Did you have a good laugh this April Fool’s Day? If so, that’s great. You’ve taken one of the most important steps to improve your health. And that’s no joke.

April, which kicked off with everyone’s favorite prank-filled celebration on the first, is designated as National Humor Month. This observation was established to raise awareness of the therapeutic value of a good laugh.

The adage, “laughter is the best medicine,” is often chalked up as a cheery, trite saying fit mostly for Instagram posts and posters in waiting rooms. But there’s a great deal of truth in those words. In fact, scientific research shows that laughter has plenty of curative properties – relieving stress and alleviating the effects of mental and physical exhaustion.

Here are just four big ways laughter is scientifically proven to improve your health:

  1. It alleviates stress. Perhaps the biggest health benefit laughter provides is the wholesale relief from strain and stress that it provides.

Laughter has been scientifically proven to aid in the regulation of cortisol in the body. Cortisol, a hormone that is released when you’re under pressure, is critical to managing your blood sugar, metabolism, and so much more. But too much can cause additional anxiety.

Laughing leads to an increase in your body’s oxygen intake. This ultimately helps your circulation, which leads to a decrease in cortisol.

Additionally, our muscles also have a nasty tendency of locking up when we’re under duress. Thanks to its circulation-boosting properties, laughter can also help relieve those muscles of tension and help us to relax.

  1. It’s an immune system booster. Stress also has negative effects on our immunity against potential dangers. When you laugh – or even think positive thoughts – your body releases antibodies that go to work defending your body from various infections, viruses, and illnesses.
  2. It’s nature’s pain relief. Laughter – deep down laughter – releases endorphins, a hormone that can boost a person’s tolerance for pain.
  3. It’s good for your ticker. Laughing stimulates so many of the body’s organs. It kicks your heart rate up a notch and increases the oxygen levels in your blood. It has also been shown to reduce the stiffness of arterial walls, which can ward off cardiovascular disease.

Sounds too easy, doesn’t it? Admittedly, laughter comes more naturally to some people, while others find wrangling their sense of humor a bit harder. But the potential benefits a broad smile and a good chuckle can yield may be a key to improving your health. So, discover what makes you giggle, guffaw, chortle, snicker, or howl with laughter. And make it a point to do that thing, read that thing, or engage with that thing every day.