Article originally published in Fix.com. Edited and published with permission.

In times of increased everyday stress and anxiety due to work pressure, relationships, and fast-paced lifestyles, we push aside the personal time that is necessary for our minds and bodies to recharge. In turn, we become even more stressed, tired, and unhappy—and this cycle continues week to week.

The good news is that there are two really simple ways to overcome the stressors of everyday life: smiling and laughing. Smiling and laughing are powerful yet simple ways to remain balanced day to day. These two actions can relieve stress, fear, pain, and conflict.

When we smile and laugh, we support our physical, mental, and social health. Need more proof?

How Laughter and Smiling Affect Your Physical Health

They release chemicals. When we smile, the movements of our muscles send signals to our brains. These signals release serotonin and endorphins, which are known as the “feel-good” chemicals of the brain. These chemicals make us happy when they are released, and they can reduce perceptions of pain.

They relax the body. Laughter, particularly a good hard belly laugh, can relieve built-up body tension and stress. When we laugh, the muscles we use to do so will relax, and they can stay relaxed for 30 to 45 minutes after that.

They reduce stress. When endorphins are released in the brain, stress hormones, such as cortisol, are reduced. When we feel stressed, anxious, or fearful, our bodies release more cortisol. This cortisol release creates negative, unpleasant, stressful feelings. We can lower our cortisol levels by laughing and relaxing.

They support lung health. When we laugh, our lungs expand and become replenished with oxygen. We let a lot of air out and a lot of air in. This process is similar to deep breathing techniques used to relieve stress. Deep laughter sends more oxygen-rich nutrients and blood throughout the body.

They support heart health. Laughing on a regular basis lowers blood pressure, increases blood flow, and improves the function of blood vessels, which can all decrease your risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

They promote a healthy immune system. Laughter is a great way to reduce stress hormones and increase “feel-good” hormones. Due to these processes and changes in chemicals, our immune systems increase the numbers of white blood cells and other infection-fighting antibodies. This improves our everyday health and protects us from viruses.

They serve as exercise. A good laugh is also good exercise. It burns calories, provides our body with movement, increases conditioning and toning, and keeps our cardio systems working.

How Laughter and Smiling Affect Your Mental Health

Smiling and laughter not only support our physical health but also have similar effects on our mental health. They are powerful tools for releasing difficult emotions and making us feel good. When strong emotions such as anger, sadness, or fear are present, laughing can alleviate some of that emotional distress.

Smiling and laughter are great ways to reduce stress, and laughing during stressful times helps us stay focused on tasks, accomplish more in a day, and be proud of what we have done. When we remain attentive during our busy work or home lives, we can get more done and have the freedom to engage in fun activities.

The ability to smile and laugh during times of stress lets us shift our perspective to something more positive. This means you can see tough or challenging situations in a new light that is less restricting and threatening. By using smiling and laughter as a strategy during tough times, you can begin to feel less overwhelmed and therefore happier.

The simplest way to have a happier, healthier life is to laugh and smile more. By creating more opportunities for laughter and smiling in your life, you will begin to flourish as a person, a friend, and a professional. Your day-to-day life will become more relaxed, positive, balanced, and creative. Laughter and smiling provides our bodies and minds with the necessary recharges we require in our busy lives.


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Infographics courtesy of Fix.com