Laughter is an effective stress management strategy. It’s also a free, boosts health and its benefits are available to make you feel better at any time.

Laughter works to lower the levels of stress hormones, such as epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol, in the bloodstream, by increasing the levels of health-boosting hormones such as endorphins, dopamine and oxytocin. A short period of laughter can literally boost your happiness in the moment, with lingering effects of feeling good throughout the day.

Numerous studies show the benefits to your health and wellbeing are many. It has been proven to relieve pain, boost health, strengthen the body’s immune system, enhancing its ability to protect itself from major diseases. It increases the number of antibody-producing cells and enhances the effectiveness of other cells. This strengthens your immune system, protecting your from physical effects of stress.

Whether we view a situation as a threat, which raises stress levels, or a challenge, which raises dopamine, makes a difference, and laughter can help us take a light-hearted approach.

Here are ways you can bring more laughter in your life to amp up its healthful effects.

1. Set an intention to add more fun and look for what makes you laugh  

Motivate yourself by just thinking about the value of laughter to you and your life! It is a miracle boost for the entire body. It provides a great workout that exercises the heart and diaphragm, contracts the abs, and even works out the shoulders, leaving the muscles around these areas more relaxed. So, laugh freely! Make a conscious choice to have fun and laugh. An intention is a conscious choice. It means you are fully committed to take action, 100% on board. Once you’ve made the commitment, you’ll find yourself naturally adding fun time. The list is endless. Tell jokes. Watch comedies. Read joke books. Schedule game nights.

2. Choose to cultivate a sense of humor

A sense of humor opens the door to more laughter in life, and a lighthearted attitude. These are listed as top signature strengths that enhance performance. It is no wonder that laughter yoga clubs are springing up in many areas of the country.

3. Watch movies or TV shows that offer opportunities to laugh

Your choices in entertainment, movies and TV can either elevate your stress or reduce it. Look for shows that are not just marginally funny, but hilarious. The internet makes it easy with lists of funniest movies, TV shows, entertainment. Look for laughter opportunities on a regular basis and add extra doses when you need to as necessary.

4. Schedule laugh together time with friend

Laughing together with one or more friends can elevate your own and one another’s moods, reduce your stress levels, and improve the quality of your relationships or interactions by laughing and smiling together. Going to see a funny movie or a comedy club with friends is a great way to get more laughter in your life. The contagious effects of laughter means you’ll laugh more than you otherwise would have. Having friends over for a party or game night is also an invitation for laughter and other good feelings.

5. Find humor in what you’d normally complain or find fault

Look for the humor in life events and situations overall, especially ones that normally trigger you to complain or find fault. Laughing about what bothers you doesn’t have to mean you’re minimizing the seriousness of a matter; it is something to do to give you a fresh perspective, an optimal attitude. Too many people think they have to “wait” until all problems are solved before they can be happy! That is a limiting belief! In truth, challenges are a part of life, there to grow us along the way. And unlike finding a good partner or job, or getting a degree, humor and happiness are not “goals”! They are “the way” to achieving all your goals more easily, and effortlessly! If this idea is new to you, don’t be surprised to discover how much more you will achieve or get dome, in less time, when you take actions that consciously relax your brain. (There are other methods of course, such as meditation, yoga, walks in nature, conscious communication, etc.) Arm yourself with a good sense of humor. It’s a gift. You’ll find yourself more lighthearted, ready and open to engage and share in more opportunities to laugh and enjoy your life.

6. “Act as if” — Laugh or smile without reason

Studies show ‘Fake It Until You Make It’ works! Regardless whether laughing or smiling is “real” or “fake,” the neurochemical benefits to your brain and body, and how you feel about yourself and life are real! That’s because the body’s subconscious mind cannot distinguish between ‘real’ smiles and laughter and your doing these on purpose just to feel good! The positive boost to your physical health and emotion happiness, in either case, is quite real! In other words, since the physical benefits are exactly the same, it gives you to the same results. So do both: laugh or act as if you’re laughing. Nothing hypocritical about the latter. You and your body and brain are wired to for happiness. Your body already knows this, now let this truth sink into your mind. Smile and laugh more or just smile and laugh without a reason. You’ll feel the positive effects, and you’ll be surprised how often the merriment leads to real smiles and laughter!

7. Check and make sure your fun and laughter time is healthy!

Laugh and have fun freely, yes, but guard your mind! Laughter that tears another down, leaving them in tears, is a sadistic act of abuse, for example. So think and keep your brain’s frontal cortex engaged! Healthy fun has all around optimal results, no aftermath of negative consequences to deal with, such as a hangover, added debt, a hurt loved one or damage to key relationships, etc.

By Athena Staik, Ph.D.

Originally published at