One of my favorite songs from Mary Poppins is, “I Love to Laugh.” When Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews), Uncle Albert (Ed Wynn), and Bert (Dick Van Dyke), begin to recreate all the different types of laughter, it gets hilarious. When they start to float up into the air, it makes you realize how freeing laughter is to the soul. “Laughter is the best medicine,” is the popular saying, and I couldn’t agree more. That’s why I think it’s important that we celebrate National Let’s Laugh Day!

Did you know there are proven physical benefits to laughter? According to Mayo Clinic, when you laugh you can experience the following:

Short-term benefits

Stimulate many organs. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.

Activate and relieve your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response, and it can increase your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.

Soothe tension. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.

Long-term effects

Improve your immune system. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. In contrast, positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.

Relieve pain. Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers.

Increase personal satisfaction. Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It also helps you connect with other people.

Improve your mood. Many people experience depression, sometimes due to chronic illnesses. Laughter can help lessen your depression and anxiety and may make you feel happier.

There are mental health benefits to laughter, as well. According to an article Laughter Online University:

Dysfunction in the amygdala region of the brain has been linked to disorders such as depression, Parkinson’s and fragile-X syndrome, a disorder often marked by symptoms similar to attention deficit disorder and autism.

Problems with the hippocampus result in mental illnesses including Alzheimers, schizophrenia and severe depression.

Research published in the Dec. 4, 2003 issue of Neuron showed that laughter activated an area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens, or the NAcc. The NAcc is involved in the pleasurable feelings that follow monetary gain or the use of some addictive drugs. The funnier the content, the more blood flow to the NAcc was measured, confirming its role in humor appreciation.

Laughter reduces mental tension and increases energy, enabling you to stay focused and accomplish more. Both sides of the brain are stimulated during laughing encouraging clarity, humor and creativity and better problem solving ability.

Looking to observe Let’s Laugh Day and reap some of these benefits for yourself? How about trying these five ideas:

  1. Go to Pinterest and search Humor
  2. Go to your neighborhood bookstore or library and browse the humor section
  3. Binge watch some of your favorite Sitcoms
  4. Get together with some girlfriends and take a walk down memory lane
  5. Tickle a baby’s tummy

So, now I’ll leave you with my nephew’s first joke; I think he was around 6 at the time he came up with it.

Q: What do you get when you have two cups?

A: A pair of glasses!