“Laughter is the best medicine” is a quote most people are familiar with, and for good reason. Laughing brings us joy, it bonds us with people and it also has a host of health benefits.

There are many stories I can recall hearing where the sick person (suffering from any number of illnesses) was given x amount of days to live. Person x refuses medical treatment, goes home, watches funny movies and reads funny books for 16 hours a day and is subsequently healed. Now these might all be old wives tales and I am not suggesting you give up on medical care, but there is certainly something about laughter that is healing.

Laughter boosts your health in the following ways:

• Laughter relaxes the body and relieves stress. A good laugh relieves bodily tension and can leave your muscles feeling relaxed long after the funny moment is over.

• Laughter is good exercise. Research has shown that laughing can have similar benefits as exercise. It produces endorphins, lowers stress hormones and boosts immunity. Laughter also moves lymph and oxygenates your organs much like exercise does. Improved lymph flow helps to clear out old, dead waste products from organs and tissues. When you laugh you take in big gulps of oxygen which will improve the oxygenation of your body at both the cellular and organ level.

• Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter is a well known adjunct therapy for cancer patients because it increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies. Research shows that laughter may benefit people suffering from virtually any chronic disease because it improves the activity of the natural killer cells.

• Laughter can relieve pain. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins which is one of our “happy” hormones. These hormones help us feel good and can reduce pain. It may not be easy to laugh if you have been injured or are ill, but it is one of the cheapest and easiest pain relief methods!

• Laughter protects the heart. Laughter is known to reduce blood pressure, improve blood flow and improve body oxygenation. One study showed that laughter helped to expand the lining of the blood vessels which may protect against a heart attack or other cardio events.

• Laughter dissolves negative emotions like anger, frustration and anxiety simply because it is not possible to laugh and feel these emotions at the same time!

Here are some of the easiest ways to encourage more laughter in your life:

• Watch a funny movie or TV show
• Learn to smile for no reason
• Read the jokes in the newspaper
• Phone up a friend who always makes you laugh
• Laugh at yourself
• Read a funny BOOK
• Ask friends over to pay board games
• Get a pet
• Try “laughter yoga”
• Spend time with kids
• Listen out for laughter and follow it