In the midst of difficult times, do you ever feel so caught up in the heaviness or despair that you can’t find anything to smile about? Do you ever feel like you’ve almost forgotten how to laugh?

A laugh-out-loud belly-laugh is like a release valve. The pressure eases, stress and heaviness fall away, and we find relief.

Laughing connects us with our Authentic Self, our Spirit. It raises our vibrational frequency, which is why once we’re able to laugh, we see with a new perspective. We become more open, heart-based, and able to look beyond the problem to solutions. The challenges we face become more manageable.

Research is continually revealing all of the great benefits of laughter on mind, body, and spirit. Some refer to it as a mild workout, an internal jogging, a massage for our internal organs.shutterstock_128256491

When we laugh we breathe faster, sending greater blood flow and oxygen to our body’s extremities. Blood vessels relax and heart function improves.

Laughing boosts the immune system and raises the level of infection-fighting antibodies. It releases endorphins and other natural mood-elevating and pain-killing chemicals.

Brainwave frequencies become similar to what master meditators achieve. Muscles relax. We look younger. Anxiety, stress, and fear diminish.

And especially marvelous, the benefits remain long after the laughter subsides.

But, as adults, laughter doesn’t always come so easily. Children laugh about 400 times a day, while an adult only laughs about 15 times—or less. We are taught to be serious and, as we mature, we spend more and more time disconnected from our Authentic Self.

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Here are some ideas to help you tap into that funny bone and experience the total system boost that laughter brings:

1. Start with a smile

As soon as you realize you are awake—even before you open your eyes—smile. Then, if you can, chuckle.

Set the tone for the day. Make a point to smile at others as your day moves forward. Smiling is the beginning of laughter, and like laughter, it’s contagious.

2. Spend time with others

When times get hard, many of us tend to isolate ourselves more, but what we really need is to connect. We are 30 times more likely to laugh when we’re with other people than when we’re alone.

Make a point of spending time with friends who laugh easily and with whom you laugh often.

3. Listen to other people laughing.

Catch the giggles of the kids playing at the park or go to a funny movie and sit near the person that laughs the loudest.

Laughter is contagious. Just hearing laughing primes your brain and readies you to smile.

4. Make time for fun.

Whatever that means for you: dancing, bowling, bike riding, movies. Keep a toy on your desk. Sleep with a teddy bear.

Play connects us with our heart and we become more childlike.

5. Create a “smile” album.

Fill a photo album with smiling pictures of people you love. Add funny stories and anecdotes.

Use this album to re-experience special moments and fun with friends or family. It will help you tap into love and laughter.

6. Lighten up.

Take yourself less seriously. See the humor (rather than self-criticism) in the mistakes you make. Find the absurdity in the difficult. Hang a funny poster or picture somewhere you will see it often.

7. Count your blessings.

Literally make a list of all the good in your life. Once you start looking, you’ll be amazed at the wonderful things you can find. Notice and appreciate them. Gratitude will move you further away from negative thoughts and open you up to a more positive experience.

Laughing brings us into the moment. It is the epitome of mindfulness. Through laughter, we find courage and strength. Distressing emotions are dissolved and we are able to relax and recharge. Suffering is reduced. We access our creativity and live from the heart.

As we strengthen our ability to laugh, we find our way to joy.

“I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose.” -Woody Allen

Kailean Welsh

Kailean Welsh is a Holistic Psychotherapist in private practice. She specializes in practical spirituality–helping people “Illuminate Their Best Self,” so they can create the life they yearn for. Kailean is passionate about returning psychology to its roots as “care of the soul.” She works with clients locally at her office in Wisconsin, as well as virtually. You can learn more about her and the work she does, at her website.