HUMOR and HEALTH

Humor and Laughter May Influence Health: III. Laughter and Health Outcomes

According to James-Lange theory of emotion and later theories,[8] all intense emotions, regardless of their content, lead to activation of the sympathetic nervous system. This was tested in an investigation by Averill, in which three groups of men were exposed to either a humorous movie, a sad movie or a neutral movie.[9] Physiological responses were determined by heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, skin temperature and galvanic skin response. Both the humorous stimulus and the sad stimulus produced significant increases in galvanic skin response (GSR), indicating activation of the sympathetic nervous system. However, while exposure to a sad stimulus caused significant increases in blood pressure over the control group, the blood pressure of those exposed to humor remained stable, even though the GSR reading of both groups would indicate activation of the sympathetic nervous system.[9] The results of this study suggest that while a humorous stimulus can activate the sympathetic nervous system similar to some stressors, it may also help buffer some of the negative effects of sympathetic activation upon blood pressure.

To determine if humor can be beneficial in the treatment of anxiety, the impact of a humorous stimulus upon anxiety and heart rate was investigated during a stressful waiting period.[10] A sample of 53 college students was told that they would receive a shock after a brief waiting period. Subjects in the experimental group listened to a humorous tape while waiting to receive a shock, the placebo control group listened to a non-humorous tape during this waiting period, and non-intervention control group did not listen to a tape. Subjects in the humor group reported decreased anxiety during the anticipatory period (P < 0.05), while research examining how laughter influences stress hormones is somewhat conflicting. One early study looked at the resultsthose with the highest level of sense of humor (measured by SHRQ) had the lowest reported anxiety (P < 0.01). However, the heart rate of the three groups were not significantly different, and all three groups experienced increased heart rate during the waiting period (P < 0.001). The authors concluded that the effect of humor may be primarily cognitive, rather than having a physical stress reduction capability, because heart rate was not significantly different among the groups.[10] However, as the investigations reported above indicate, laughter tends to increase heart and respiratory rate in itself, and therefore heart-rate may not have been the best physiological measure of reduced anxiety for this experiment. Also, it would have been interesting to see what results this intervention had on GSR's and blood pressure, as it appears that activation of the sympathetic nervous system was involved, as in Averill's study.[9]

of viewing four
 different films on urinary excretion of epinephrine and norepinephrine in 20 female subjects.[11] The four films were chosen to elicit different emotions. The first was a natural-scenery film, which was expected to be very bland and not to elicit any strong emotions. A second film was funny, and elicited mirth and laughter. A third film was a war movie and was used to elicit feelings of tragedy and sadness. The fourth film was a horror story chosen to elicit anxiety. All of the subjects viewed each film and served as their own control mechanism in a pre-post-test design. Urinary hormone levels were measured during a 90 min control period before each film, during each film, and finally during a 90 min post-film session. Urinary epinephrine levels decreased significantly during the natural-scenery film (P < 0.01). Urinary epinephrine levels increased significantly during the war film (P < 0.05). Urinary epinephrine and norepinephrine both increased significantly during the humorous film (P < 0.05). Urinary epinephrine increased the most dramatically during the anxiety provoking film (P < 0.05), and norepinephrine levels also increased significantly during this film (P<0.001) see Figure 1.[11]

Histogram represents hormonal response to viewing four different film types by healthy women. Bars indicate mean urinary output of epinephrine and norepinephrine pre- and post-stimulus.[11]

The authors concluded that there is a correlation between increased urinary excretion of epinephrine and strong emotional arousal, independent of the type of emotion being elicited. However, the lack of a control group, the use of an all female subject group, and the methodology involving the subjects all viewing the films in the same order, are weaknesses in this study. The results obtained could be due to the order of the films, as the first film lead to the lowest levels of hormone excretion, while the last film lead to the highest levels.

