Along with exercising daily, laughter is the best medicine.

For decades, health researchers and doctors have agreed that laughter relieves stress, helps you relax, reduces pain, and even boosts your immune system.

There are literally volumes of scientific research confirming that laughter is healing. I suggest you start with the groundbreaking classic Anatomy of an Illness by Norman Cousins.

Cousins was an editor at the Saturday Review when he fell ill with a chronic inflammatory disorder (ankylosing spondylitis) characterized by crippling arthritis and severe pain. In Anatomy of an Illness, he illustrates how, through laugh therapy, patient participation, and conventional medicine, he healed himself and lived well and merrily into his 80s.

Cousins amazed his doctors with a miraculous recovery. Every day, he watched videos like Candid Camera, The Three Stooges, and the Marx Brothers and his pain began to diminish. In the end, he became totally healed and returned to work. Ironically, the doctors had given him little hope for recovery. With the healing power of laughter, Cousins won his life and health back.

Laughter’s healing power

Bradley J. Willcox, Craig Willcox, and Makoto Suzuki, authors of the Okinawa Program, also agree that laughter is healing. According to the authors, “During laughter, muscles throughout your body tense and relax in a way that is strikingly similar to stress-reduction techniques. Laughter keeps muscles supple as well as relaxed. It also has been shown to stimulate the immune system.”

Laughter lowers blood pressure

Lee Berk and Stanley Tan of Loma Linda University in California have been researching laughter’s immune system benefits for decades. According to their research, laughing lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, increases muscle flexion, boosts immune function, activates the release of endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers), and generates an overall sense of well-being.

Laughter is good for your lungs

The secret to deep, diaphragmatic breathing is laughter. Nope, you can’t hold your stomach in when you are really laughing, therefore; when you laugh, you spontaneously empty your lungs fully taking a real, cleansing breath.

Laughter improves your mood

This one is obvious, right? Everybody knows that laughter improves your mood as well as social bonding. Laughter is often that secret sauce that keeps us keeping on.

So, lighten up and laugh it up. Can you think of a better prescription-free way to boost your spirits and improve your health? It may sound silly, but in the long run, you could laugh and smile your way into wellness. Like Norman Cousins, you might be able to help heal yourself of some debilitating condition or better yet, prevent it all together.

It’s worth repeating, Laughter helps the body to stay disease-free and fight colds and the flu, and is beneficial to the cardiovascular, respiratory, muscular, central nervous and endocrine systems.

Sure, these are challenging times for many (if not most) of us. But let’s maintain a good sense of humor, and laugh our way through these tough times. Make it a habit to get a daily dose of giggles, knee slapping, and uproarious laughter.