Years ago, hosting and producing a Wellness TV program for a local cable station, I would regularly bring guests into the studio for interviews about their service, products, and expertise. Sometimes I would take camera crew to event locations to gather footage and dialogue there.

On one particular occasion we set off to the Metro Convention Center in downtown Toronto for a large health and wellness expo. The highlight of the show was interviewing Dr. Patch Adams, American physician, social activist, clown, and author who believes that laughter is the best cure for all diseases. Many people know about him due to the 1998 movie starring Robin Williams that was based on Adam’s life and views on medicine.

I was touched and impressed by Patch’s ability to connect with the audience, to make them laugh, to tear up, and to connect in ways that regular daily life does not always afford. What he said made sense. His activities were simple but powerful, and everyone seemed receptive and inspired by his message.

Simple, regular healthy habits are typically the most valuable and effective in shaping our health and wellness.

Laughter is no exception.

Many people laugh and enjoy it, but they may not know the tremendous value and benefits of laughter.

The common belief is that laughter is a by-product of humour. While in fact laughter is primordial, and humour is a more recent discovery.

Recently I attended “Laughology”, a documentary on laughter. It recounts a man’s journey to reclaiming his laugh, something he had lost due to high levels of stress and seriousness. In his quest he encountered and had dialogues with tribes, neuroscientists, and laughter doctors who all confirmed the same thing as Patch Adams: when it comes to warding off illness, reducing the negative impacts of stress, and making our lives more positive and enjoyable – laughter is our best course of action.

Although the serious investigation of laughter is only about fifteen years old, neuroscience has gathered enough evidence to determine that the brain is actually designed to be a laughing machine!

Our body craves laughter! It feels so good and is so darn healthy for us. It stimulates all our cells, gets our circulation pumping, enhances blood flow to the body’s extremities, improves cardiovascular function, releases endorphins and other natural mood elevating and pain-killing chemicals, improves the transfer of oxygen and nutrients to internal organs and brain, boosts the immune system and helps the body fight off disease and cancer cells as well as viral, bacterial, and other infections. To top it off, research shows that those who laugh regularly live eight years longer!

To add to the value of laughter, when people are asked what is important in their lives, many will say humor. Couples listing the traits they cherish most in their spouse, usually put “sense of humor” at or near the top.

Tribes and cultures like the Inuit treat laughter as a sacred and important tradition. They have an old saying, “Those who know how to play can easily leap over the adversities of life. One who can sing and laugh never brews mischief.”

So if it is that healthy, medicinal, and enjoyable, why aren’t more people laughing and more often?

The current reason could be the same as why many people do not do a lot of things that are easy and common sense practises: they have lost touch with their natural instincts.

However, centuries ago laughter and humour were not viewed in such a glowing light.

Dating back to Classical Greece, Plato was the most influential critic of laughter and treated it as an emotion that overrides rational self-control and should be avoided. Aristotle and The Stoics agreed with Plato. Epictetus advised “Let not your laughter be loud, frequent, or unrestrained.”

Thankfully,laughter could not be conquered. It was destined to rise as babies across the globe in various cultures and traditions naturally learn to laugh as part of their growth. No one teaches them; it’s simply an inherent part of their development and functioning.

Clearly we are meant to laugh.

The people who make me laugh the most are my daughter, my mother, and my sisters. We regularly share in giggles, chuckles, and downright roars of laughter.

There have also been those gut-splitting occasions when I was literally rolling on the ground laughing so hard, tears leaking from my eyes, doubled up in stitches, wondering how I was going to get my next gasp of air.

Do you have recollections such as this? I’m sure as you think of them, they make you smile.

Common memories for many are of the times we laughed in situations where it wasn’t ‘appropriate’, like in school or at church. Doesn’t it seem even harder not to laugh when we know it’s going to annoy someone or get us in trouble?

Of course, a teacher can’t effectively teach or a preacher can’t effectively preach if pupils or people are telling jokes, being silly, and laughing constantly. But ironically it would stimulate the brains and engage the hearts of of those they want participating in their message.

So, where can you insert more smiles and laughter into your life? Remember, as you do it, others are likely to get on board, too; because another gift of laughter – it’s contagious.

And thankfully, as it’s the kind of thing we want to pay forward.

To your Joy & Laughter,