Building on this earlier work, a more recent project examined the effect of viewing a humorous film on a wide variety of stress hormones, using direct testing of hormone levels in serum.[12] Subjects in the treatment group viewed a humorous video, while those in control group were kept in a quiet room for the same amount of time. Endocrine testing was performed pre, during and post stimuli. The results demonstrated that serum cortisol (P = 0.011), growth hormone (P = 0.0005) and plasma dopac—a metabolite of dopamine (P = 0.025), all decreased with laughter. There was no significant change in serum prolactin, beta-endorphins, plasma epinephrine or plasma norepinephrine in either the experimental or the control group. The control group demonstrated no significant changes in any of the endocrine measures used. The authors concluded that laughter decreases stress hormones, and could theoretically act to buffer the effects of stress on the immune system. Because cortisol is immunosuppressive, the authors theorized that laughter could act as an immunoenhancer by decreasing levels of this particular stress hormone.[12,13] This study, while controlled, used a rather small sample (n = 10) and included male subjects only. It should also be noted that while some media releases have claimed that laughter makes people feel good because it increases beta-endorphins, this study did not support this proposed result.

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In summary, the materials reviewed in this section support that the act of laughter can lead to immediate increases in heart rate, respiratory rate, respiratory depth and oxygen consumption. These increases are then followed by a period of muscle relaxation, with a corresponding decrease in heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure. The effect of laughter on the so called 'stress hormones' of epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol is equivocal, with the few studies conducted thus far demonstrating some conflicting results. This is important because it is theorized that if laughter does, in fact, decrease stress hormones, this would be one mechanism that might explain the proposed connection between laughter and immune function, and from there to improved health outcomes. The investigation into the effects of laughter on the endocrine system and the immune system is clearly an area in which additional research is needed. The next article in this series will review the evidence available thus far concerning how laughter influences various immune system components.

 Humor and Health
 
Paul E. McGhee, PhD

"The art of medicine consists of keeping the patient amused while nature heals the disease." (Voltaire)

[Adapted from Health, Healing and the Amuse System: Humor as Survival Training, 1999. Call 800-228-0810 to order, or see
www.LaughterRemedy.com.]

Voltaire (and your grandmother) recognized long ago that humor and laughter are good for you. You've probably
noticed yourself that you simply feel better after a good belly laugh. The problem, of course, is that your sense of humor generally abandons you right when you need it the most--on the tough days. But if you manage to bring your sense of humor to your daily conflicts on your job, your relationship with your spouse and children, and your health or financial problems, you'll go a long way toward improving the quality of your life; and you'll boost your physical health and well-being in the ways discussed here.

Psychoneuroimmunology and Humor

Every year, there is more evidence that your thoughts, moods, emotions, and belief system have a fundamental impact on the body’s basic health and healing mechanisms. Much of that evidence is discussed here at holisticonline.com.

Whether or not you get sick depends on your body’s ability to fight off infection and disease. In 1980 (prior to the discovery of the AIDS virus), the departing editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Franz Ingelfinger, estimated that 85% of all human illnesses are curable by the body’s own healing system. We now know that building a positive focus in your life plays an important role in supporting the body's ability to do this.

The body’s healing system responds favorably to positive attitudes, thoughts, moods, and emotions (e.g., to love, hope, optimism, caring, intimacy, joy, laughter, and humor), and negatively to negative ones (hate, hopelessness, pessimism, indifference, anxiety, depression, loneliness, etc.). So you want to organize your life to maintain as positive a focus as possible.

Emotion: The Key to the Mind’s Influence on Health

Candace Pert noted in Bill Moyers’ Healing and the Mind television series (and more recently in her book, The Molecules of Emotion) that emotions--registered and stored in the body in the form of chemical messages--are the best candidates for the key to the health connection between mind and body. It is through the emotions you experience in connection with your thoughts and daily attitudes--actually, through the neurochemical changes that accompany these emotions--that your mind acquires the power to influence whether you get sick or remain well.

