Being alive can be pretty stressful at times. Whether we are five or fifty-five, there’s always something clamoring for our attention, and pushing us to the edge of our breaking point.

Mean kids at school…unexpected bills…repertoire that needs to be learned for a big audition in two weeks, but meanwhile our best friend is going through a big breakup and needs support, even though we ourselves are having a conflict with the new music director at work, dealing with a house full of kids with the flu, and are beyond fed up with the next door neighbor’s dog which keeps leaving little gifts on the front lawn.

It’s been estimated that stress costs us $300 billion in missed days of work, accidents, health-related issues and insurance claims (and that’s just in the United States). And while there are a whole range of effective ways to manage our stress, there is one strategy which seems to be frequently overlooked and underutilized.

What’s that?

Ha, ha!

It’s been said that laughter is the best medicine, and some folks are taking this old adage to heart by striving to make mirthfulness, humor, and joy a more integral part of our daily lives.

One of the pioneers in this area is physician Dr. Madan Kataria (the “Guru of Giggling”) and his global Laughter Yoga movement.

There is also psychologist Dr. Steve Wilson (the “Cheerman of the Bored”) and his World Laughter Tour organization, which provides laughter facilitation training for folks who want to be able to use laughter in more therapeutic ways.

Even the military is taking laughter seriously, where Colonel James Scott is helping military families use laughter to cope with the deployment of loved ones.

Indeed, some reports suggest that humor can be a valuable coping mechanism (and for some, the difference between life and death) in even the most unimaginably difficult situations.

How does humor help?

Of course, there is much about laughter that we don’t yet understand (humor becomes a pretty complex subject if you start to look at it more seriously), and it’s true that laughing won’t necessarily make our problems go away. But have you ever had one of those days where everything was going downhill, until something completely unexpected caused you to burst out laughing, lifting your spirits and changing the trajectory of the rest of your day?

From reducing stress, to decreasing negative emotions and increasing positive ones, to enhancing creativity and memory, laughter can help us rise up to each day’s challenges and be more resilient in the face of adversity.

Heck, even just thinking about laughing seems to reduce stress.

The laughter contest

So, this week I thought we’d do a group experiment to see if we can make each other laugh so hard that soda goes up our noses and our abs hurt the next day.

Post your favorite laugh-inducing video clip, blog post, twitter feed, comic strip, etc. in the comments below (one per comment, but submit as many as you’d like). Over the next week, vote for your favorites by replying to each of your faves down below and leaving a +1.

On Saturday, I’ll tally up the votes, and announce a top five. The five readers who submitted the top vote-getters will each receive a free copy of the popular tuner app Cleartune (a big thank you to the folks at Bitcount!).

Oh, and one last thing. I’d like this to remain a relatively family-friendly blog, so please abstain from posting material (funny though it may be) that goes against your better judgment!

A few to start with

To get things started, here are some things that made me laugh recently.

Funniest use of acting talent

Funniest compilation of things parents do to their kids to see how they react

Funniest blog for parents

photo credit: basheertome via photopin cc