In the past year, laughter has seemed a little harder to come across for most of us. Yet, laughter is precisely what we need when the going gets tough. Besides lightening a dark mood, making difficult conversation more comfortable, and inducing a sense of ease with people we don’t know well, laughter also increases the amount of oxygen we breathe in and stimulates our organs, including the heart. Our tense muscles even benefit from a good laugh; laughter will relax your muscles for up to 45 minutes! Laughter causes endorphins to be released in the brain and drastically reduces our stress response, which, in turn, benefits our cardiac system. People who laugh more probably have more robust immune systems and naturally produce more chemicals that quell pain. Oh yeah, one more thing – laughing for 15 minutes also burns 40 calories, the amount in half a cup of grapes or one mini Twix bar.
For some people, laughter doesn’t come easily. If this describes you, you’ll have to search for photos, cartoons, sayings, or comedians that make you chuckle. Once you find a book or online video that makes you laugh, keep it close at hand for times when you need a little humor. If you’re struggling for inspiration, animals and children are two pretty surefire places to start your search. Laughing at yourself is also harder for some people than others, but it is so good for you to find a way to be amused by the small things you experience every day. If you were a comedian, how would you tell this story to make the audience feel that they got their money’s worth? What would your life look like as a comic strip or a cartoon? Even if you have to force it at first, it will get easier with time – fake it till you make it. Forced laughter often turns into spontaneous laughter. Laughter yoga is evidence of this – the practice combines laughter exercises and yoga breathing techniques, but the laughter is almost always forced before becoming natural and contagious.