01/03/2014 09:03 am ET Updated Mar 05, 2014

Lower Stress by Laughing It Up

By Jan Bruce

Building your resilience to stress is critical to helping you cope with the day-to-day, and it's a multi-pronged process -- after all, as we all know, there is no magic bullet. But there are so many powerful ways to improve your ability: living mindfully, slowing down, observing and understanding your own habits. Aligning your actions with your core values -- particularly around New Year's, when you're about to put the pedal to the metal in terms of resolutions.

(How to reduce stress in the 15 minutes a day you're not using.)

But it's also really, really critical that you laugh. Hard. I'm not kidding.

If you make it a point to laugh -- regularly -- you'll reap physical, emotional, and social benefits, too. Not that you needed a recommendation to do it! But you could use a reminder of why putting humor first matters.

When you laugh, you...

Stimulate your circulation. Laughter enhances breathing, stimulates heart, lungs and other major muscle groups, and increases endorphin release, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Activates and relieves your stress response. A good laugh fires up your stress response and then cools it down in short order, which relieves tension.

Possibly boost immunity. I say "maybe" because while this is widely believed to be true, the research at this point isn't quite there yet. One review of studies suggests that laughter "may improve immune function by blocking production of stress hormones, such as cortisol, and by increasing the release of immunoenhancers, such as beta-endorphin," but these studies are small and can't be extrapolated in any universal way currently.

Ease pain. Laughter turns on your body's production of natural painkillers! Finding more reasons and occasions for finding this hysterically funny may soothe pain and muscle discomfort.

Boost mood. This one's obvious, but worth mentioning, especially since the tail-end of the holidays and the return to the regular grind can feel like a downer. It doesn't have to be that way. Even just watching a short video can give you that lift that makes a difference. In addition to doing your regular rounds of the news, build in a few funny pitstops along the way, whether it's Funny or Die, The Onion, or searching cat videos on YouTube.

Connect with others. It goes without saying that sharing a joke or a funny experience ramps up a bond between people like almost nothing else. So try making it a goal not just to show up and "be social" but to share moments with people that make you laugh, and it can change the tenor of your night, yes, but also those relationships.

(Source: Mayo Clinic)

Check out other ways to refuel your energy.

Jan Bruce is CEO and co-founder of meQuilibrium,, the new digital coaching system for stress, which helps both individuals and corporations achieve measurable results in stress management and wellness.

For more by meQuilibrium, click here.

For more on stress, click here.