I was thinking the other day about laughing – about how great for us it is, not only mentally but also physically. Research says that the health benefits of laughter are huge. Laughter can help relieve pain, increase your overall feeling of happiness, and even increase immunity. Unfortunately many people don’t get enough laugher in their lives. In fact, one study suggests that healthy children may laugh as much as 400 times per day, but adults tend to laugh only 15 times per day. Other studies vary slightly, but not by much. As adults, we tend to be pretty poor laughers. And yet, the health benefits of laughter are fantastic.

Hormones: Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), and dopamine. It also increases the level of health-enhancing hormones like endorphins. Laughter increases the number of antibody-producing cells we have working for us, and enhances the effectiveness of T cells. All this means a stronger immune system, as well as fewer physical effects of stress.

Physical Release: Laughter can provide a physical and emotional release.

Internal Workout: A good belly laugh exercises the diaphragm, contracts the abs and even works out the shoulders, leaving muscles more relaxed afterward. It even provides a good workout for the heart.

Perspective: Studies show that our response to stressful events can be altered by whether we view something as a ‘threat’ or a ‘challenge’. Humor can give us a more lighthearted perspective and help us view events as ‘challenges’, thereby making them less threatening and more positive.

Social Benefits of Laughter: Laughter connects us with others. Just as with smiling and kindness, most people find that laughter is contagious, so if you bring more laughter into your life, you can most likely help others around you to laugh more, and realize these benefits as well.

And then I thought about all of this in terms of characters in a book…when was the last time I read about characters really having a laugh and what did that do to them in the story? I mean, there’s plenty of books I can think of that do character angst and do it really well…but laughing…a good belly laugh or even a chortle with friends that was more than “I laughed”. And do you know what – I couldn’t think of one! I don’t know if that’s my really bad memory or if it’s that uncommon! Can you think of any?