The key, according to Pert, is found in complex molecules called neuropeptides. Peptides are found throughout the body, including the brain and immune system. These neuropeptides are the means by which all cells in the body communicate with each other. This includes brain-to-brain messages, brain-to-body messages, body-to-body messages, and body-to-brain messages.

Individual cells, including brain cells, immune cells, and other body cells, have receptor sites that receive neuropeptides. The kinds of neuropeptides available to cells are constantly changing, reflecting variations in your emotions throughout the day. The exact combinations of neuropeptides released during different emotional states has not yet been determined. The kind and number of emotion-linked neuropeptides available at receptor sites of cells influence your probability of staying well or getting sick. Building more humor and laughter in your life helps assure that these chemical messages are working for you, not against you.

"The chemicals that are running our body and our brain are the same chemicals that are involved in emotion. And that says to me that . . . we’d better pay more attention to emotions with respect to health." (Candace Pert)

There is no longer any doubt that your daily mood or frame of mind makes a significant contribution to your health--especially when it persists day after day, year after year. Anything you can do to sustain a more positive, upbeat frame of mind in dealing with the daily hassles and problems in your life contributes to your physical health at the same time that it helps you cope with stress and be more effective on the job. Your sense of humor is one of the most powerful tools you have to make certain that your daily mood and emotional state support good health.

How Humor Contributes to Health

The mere fact that you feel better after a good laugh is enough for many to conclude that humor must be good for you. But new evidence confirms what our grandparents knew all along. Your sense of humor not only enriches life; it also promotes physical, mental and spiritual health.

Muscle Relaxation

Research has shown that muscle relaxation results from a good belly laugh. One study even showed that people using a biofeedback apparatus were able to relax muscles more quickly after watching funny cartoons than after looking at beautiful scenery. You can see this effect in your own laughter, if you look for it. In my keynote addresses, I have a routine in which I get everyone in the room doing belly laughter for half a minute. Afterwards, I ask them what changes they notice in their bodies. The first comment is usually, "I feel a lot more relaxed." The next time you have a good long laugh, look for this feeling of relaxation and reduced tension.

Reduction of Stress Hormones


When you’re under stress, your body undergoes a series of hormonal and other body changes which make up the "fight or flight" response. Even though there’s no physical threat to your life, your body reacts as if there were. If you’re under stress day after day, this preparation for a vigorous physical response (which never occurs) itself begins to pose a threat--to your health! Anything which reduces the level of stress hormones in the blood on a regular basis helps reduce this health threat.

"There ain’t much fun in medicine, but there’s a heck of a lot of medicine in fun." (Josh Billings)

The limited research on stress-related hormones and humor has shown that laughter reduces at least four neuroendocrine hormones associated with the stress response, including epinephrine, cortisol, dopac, and growth hormone. This is consistent with research showing that various relaxation procedures reduce stress hormones.

Immune System Enhancement

It has long been recognized that stress weakens the immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to illness. Only in the mid 1980s, however, did researchers begin to study the impact of humor and laughter on the immune system. The best evidence that humor boosts the immune system comes from studies where immune system measures are taken before and after a particular humorous event--usually a comedy video. But research showing that individuals with a better sense of humor have stronger immune systems is also significant, since it shows the importance (for your health) of making the effort to improve your sense of humor.

Immunoglobulins

The greatest amount of research to date has focused on immunoglobulin A, a part of your immune system which serves to protect you against upper respiratory problems, like colds and the flu. Our saliva contains IgA, and this is often referred to as the body’s first line of defense against upper respiratory viral and bacterial infections. Several studies have shown that watching as little as 30 or 60 minutes of a comedy video is enough to increase both salivary IgA and blood levels of IgA. This has been shown for both adults and children.

Immunoglobulins M and G have also been shown to be enhanced as a result of humor/laughter. Laughter even increases levels of a substance called Complement 3, which helps antibodies pierce through defective or infected cells in order to destroy them.

