There is a boatload of scientific research supporting the fact that laughing boosts physical and mental health (e.g., see A laugh a day keeps the doctor away?). And so, we are advised to laugh more to live healthier, happier lives.
Hmmm. For me, the hype around laughter is kind of daunting. I worry that I might not meet my laugh quota for the day, week, month, year, decade, my whole life. I like to laugh and be around laughter as much as the next person. But am I laughing enough? I’m not a person who is laughing all the time or the funniest gal on the block. Yet, a good chuckle at least once a day … is it within my reach? What about for you?
It is important to know that even a little bit of laughter each day relieves stress and leads to positive health rewards. For instance, the Mayo Clinic notes that in the short-term, laugher can activate many organs, activate and relieve stress response, and soothe tension. In the longer-term, laughter can improve your immune system, relieve pain, increase personal satisfaction and improve mood.
So, I invite you to come along with me for a minute or two to explore what triggers laughter for each of us. We can intentionally place ourselves in laughter’s path, so we reap its benefits.
For me, I laugh easy and feel good when I am around people who say or do funny things (however lame, cheesy or weird), who engage in playful banter, and who laugh at themselves or situations they/we are in (rather than laugh at someone else’s expense). One of my aunts could spin hilarious stories out of ordinary events in her life. Another family member always is ready with a smile, a joke and laughter when I see him. Do you have people like that in your life, who are easy to be playful with and share laughter?
My pets’ playfulness and goofy antics often make me chortle—if you have pets, you know what I am talking about. Do you let yourself be entertained and soothed by the capers of your pets (or even other people’s pets)?
Babies and young children can be very amusing too. I recently cracked up watching two toddlers on their first meeting size each other up. While not as cute as the little tikes, gawky teenagers and grumpy older people also can say and do funny things. Do you have go-to groups whose way of relating to the world makes you laugh?
Moments of hilarity also come to me via books (e.g., I got a good laugh listening to the audiobook, Where’d You Go, Bernadette). Do you like reading books with funny relatable moments? If you want to get your laugh on with books, check out this list: Funny Books: NPR’s Readers Pick The Best.
Many movies include comic effect that get me laughing. They take me away for a couple hours from real life difficulties—sometimes just enough that I gain perspective about the difficulty and regain emotional balance. Do you like funny movies? How many of these movies have you seen?
In my house, T.V. sit-coms like Seinfeld (Seinfeld Funniest moments) and the Office (The Office Best Moments) are favorites. What are your sit-com favorites? Check out this list: The 30 Best Sitcoms of All Time. As with funny movies, they are a sure-fire way for me to get at least a few laughs.
What about stand-up comedians? While live performances may be the optimal setting, you can watch them on cable T.V. and online. Here are a couple that elicit some chuckles for me (advance warning: fair amount of foul and irreverent language): The Funniest Stand-Up Comedy of 2021, Top 10 Dry Bar Comedy Clips Of 2022, 15 Minutes of Kevin Hart Dad Jokes, and Terrible Diet Tips with Iliza Shlesinger. There is always the incomparable Lucy Ball (Lucy And Ethel At The Chocolate Factory). Which comedians appeal to your sense of humor?
Even laughing without a humorous prompt can still make me happy. Simply listening to laughter or watching someone laugh can trigger my own laughing. Do you ever laugh or feel happy simply from hearing or seeing laughter? I’m a sucker for baby laughter—it’s contagious. Try a few of these: Funniest Babies Laughing Compilation (2019), Baby Laughs When Mom Says “Donkey”, Baby laughs so hard he cries! and Funny Babies Laughing Hysterically at Dogs Compilation.
Even remembering a laugh-fest from days gone by can trigger moments of joy. I vividly recall the sound of my mother’s unrestrained laughter during the movie, Snowball Express. Listening to her lose it was like dominos falling; soon my whole family was rolling in the aisles of that movie theater. I guess that is why watching family home videos can be enjoyable. Reminiscing about past laughter and funny times can evoke laughter and warm feelings in the present. Pretty cool. What helps you remember funny times and laughter in your past?
I am also a fan of gallows humor. What about you? If I’m going through rough times, there is nothing like shared dark humor to make laughter accessible and perhaps add a tiny spark of light to my day.
This exploration of laughter has made me realize that laughter is an experience to be savored. We can be intentional about cultivating laughter in our daily lives. Consider: Where do you find laughter? What can you do to invite more laughter into your life?
Article by Kristin Littel
Related: How to laugh more | Psyche Guides
If you are struggling with low mood (which can make laughter feel impossible), please reach out for support. Friends and family can help. In addition, a counselor may be able to aid you in figuring out how to feel better. Call the Mindful Counseling Center if you want to make a counseling appointment.