“Laugh a lot, and sincerely, because that is the pure sound of your soul.” – Michael Beckwith

“We don’t laugh because we’re happy – we’re happy because we laugh.” – William James

Laughter is a universal language. It’s an instinctive behavior that seems to be coded into our genes, and one that we start doing as early as three months old.1 Plus, it makes us feel really good.

Among other things, laughter has been described as:

  • “The hilarious declaration made by man that life is worth living.” – Irish leader Seán O’Casey
  • “An instant vacation.” – comedian Milton Berle
  • “The tonic, the relief, the surcease for pain.” – actor Charlie Chaplin
  • “Carbonated holiness.” – writer Anne Lammott
  • “Probably the most important thing in a person.” – actress Audrey Hepburn

As kids, we’re great at laughing. According to the I Ching, “On average, an infant laughs nearly two hundred times a day; an adult, only twelve.” I certainly remember laughing a lot more in the past than I do now, although I’m not sure why. Maybe we don’t stop laughing because we grow old, maybe we grow old because we stop laughing.2

As adults, sometimes it’s easy to get so caught up in the “seriousness” of life that we have trouble letting loose. We’ve got so many things we need or want to do that we forget to make time for laughter. We ignore the wisdom of the old proverb – if you’re too busy to laugh, you’re too busy.

One of my current goals: to laugh more. (And I’d appreciate your help!)

The Benefits of Laughing

Scientific studies have shown laughing to relieve stress,3 increase pain tolerance,4 boost our immune system,5 increase happiness, and reduce anger. When we laugh we activate muscles in our face and body, our pulse increases, and we breathe more, which delivers more oxygen throughout the body.

Smiling, a natural part of laughing, has been demonstrated to have tremendous benefits on its own. According to psychologist Paul Edman, smiling releases the feel-good chemical dopamine, which makes us feel happy.6 And laughing, especially with friends, releases the same feel-good chemicals that are also released in response to exercise, excitement, pain, spicy food, and love, among other things.7

Comprehensive studies on laughter are still ongoing, but “while we wait for definitive evidence,” suggests Robert R. Provine, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Maryland, “it can’t hurt – and it’s certainly enjoyable – to laugh. Until the scientists work out all the details, get in all the laughter that you can!”8

7 Ways to Create More Laughter

With a little bit of awareness, we can learn how to improve many of our actions and behaviors. If we want to laugh more, we just need to practice. Look for opportunities to laugh and you will find that, in the words of Dr. Seuss,”From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere.”

Here’s what the experts suggest for adding more laughter to our lives:

  1. Get social. In his studies, Provine found that we’re thirty times (30x!) more likely to laugh when we’re with other people than when we’re alone. He even suggests that many of the benefits might stem from this social aspect. “Laughter is social, so any health benefits might really come from being close with friends and family.”9
  2. Hang around laughter: it’s contagious. When we are around people laughing, we laugh. It’s why they use laugh tracks on TV; even when we know it’s not real, we still want to laugh along. It’s also one of the driving forces behind laughing yoga, in which what starts out as forced group laughter becomes natural and spontaneous. Personally, I’m grateful for all of the laughter that my wife brings to my life. She’s much better at laughing than I am, and when she gets started in a laughing fit I can’t help but join in. It always does amazing things for my mood.
  3. Choose to laugh. Even when the situation is causing you to be angry, try to laugh. “It is impossible for you to be angry and laugh at the same time,” writes Wayne Dyer. “Anger and laughter are mutually exclusive, and you have the power to choose either.”
  4. Laugh at yourself. Provine also found that the person who was the last to speak before they or the group laughed, laughed almost 50% more than their audience. So join in and laugh at your own jokes. “It is of immense importance to learn to laugh at ourselves,” writes author Katherine Mansfield. Actress Shirley MacLain adds, “A person who knows how to laugh at himself will never cease to be amused.”
  5. Make someone else laugh. If you can get someone else laughing, there’s a good chance you’ll start laughing yourself. As Mark Twain suggests, “The best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer someone else up.”
  6. Enjoy your Go-to. Are there any videos, shows, or activities that always make you laugh? Next time you could use a boost, take the time to enjoy them.
  7. Make it a practice. Every morning in my journal I remind myself that the day will be better if I laugh. It’s something that I have to practice, but the more I practice the better I get. You can too! Find reasons to laugh. Write it on a sticky note and put in on your mirror. Make a comedy movie night. Sign up for a joke-a-day email list. Find what works for you to make laughter a priority.

What are some of your laughter practices? Any tips on how I can get more laughter in my life? Let me know in the comments.

“I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.” – Herman Melville

  1. http://www.whattoexpect.com/first-year/first-laugh/ []
  2. Influenced by Michael Pritchard []
  3. http://www.yalescientific.org/2011/05/can-laughter-be-therapeutic/ []
  4. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-laughter-may-be-the-best-pain-medicine/ []
  5. http://www.laughteryoga.org/english/laughteryoga/details/312 []
  6. http://www.yalescientific.org/2011/05/can-laughter-be-therapeutic/ []
  7. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-laughter-may-be-the-best-pain-medicine/ []
  8. https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200011/the-science-laughter []
  9. http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/give-your-body-boost-with-laughter []