Yes, laughter is the best medicine, and it appears to work best if you're diligent about getting your daily dose. So what do you do if your home isn't exactly Comedy Central? Easy! Gather the clan around the goofy cat videos and indulge in a quick and guilt-free silly session. Even if we have to resort to clips of Grumpy Cat to provoke a chortle, we still get a genuine "squirt of dopamine" -- one of the main brain chemicals associated with happiness and pleasure, says Scott Weems, PhD, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Maryland and the author of Ha! The Science of When We Laugh and Why. It doesn't much matter what we're laughing about, as long as we're doing it.
And these good feelings multiply when we giggle together. One study found you're 30 times more likely to laugh when you're around others than you are when you're by yourself. The closer the relationship, the more intense the effect, notes Weems. In fact, he says, we should think of laughter as the Krazy Glue of a close family. The takeaway? To get happy, get intentional about getting regular guffaws, and make sure your loved ones are getting theirs, too.
A new twist on an age-old discipline, laughter yoga combines breathing techniques with playful exercises designed to relieve stress and induce chuckling. Laughter is "a release valve for pent-up emotions and tensions," says Jennifer Lennon, a Boulder, Colorado, yoga instructor. As a bonus, a good laugh has been shown to be a great cardiovascular workout.
Try some of Lennon's family-friendly suggestions to get your own gang giggling. Don't worry if as a grown-up you feel a little silly at first. "Start by getting pleasure from your kid's enjoyment," says Lennon. "Just smiling and making eye contact doing these moves helps create an emotionally enriching connection." Pretty soon you'll likely be ha-ha-ing, too.
Forget Cannes. We consider these flicks true masterworks because even after countless viewings, they still make our families snort into their popcorn.
Originally published in the May 2015 issue of FamilyFun magazine.