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5 Ways to Live Happily Ever Laughter

Harness laughter's powers to add more happiness to your life.

Key points

  • Laughter produces four happiness-boosting chemicals: dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins.
  • Shifting the focus from happiness to experiences that bring you laughter more effectively provides consistent contentment.
  • Intention-setting, community, and stepping outside your comfort zone are some of the necessary steps to laugh more.
Lauren Lulu Taylor/Unsplash
Source: Lauren Lulu Taylor/Unsplash

Feeling low has reached an all-time high in the US. A new study found that just 14 percent of Americans feel very happy, despite more people than ever feeling satisfied with their family's financial situation. And with a self-improvement market worth $10.4 billion, more of us should all be floating on cloud nine, right? Yet 86 percent of us have not found consistent happiness.

We've all heard the expression, "Money doesn't buy happiness." In 2006, Glen and I experienced our own great resignation and upended our cushy lives and headed to the jungles of Costa Rica to find out. A bit extreme, but during our time there, we experienced incredible joy and happiness despite the venomous snakes, temperamental plumbing, and mudslides (you can thank us later for saving you the trouble).

Looking back on that life-changing experience, one thing is clear—what carried us through those rough waters was humor. When we let go of control and instead enjoyed the comedy of being knee-deep in mud and a lack of basic necessities, things stopped being so hard and started feeling fun.

Legendary comedian Jim Carey once said, "I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it's not the answer." While Mr. Carey doesn't spell out the answer to happiness, I reckon humor would be high on his list.

Neuroscience backs up the importance of laughter. Every time you laugh, there is a drop in stress hormones in the body like cortisol and adrenaline and a release of four mood-boosting neurotransmitters:

  • Dopamine: As the reward chemical, dopamine creates a sense of euphoria and even enhances motivation.
  • Oxytocin: Considered the "bonding chemical," when released, it creates feelings of relatedness.
  • Serotonin: This mood-enhancing chemical produces feelings of calmness and happiness.
  • Endorphins: Pain meds have a new competitor: you. Did you know people can endure 15 percent more pain just by laughing for a few minutes beforehand? That is because endorphins act as a mild pain-reliever. Other health benefits include improved immune functioning, stress relief, improved cardiovascular health, reduced anxiety, and enhanced mood.

Since happiness is a side effect of levity, explore ways to shift your focus from happiness to experiences that bring you laughter. Instead of asking yourself, "How can I be happy?" ask, "What makes me laugh?" This different approach creates space for far more immediate actionable practices.

Read on for five ways to get your daily DOSE of levity:

1. Add laughter to your mornings.

Since morning routines set the tone for the entire day, laughter should be right up there with brushing your teeth on your priority list. If you're short on time, kill two birds and brush your teeth to a funny podcast or YouTube clip!

2. Learn to laugh at yourself.

As mentioned above, the moment I found humor in looking and living like a fool was when I started to love the humbling jungle. Relieving yourself of pressure is the joy of learning to laugh at yourself. It also allows you to show more of your authentic self. So, permit yourself to be silly and, set an intention to find humor in adversity. Merely laughing will fight off a defeatist spirit and fill you with light.

3. Take up something new.

There is no better way to practice laughing at yourself than going outside your comfort zone. From learning German to taking up rollerblading and Zumba, plenty of activities will prime your laughter.

4. Surround yourself with funny people.

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously asserted that you are the average of the five people with whom you spend the most time. So, put a person or two in your tribe who makes you laugh. If COVID-19 is getting in the way of social engagement, make a point to call funny friends, or if you really can’t do that, spend 15 minutes watching your favorite comic on YouTube.

5. Look at the situation through a child's eyes.

When times get stressful, please take a moment to think about how you saw things as a toddler. The more we can experience that childlike wonder and enthusiasm, the less we sweat even the big stuff.

With so many ways to laugh more, why wait for your DOSE of happiness? Instead, try any of the ideas above, and start feeling better now. A DOSE of laughter can be the best medicine!