Cellular Immunity

Several different aspects of the cellular immune system have also been shown to be enhanced by watching a comedy video. B cells are produced in the bone marrow, and are responsible for making the immunoglobulins. If you count the number of these cells in the blood before and after a comedy video, you can demonstrate a significant increase in the number of B cells circulating throughout the body following humor.

Watching a one-hour humorous video also increases the activity--and number--of natural killer cells, the number and level of activation of helper T-cells, and the ratio of helper to suppresser T-cells. Natural killer cells have the role of seeking out and destroying tumor cells in the body, as well as battling the latest cold- and flu-generating viruses and other foreign organisms.

Humor has also been shown to increase levels of gamma interferon, a complex substance that plays an important role in the maturation of B cells, the growth of cytotoxic T cells, and the activation of NK cells. It also tells different components of the immune system when to become more active, and regulates the level of cooperation between cells of the immune system.

Taken as a whole, it’s clear that there is something about humor and laughter that causes the immune system to "turn on" metabolically and do more effectively what it is designed to do--promote health and wellness in the face of internal or external threats.

Duration of Humor-Induced Immuno-enhancement

Only a few studies have examined the duration of the immuno-enhancement effects of humor. This may be an artificial question, since emotional changes are known to cause fluctuations in the immune system, and your emotional state generally depends on whether or not you’re dealing with anything stressful at the moment. If something happens to make you angry or anxious soon after watching a comedy video, this counteracts the immune benefits resulting from the video. This is where the strength of your own sense of humor comes in. If you are able to find a light side of the situation, you sustain the immunoenhancing benefits resulting from the humor you’ve been exposed to.

The limited research along these lines suggests that a strengthened immune system is sustained for 30 minutes for IgA, IgG, number of B cells, activation and number of T cells, activation and number of natural killer cells, and gamma-interferon. The immunoenhancement effect was still present 12 hours later for IgA, IgG, number of B cells, complement 3 and gamma-interferon. No attempt has been made to study durations beyond 12 hours.

Sense of Humor and Immunity

Given all the evidence that watching a humorous video strengthens different components of the immune system,
it makes sense that individuals who have a better developed sense of humor--meaning that they find more humor in their everyday life, seek out humor more often, laugh more, etc.--should have a stronger immune system, because they get more of the kinds of benefits offered by watching a comedy video by exercising their sense of humor more often. Consistent with this expectation, three studies have shown that individuals with higher scores on a sense of humor test have higher "baseline levels" of IgA.

"The simple truth is that happy people generally don’t get sick."
(Bernie Siegel, M.D.)

Humor’s ability to protect you against immunosuppression during stress was evident in a study which compared people with a well-developed sense of humor (they found a lot of humor in their everyday life or frequently used humor to cope with stress) to people with a poor sense of humor. Among those who rarely found humor in their own lives, especially when under stress, greater numbers of everyday hassles and negative life events were associated with greater suppression of their immune system (IgA). Among those with a well-developed sense of humor, on the other hand, everyday hassles and problems did not weaken the immune system. Their sense of humor helped keep them from becoming more vulnerable to illness when under stress.

Pain Reduction

Norman Cousins drew the attention of the medical community to the pain-reducing power of humor in his book Anatomy of an Illness. This spinal disease left him in almost constant pain. But he quickly discovered while watching comedy films that belly laughter eased his pain. In his last book, Head First: The Biology of Hope, he noted that 10 minutes of belly laughter (just counting the laughing time) would give him two hours of pain-free sleep. Over a dozen studies have now documented that humor does have the power to reduce pain in many patients.

"Humor is the instinct for taking pain playfully." (Max Eastman)

Many patients discover this in their own experience. Rheumatoid arthritis patients who report more chronic pain, for example, also say they look for humor more often in everyday life. They’ve learned that humor helps manage their pain. Consistent with this idea, one study showed that when elderly residents of a long-term care facility watched funny movies, the level of pain they experienced was reduced.

