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Laughter is under-rated. Like seriously. It has all sorts of great health benefits

Q: Why was the scarecrow awarded the Nobel prize?

A: Because he was outstanding in his field

(lol)

When was the last time you laughed? And what kind of laugher are you? Are you a giggler? Or do you guffaw? Do you chuckle or chortle or snigger? Are you someone whose eyes stream with tears and your ribs ache? Or do you have more of a belly laugh?

It doesn't really matter. The main thing is to laugh. A lot. Out loud.

Why? Because laughing keeps you healthy and reduces stress.

Today is Stress Down Day and the theme this year is laughter. Check out your local TAFE library if you're looking for books and DVDs to make you laugh.

When it comes to your choice of hysterics where do you go first? Do you choose humourists like Anh Do and Kitty Flanagan? Or is it episodes of The Simpsons or South Park? Perhaps you prefer the escapades of Hamish and Andy as they cavort around the globe clowning around?

There are endless options available on YouTube and you can even join laughter clubs or laughter yoga classes if you're looking to extend your repertoire of side-splitting selections. In fact, you can practice laughter yoga on your own and still acquire the benefits. This is a ‘fake it till you make it' activity where you have different exercises to do that often result in spontaneous outbursts of the real thing.

Laughter is under-rated. Like seriously. It has all sorts of great health benefits including lowering your blood pressure, increasing blood flow to your heart, reducing stress hormones, soothing tension, relieving pain and improving your mood. Simply enjoying some humour is enough to improve your immune system function and the increased blood flow to your brain means better ability to remember things. And this has obvious benefits for your TAFE studies.

Lee Berk at Loma Linda University in the US has found that "humour actually engages the entire brain – it's a whole brain experience whose impact is similar to meditation. Laughing is like a total brain workout!"

The up-shot is if you want less stress - laugh more every day. But take note, joking at someone else's expense doesn't give you the same benefits. So try to avoid the sarcasm.

And what about laughing at yourself? We can all fall into the trap of taking ourselves too seriously. It's good to remember that we're human and we make mistakes and that's ok.

Not long ago I was with my partner, trying to reverse park outside a local café. For some reason my usually fine driving prowess completely abandoned me and I made an utter mess of the initial attempt. Several minutes (and attempts) later, we were both giggling like hysterical teenagers. And much to the entertainment of the al fresco diners who were enjoying the show no end. When I finally got the job done, we stepped out of the car to a round of applause and cheering.

I had no words. So I did the only thing I could think of. I stopped, briefly smiled and took a bow. Then I walked into the café.

It had been a perfect debacle. But in the greater scheme of things, it just didn't matter. The best part about it was that I helped other people reduce their stress and feel happier by giving them something to laugh at.

So, what have you laughed at today?