improve not only your mental health but also your physical wellbeing.

By seeking out more opportunities for humour and laughter, you can improve your emotional health, strengthen your relationships, find greater happiness—and even add years to your life.

We’ve pulled together some of our favourite facts about laughter as well as a few of our foolproof tips on how to harness the powerful benefits of laughter and humour.

Laughter is good for your physical health…

  • According to HelpGuide’s doctors, laughter relaxes your whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
  • Laughter can also boost your immune system, as it decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
  • Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain!
  • Laughter makes you feel good. This is obvious but what you may not know is that this positive feeling remains with you even after the laughter subsides and helps you keep a positive, optimistic outlook through difficult situations, disappointments, and loss.

… and also your mental health

  • Laughter stops distressing emotions. You can’t feel anxious, angry, or sad when you’re laughing. Quick, someone crack a joke!
  • Laughter helps you relax and recharge as it reduces stress and increases energy, enabling you to stay focused and accomplish more.
  • Laughter also shifts your perspective, allowing you to see situations in a more realistic, less threatening light. A humorous perspective creates psychological distance, which can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and diffuse conflict.
  • Laughter draws you closer to others, which can have a profound effect on all aspects of your mental and emotional health. There’s a good reason why TV sitcoms use laugh tracks: laughter is contagious. Just hearing laughter primes your brain and readies you to smile and join in the fun.

How to bring more laughter into your life

Laughter is something everyone should experience every day. Whether it comes about naturally or you go out and seek it, it should be part of your everyday routine. Begin by setting aside special times to seek out humour and laughter and build from there (it’s a bit like exercising in that respect). Eventually, you’ll want to incorporate humor and laughter into the fabric of your life, finding it naturally in everything.

Here are some ways to start:

  • Smile. Smiling is the beginning of laughter, and like laughter, it’s contagious. When you look at someone or see something even mildly pleasing, practice smiling, even if it’s forced at the beginning. Naturally, over time this will become second nature to you, and you will actually find yourself lighting up behind your smile and not just plastering on a fake one.
  • Count your blessings. Literally make a list. The simple act of considering the positive aspects of your life will distance you from negative thoughts that block humour and laughter.
  • Bring humour into conversations. Ask people, “What’s the funniest thing that happened to you today? This week? In your life?”
  • Spend time with fun, playful people. These are people who laugh easily–both at themselves and at life’s absurdities–and who routinely find the humour in everyday events. Their playful point of view and laughter are contagious. Even if you don’t consider yourself a lighthearted, humorous person, you can still seek out people who like to laugh and make others laugh. Every comedian appreciates an audience.
  • Watch funny movies or even comedy shows. For those of you with Netflix subscriptions, type these codes for comedy films into the search bar and get giggling.

Even simulated laughter is beneficial

So, what if you really can’t “find the funny?” Believe it or not, a Georgia State University study found that it’s possible to laugh without experiencing a funny event—and simulated laughter can be just as beneficial as the real thing. Hearing others laugh, even for no apparent reason, can often trigger genuine laughter.

To add simulated laughter into your own life, search for laugh yoga or laugh therapy groups. Or you can start simply by laughing at other people’s jokes, even if you don’t find them funny. Both you and the other person will feel good, it will draw you closer together, and who knows, it may even lead to some spontaneous laughter.

There’s plenty of ways to incorporate a little bit more laughter into your life. With all of its benefits why would anyone resist? This priceless medicine is fun, free, and easy to use, so get cracking – jokes that is…