In a study of 35 patients in a rehabilitation hospital, 74% agreed with the statement, "Sometimes laughing works as well as a pain pill." The patients had such conditions as traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, arthritis, limb amputations, and a range of other neurological or musculoskeletal disorders.

"A clown is like an aspirin, only he works twice as fast." (Groucho Marx)

For those who do experience pain reduction following laughter, why does it occur? One possibility is distraction. Humor draws attention away from the source of discomfort--at least momentarily. The most commonly given explanation, however, is that laughter causes the production of endorphins, one of the body’s natural pain killers. This explanation makes good sense, but as of 1999, no one has been able to demonstrate it with data. Investigators who have tried to show the endorphin-humor connection have failed to do so.

Regardless of whether laughter does or does not cause the release of endorphins into the blood stream, its ability to reduce pain is undoubtedly partly due to its reduction of muscle tension. Even brief relaxation procedures have been shown to reduce pain--both in laboratory and clinical settings. Many pain centers around the country now use meditation and other relaxation techniques to reduce the level of pain medication needed by patients. Laughter is just one additional technique for achieving the same effect.



Other Benefits

Laughter also provides an excellent source of cardiac exercise. The next time you’re having a good belly laugh, put your hand over your heart when you stop laughing. You’ll see that your heart is racing, even after 15-20 seconds of laughter. It will remain elevated for 3-5 minutes. This has caused some to refer to laughter as "internal
jogging." You can give your heart a good workout several times a day, just by laughing. One physician noted that his patients who say they laugh regularly have lower resting heart rates. While this is no substitute for real exercise, many seniors and bed-ridden patients don’t have the option of other forms of physical exercise. For them, laughter is FUNdamental to good cardiac conditioning.

Other physical health benefits may result from humor and laughter, but scientists have been very slow in looking for them. Laughter may turn out, for example, to help lower blood pressure. As your heart beats more rapidly during laughter, it pumps more blood through your system, producing the familiar flushed cheeks. Not surprisingly, blood pressure increases during laughter, with larger increases corresponding to more intense
 and longer-lasting laughs. If this were a lasting increase, it might be harmful. When laughter stops, however, blood pressure drops back down to its baseline. Given the relaxation effect of laughter, laughter may help bring blood pressure levels below one's baseline. At this point, however, researchers have made little effort to examine this possibility. 

Laughter triggers a peculiar respiratory pattern which offers health benefits for certain individuals. In normal relaxed breathing, there is a balance between the amount of air you take in and breathe out. The problem is that when you are not breathing deeply, a considerable amount of residual air remains in the lungs. When you’re under stress, breathing becomes even shallower and more rapid, reducing the amount of oxygen taken in and producing a still greater amount of residual air. This breathing also occurs more from the chest, instead of the diaphragm. (Relaxation techniques emphasize the importance of breathing from the diaphragm.) As this residual air stays in the lungs for longer periods of time, its oxygen content drops and the level of water vapor and carbon dioxide increases. The health risk here arises for individuals prone to respiratory difficulties, since the increased water vapor creates a more favorable environment for bacterial growth and pulmonary infection.

Freq
uent belly laughter reduces this risk by emptying your lungs of more of the air that’s taken in. When you laugh, you push air out of your lungs until you can’t push out any more. Then you take a deep breath and start process all over again. Each time you laugh, you get rid of the excess carbon dioxide and water vapor that’s building up and replace it with oxygen-rich air.


Hospitalized patients with respiratory problems are often encouraged to breathe deeply and exhale fully, but nurses have difficulty getting them to do so. Most patients enjoy a good laugh, though, so many nurses have learned to tell them a joke from time to time or give them a comedy tape to view.

