Laughter is a powerful (and free!) medicine that you’re not taking enough of. Sharing a genuine laugh with a friend or co-worker can be enough to brighten our day, no matter how down-and-out we feel. Laughter is a stress-reducer, immunity-booster, heart-helper, and confidence-builder. Read on to learn more about the surprising benefits of humor.

1. Laughter stimulates your full body.

“I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person.” — Audrey Hepburn

Feeling exhausted? A laugh can provide you with a full-body wake-up call that will help you feel energized and refreshed. Laughing will boost your oxygen intake and release endorphins, the feel-good hormones that make you happy.

2. Laughter makes you feel better.

“Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease for pain.” — Charlie Chaplin

Have you ever been super stressed at work or school, maybe because everyone is being mean today or you have an exam coming up that you’re not even close to ready for, but then a friend told you a hilarious joke or story that made you laugh so hard you almost wet yourself? It is amazing how much better an explosive laugh can make us feel, especially if it’s totally out of the blue!

3. Laughter increases your immunity.

“Always laugh when you can, it is cheap medicine.” — George Gordon Byron

Negative stress causes chemical reactions in your body that decrease your immunity, making it more likely you will get sick. A hearty laugh fuels your immune system with disease-fighting powers that will help you stay healthy and energetic.

4. Laughter promotes heart health.

“A sense of humor … is needed armor. Joy in one’s heart and some laughter on one’s lips is a sign that the person down deep has a pretty good grasp of life.” — Hugh Sidey

Laughter reduces blood pressure and improves blood flow, which will in turn reduce your odds of suffering a stroke or heart attack.

5. Laughter helps you stress less.

“Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.” — Kurt Vonnegut

Have you ever been so frustrated with your day that you wanted to curl up in a ball and cry? I doubt anyone can honestly say, “No,” to that question because we’ve all been there, but why not laugh instead? How happy you are in life has less to do with how you act than it does how you react (and your reaction is always a choice, so keep it positive).

6. Laughter increases connection with others.

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” — Victor Borge

Going on a first date with a guy or girl you have a maximum crush on? Relieve your nerves and increase the odds that you bond by doing something that will make you laugh. That could be a funny movie, comedy night, ski-ball, roller-coasters, or whatever your idea of “fun” might be.

7. Laughter burns calories.

“If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane.” — Robert Frost

Don’t go skipping your workouts because of this, but laughter could offer a small assist to your fitness plan. Laughing raises your heart rate and caloric expenditure, resulting in about 10-40 calories burned over 15 minutes of laughter according to a study by the International Journal of Obesity.

8. Laughter boosts mood and confidence.

“Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and then move on.” — Bob Newhart

Confident people have an interesting ability: no matter how badly they mess up, they are able to laugh at themselves, handling any mistake in their stride as if it’s no big deal. Learning to laugh at yourself will help you develop an ability to improvise through any bone-headed decision you might make (thus minimizing stress, wasted time, and damage done). If you ever find yourself at a live performance in a dark theater or busy music hall, keep a close eye on the actors or musicians and see if you can catch a mistake. If they make one, they will no doubt carry on as if nothing happened (and possibly even use it to their advantage). Become a pro at improvising and you will become unstoppable.

9. Laughter can help you get through difficult times.

“Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.” — Bill Cosby

All of life’s junk — break-ups, bad days, car accidents, family drama, relationship problems, you name it — seem worse while we’re dealing with them in real-time than they are in the Big Picture. Keep the events of every day in perspective by asking yourself the question, “Is this really a big deal in the grand scheme of things?” If the source of stress isn’t something you’ll remember next week/month/year, lighten up. Search for the humor or irony in the situation and laugh it off. Smile (because you deserve to be happy)!

I hope you’re laughing so much that you get to enjoy these benefits of humor every day! Tell us something funny — an interesting quirk about yourself, fun story, or good joke — in the comments below.

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Featured photo credit: Brother and sister playing outside via Shutterstock

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