By Rob Mansfield
'Laughter is the best medicine': we're always being told that, but there's actually more to a good giggle than just raising our spirits for a couple of minutes.
Research shows that while children laugh up to 400 times a day, adults do it only 17 times a day, on average.
1. Laughter boosts your immune system
Researchers have found that laughter actually boosts the immune system, increasing the number of antibody-producing T cells. This then makes us less likely to get coughs and colds. It also lowers the levels of at least four hormones that are associated with stress, so after a good giggle you should be far less tense and anxious.
2. Laughter relieves pain
A good chortle has been found to reduce pain. Not only does it distract you from aches, but it releases feelgood endorphins into your system that are more powerful than the same amount of morphine.
3. Laughter improves your social life
If you can make people laugh, then you're likely to have more friends, because everyone loves a joker. You're also likely to achieve more at work: if you have a good sense of humour you'll be more productive, a better communicator and team player.
In fact, most things we laugh at aren't necessarily actual jokes, but comments in everyday conversation. Laughter is as much about social relationships as it is about humour.
4. Laughter helps relieve depression
Laughter has long been known to help people who are suffering from the either SAD or full-blown depression. Laughing reduces tension and stress, and lowers anxiety and irritation, which are all major factors that contribute to the blues.
5. Laughter boosts your relationship
If you're looking to find a new partner, then laughter will help you find a new mate. Men love women who laugh in their presence and women actually laugh 125% more than men.
And if you're already with someone, then a shared sense of humour is an important factor in keeping your relationship running smoothly.
6.Laughter gives you a mini-work-out
We've probably all used, or at least heard, the phrase 'my sides ache' after laughing too much. Well, it's no real surprise. A good belly laugh exercises the diaphragm, contracts your abdominal muscles and also works your shoulders. This will make you feel a lot more relaxed.
In fact, laughing 100 times is the equivalent to 10 minutes on the rowing machine or 15 minutes on an exercise bike, so break out those Only Fools And Horses DVDs and start watching!
7. Laughter protects your heart
According to a study by heart specialists at the University of Maryland, people with heart disease were 40% less likely to laugh in a variety of situations compared to people of the same age without heart disease.
Laughter has been found to benefit the way blood flows around the body, reducing the likelihood of heart disease. The research said that 15 minutes of laughter a day is as important for your heart as 30 minutes of exercise 3 times a week!
8. Laughter lowers your blood pressure
People who laugh a lot on a regular basis have lower blood pressure than the average person. When people have a good laugh, the blood pressure increases at first, but then it decreases to levels below normal.
Breathing then becomes deeper and this helps to send oxygen-rich blood and nutrients throughout the body.
9. Laughter improves your breathing
Laughter empties your lungs of more air than it takes in resulting in a cleansing effect - similar to deep breathing. This is especially helpful for people who are suffering from respiratory ailments, such as asthma.
10. Laughter helps you lose weight
Burning off calories by laughing might not sound as if it has much use, but a hearty chuckle raises the heart rate and speeds up the metabolism.
If you're dieting, think about adding laughter to your exercise regime. A good sitcom might easily keep you laughing for 20 minutes or more.