Emphysema and other respiratory patients often have a build-up of phlegm or mucous in their respiratory tracts. Nurses try to get them to cough to loosen up and expel these substances, but they generally don’t enjoy coughing, so the phlegm builds up. When they laugh, however, they inevitably start coughing, producing exactly the effect the nurses want--and the patients have a good time in the process.

Do People with a Good Sense of Humor Get Sick Less Often?

We have seen that humor and laughter positively influence our body in ways that should sustain health, but little research has been done on whether a better sense of humor actually helps keep you from getting sick. However, since people with a better sense of humor have higher IgA levels, and since research has shown that those with higher levels of salivary IgA are less likely to get colds or be infected with Streptococcus, humor should reduce the frequency of colds.

The only study to directly examine this question found that the impact of one’s sense of humor upon colds depends on the kind of sense of humor you have. It was only individuals whose sense of humor took the form of seeking out and appreciating humor who had fewer and less severe colds/flu than their low humor counterparts. Surprisingly, those whose sense of humor took the form of initiating humor more often did not have fewer or less severe colds/flu. The researchers argued that being a person who likes to tell jokes or otherwise initiate humor takes them into more frequent contact with other people, which serves to expose them to infectious agents more often, robbing them of the advantage that a more active sense of humor otherwise offers. Obviously, more research is required to clear up this confusing picture.

The importance of active use of one’s sense of humor in producing humor’s health benefits was confirmed in another study in an unusual way. It found that among a group of mothers with newborn infants, those who actively used humor to cope with the stress in their lives had fewer upper respiratory infections--and their infants also had fewer infections. This seemed to be because these mothers had higher levels of immunoglobulin A in their breast milk. Consistent with this finding, another study showed that mothers with low levels of IgA at the time of birth had babies who showed more illnesses in the first six weeks postpartum. So breast-feeding mothers now have all the more reason to build plenty of laughter in their life every day.

Among adults, if we look at bodily symptoms alone, independent of any diagnosed illness, there is some evidence that individuals who have more negative reactions to humor (finding a lot of different types of humor aversive or objectionable) report more bodily symptoms and complaints. Students complaining of cardiovascular symptoms and gastroenterological symptoms also have been shown to have this more negative reaction to humor.

Coronary heart disease (CHD) has long been linked to the so-called Type A personality. One pair of researchers observed over 25 years ago that only type B individuals use humor as a coping tool in dealing with stress and hostile feelings. Hostile humor has also been found to be the main kind of humor enjoyed by Type A patients, while Type B patients enjoy non-hostile as well as hostile humor. This is consistent with the findings showing a close relationship between hostility and heart disease. While laughter at hostile humor must provide some of the benefits described above for CHD-prone individuals, those benefits are clearly not enough to offset the bodily effects caused by hostility to begin with. Developing non-hostile aspects of one’s sense of humor to counteract this effect is essential for Type A individuals.

Learning to Use Humor to Cope with Stress

The biggest obstacle to obtaining these benefits of humor in your own life is the growing stress on your job and in your personal relationships--and perhaps the fact that you've never made an effort to develop a good sense of humor. Humor is well-documented to be a powerful tool in coping with life stress, but how do you go about developing this skill if you don't already have it?

I have developed a hands-on Humor Skills Training Program which shows you how to develop the basic foundation skills you need in order to use humor as a coping tool. The skill development program is presented in my book, Health, Healing and the Amuse System: Humor as Survival Training. Use the phone number at the beginning of this article to order the book. I have also provided detailed guidelines on developing humor skills in the monthly article I write at my web site,
www.LaughterRemedy.com. Click on "Humor Your Tumor" once in the site to find a series of articles on improving your humor skills.

[NOTE: To obtain the original references for the research discussed here, or to obtain more information on the physical and mental health benefits of humor, see Dr. McGhee's book, Health, Healing and the Amuse System.]

