It took a long time, but I finally know myself very well, and I am fully aware that if I don’t set an intention to be playful and to laugh, I simply won’t. 

I used to tend to be all too serious about everything (sometimes it still creeps in). I’d be sat tight jawed and with tension pulling my shoulders forwards, focussed, doing my job, doing the chores, doing the to-do list.

My teenage years certainly shaped what was natural to me; I was always worried about offending people, so I rarely made jokes, I didn’t like the look of my wonky smile and laughter didn’t easily flow through our home. I’d always envied funny people or those who laughed with ease, having said that though I did know what it felt like; weighty, full belly strong, jaw aching, tears pouring laughter. It filled me with glorious cathartic elation and then peaceful exhaustion.  

Laughter feels good; in fact, real laughter makes existing a joy, lighter, freer, worthwhile.

Image courtesy of Frank Busch

Science seems to agree and indicates that laughter can act like the most natural medicine to common problems, with no nasty side effects. A 1990 study into laughter and anxiety, made participants falsely believe that they were going to receive an electric shock after some time. A selection of the participants were given funny shows to watch. Those watching the shows reported feeling lower levels of anxiety while waiting for their shock and even more interestingly those who declared themselves to have a stronger sense of humour had the least anxiety.  Not only is it possible that laughter could reduce anxiety, but it may also aid individuals with depression and struggling with good quality sleep. In 2017 The Korean Journal of Adult Nursing conducted a study on 42 long term residents of care hospitals, a sample of people known to be prone to depression and sleep problems. Half of the participants took part in 40 minute laughter therapy sessions, twice a week, resulting in reduced depression and generally elevated moods, along with improved sleep. The therapy included “Singing funny songs, laughing for diversion, stretching, playing with hands and dance routines, laughing exercises, healthy clapping, and laughing aloud.” 

Laughter may even help prevent illness by boosting immunity! A 2005 study from the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine tested the breast milk of postpartum mothers. It discovered that mothers who received laughter therapy had slightly higher levels of IgA, which are essential antibodies that play an important role in the immune system. The increase was slight, but scientists still considered it to be highly significant as they would expect a natural decline.  

So whether it is because it could boost immunity, help your heart, aid arterial blood flow and resting blood pressure, assist with pain control, reduce anxiety, lift depression or improve sleep, laughter is undoubtedly one of the greatest joys in life.

We want more and here is how to get it!

Set the intention – Setting the intention to laugh is something I still do but is something so many of us neglect in including in our to-do list for the day. We like the idea of laughter just happening, but most of us aren’t surrounded by funny people or funny things, and it takes a little planning. Imagine jumping forwards to your last day on earth; making laughter a priority for each day is something you will never regret, whereas prioritising the chores could be.

Be more child – “The average four-year-old laughs 300 times a day. The average 40-year-old? Only four” Psychology Today Perhaps it because the child is living more in the moment than worrying about yesterday or tomorrow, maybe it is a more innocent mind finding the first sight of so many things so funny or maybe it is simply that the child’s heart is open and ready for laughter. Whatever the reason the figures can’t be ignored, so let’s be playful, let’s be in the moment and find joy in the little things.

Image courtesy of Frank Mckenna

Smile – Smiling is infectious, it lifts your spirits, and those around you and our brain can’t tell the difference between a real smile and a pretend smile. When we smile, the brain releases the feel good hormones making us enhancing our mood and reducing stress, the perfect environment for laughter. 

Learn to laugh at yourself – It took a long time for me to manage this! My human instinct is to feel self-conscious, but once I discovered peoples reactions when I shared silliness and laughed at my imperfections, it became easy. As soon as you laugh at yourself, it puts everyone else at ease, the need for perfection is lost, and the mood becomes so much lighter!

 Find your favourite comedian – Do you have a favourite comedian? More than one? The hunt for your favourite could prove to a fun task in itself. Don’t just settle for having comedy in your life occasionally, buy the DVD, get on YouTube, let your top comedian bring laughter into your daily life.

Have a YouTube playlist of laughter videos – It’s not just comedians waiting for you on YouTube, there is a whole host of hilarious clips. What makes us laugh is so personal though, I may laugh at other people laughing whereas you may laugh at a dog being silly and someone else may laugh at people slipping on ice. Start a laughter playlist on YouTube and make either the searching or the watching part of your daily life.

Try something new – When I started salsa dancing classes I did it because I wanted to learn to dance, I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and make friends, I had no idea how much laughter it would bring into my life. Doing something different, meeting new people and being challenged is a great way of lightening the mood and allowing laughter in.

Spend more time with your dog – Dog, cat, horse; even our duck could make me laugh. Animals are notorious for doing silly, funny things while being completely oblivious to how much it means to us! Stop rushing and just be with them, allow them time to bring joy to you. 

Follow funny people on social media – Phillip Schofield, Lewis Capaldi and James Blunt have been some of my favourites in the past. How much of the stuff on your social media do you genuinely love to see? What if you unfollowed the energy suckers, grumpies and moaners and started following the hilarious friends or celebs that will have you in fits of giggles.  

Play with autocorrect and predictive text – I have cried with laughter reading viral screenshots of auto-corrected conversations but you can even play the game with a friend. Might be best to warn them first but then the rule is that you type one word and then you are only allowed to hit the middle button! An easy way to laugh a lot! 

Play silly games with your friends – Whether it’s the oldies like Charades or Pictionary or something newer like Cards against humanity or Pie Face, as soon as the laughter starts, it will undoubtedly become infectious. Plan ahead and grab any opportunity to be playful.

Image courtesy of Omar Lopez

Watch some live comedy – Yes the tickets to a show might be expensive but is there any better therapy than a night of laughter? I think comedy is an excellent investment and I have lapped up many evenings with Tim Minchin and Eddie Izzard. Why not have a look now when your favourite comedians are on tour near you? Even if you don’t have the cash to spend on a big show right now, check out your local comedy club. Grab a group of friends and make the comedy club a monthly tradition!

Spend time with people who make you laugh – Notice the people that make you laugh and invest time into those relationships. If you already have those friends, make time for them and make sure they know that they’re important. If you don’t have them be open-minded, open-hearted and ready to invite new funny friends into your life. Notice when anyone makes you laugh in any situation, you never know where you are going to meet your new most hilarious friend!

Notice the things that make you laugh and do them more – As well as noticing the people who make you laugh, try to see the things that make you giggle too! Is it watching Gogglebox? Is it bathing the dog? Is it going ice skating? Become conscious of laughter and keep drawing it into your life.

Laughter Yoga – Yes it’s the new big thing to hit big cities! “You don’t need any jokes, any humor, or any comedy. You don’t even need to be happy. What we do is laugh in a group and initiate laughter as a form of bodily exercise, but when we have eye contact with others, this laughter becomes real and contagious.” Dr. Madan Kataria, founder of the Laughter Yoga School. Why not google it and see if it’s offered in your area? 

Image courtesy of Christian Bowen

Laughing and smiling does not mean that everything in life is perfect. I know that everyone I meet is facing a battle, so when I see laughter, I also see strength, I see fierce determination to pull the very best goodness from life! This glorious, cathartic laughter, we need much more! Let’s pull giggles into our lives from every direction and make merriment natural. As you become aware of what works for you, create a list on your wall and don’t forget that YouTube playlist. Get things ready so that on the sad days, the serious days, the lonely days or the days when laughter just doesn’t come easily, you can show that gorgeous strength and find it. Be the person that brings joy. What if today you left the suitcases full of worry at home and instead took a rucksack of laughter? Be the one who brings the joy!

Cover image courtesy of Seth Doyle