As far back in the human experience as we can trace, there has been laughter. We begin laughing within months of being born. Children laugh hundreds of times per day. Yet life seems to become less amusing as we move into adulthood, and for many the daily chuckles decrease along with the benefits they could have provided.

What are the health benefits of laughter?

Having a sense of humor offers impressive physical, mental and emotional health benefits. In addition to boosting the immune system and decreasing harmful stress levels, laughter increases production of feel good hormones like endorphins. The muscle contractions involved strengthen the core while increasing blood flow and oxygenating the body. Even our brains benefit, improving memory and mental performance, as one promising study at John Hopkins Medical School showed.

There are remarkable emotional benefits, as well. It’s probably no surprise that humor combats depression. Studies have shown that even faking your laugh triggers a positive response in the body that uplifts mood. Laughter can also markedly decrease feelings of frustration and anger. Have you ever had your emotional upset interrupted by something funny? It’s transformative, and has resounding benefits within the body that contributes to overall well-being.

How does laughter bring us together?

Laughter is such a shared experience that it is hard to listen to laughter and not respond with a least a smile. Science shows that laughter is “contagious” due to mirror neurons in the brain. Finding humor together as a community experience fosters feelings of closeness and connectivity. Those who are angry with each other are more likely to find a speedy resolution through a shared laughter experience.

Ways to use laughter for wellness

Nothing can turn a mood around faster than a good laugh. Like any muscle, by actively finding more humor in life, you’re increasing your ability to find even more amusement in life. It’s a conscious choice in perspective that can have long-term rewards.

Here are some ways to laugh more:

Take humor breaks. What really gets you laughing? Load up your favorite comedy routine. Get out the magazines that get you giggling. Even ten minutes of laughing will improve your mood and brighten your day.

Get others laughing. Even a simple silly joke can shift someone’s mood. Lifting the spirits of others will leave you feeling uplifted too.

Join others in laughter. There is nothing like going to see live comedy, or a humorous movie or play. The joined laughter creates an instant sense of community that’s both healing and enriching.

In a world where challenges can begin to weigh on us, laughter is a welcome way to lighten the burdens. Whether it’s improving our mood, soothing our stress or strengthen bonds between friends, humor is a magical gift.