 

Stress Management

Benefits of Laughter

Research has shown that the health benefits of laughter are far-ranging. While more studies need to be done, studies so far have shown that laughter can help relieve pain, bring greater happiness, and even increase immunity. Positive psychology names the propensity for laughter and sense of humor as one of the 24 main signature strengths one can possess, and laughter yoga clubs are springing up across the country. Unfortunately, however, many people don't get enough laugher in their lives. In fact, one study suggests that healthy children may laugh as much as 400 ties per day, but adults tend to laugh only 15 times per day. (If you ask me, that is far too little laughter!) Read on for more findings about the health benefits of laughter, and see how to incorporate more humor and fun into your life.

Stress Management Benefits of Laughter:

· Hormones: Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones like
cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), dopamine and
growth hormone. It also increases the level of health-enhancing hormones like endorphins, and neurotransmitters. Laughter increases the number of antibody-producing cells and enhances the effectiveness of T cells. All this means a stronger immune system, as well as fewer physical effects of stress.

· Physical Release: Have you ever felt like you "have to laugh or I'll cry"? Have you experienced the cleansed feeling after a good laugh? Laughter provides a physical and emotional release.

· Internal Workout: A good belly laugh exercises the diaphragm, contracts the abs and even works out the shoulders, leaving muscles more relaxed afterward. It even provides a good workout for the heart.

· Distraction: Laughter brings the focus away from
anger, guilt, stress and negative emotions in a more beneficial way than other mere distractions.

· Perspective: Studies show that our response to stressful events can be altered by whether we view something as a
'threat' or a 'challenge'. Humor can give us a more lighthearted perspective and help us view events as 'challenges', thereby making them less threatening and more positive. (For more on changing your perspective, see this article oncognitive reframing.)

· Social Benefits of Laughter: Laughter connects us with others. Just as with
smiling andkindness, most people find that laughter is contagious, so if you bring more laughter into your life, you can most likely help others around you to laugh more, and realize these benefits as well. By elevating the mood of those around you, you can reduce their stress levels, and perhaps improve the quality of social interaction you experience with them, reducing your stress level even more!

How To Use Laughter: 

Laughter is one of my all-time favorite
stress management strategies because it's free, convenient, and beneficial in so many ways. You can get more laughter in your life with the following strategies:

· T.V. and Movies: There's no shortage of laughter opportunities from the entertainment, both at the theater and in the aisles of the
video stores, as well as at home with T.V. comedies. While wasting your time watching something marginally funny may actually frustrate you, watching truly hilarious movies and shows is an easy way to get laughter into your life whenever you need it.

· Laugh With Friends: Going to a movie or comedy club with friends is a great way to get more laughter in your life. The contagious effects of laughter may mean you'll laugh more than you otherwise would have during the show, plus you'll have jokes to reference at later times. Having friends over for a party or game night is also a great setup for laughter and other good feelings. (See this article on
laughing more for additional tips on getting more fun and laughter into your life.)

· Find Humor In Your Life: Instead of complaining about life's frustrations, try to laugh about them. If something is so frustrating or depressing it's ridiculous, realize that you could 'look back on it and laugh.' Think of how it will sound as a story you could tell to your friends, and then see if you can laugh about it now. With this attitude, you may also find yourself being more lighthearted and silly, giving yourself and those around you more to laugh about. Approach life in a more mirthful way and you'll find you're less stressed about negative events, and you'll achieve the health benefits of laughter. (See this article on maintaining a
sense of humor.)

· 'Fake It Until You Make It': Just as studies show the positive effects of smiling occur whether the smile is fake or real, faked laughter also provides the benefits mentioned above. The body can't distinguish between 'fake' laughter that you just start doing on purpose, and 'real' laughter that comes from true humor--the physical benefits are exactly the same, and the former usually leads to the latter anyway. So smile more, and fake laughter; you'll still achieve positive effects, and the fake merriment may lead to real smiles and laughter.

· More on Having Fun: See these additional suggestions on laughing more and
having fun in your life.

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