Photo: Flickr/Creative Commons, Amarins Spandaw.

All of us inherit things. I’m not talking about money or property. I’m talking about what we get passed down to us in our genetic roadmap. When we were younger it was really common to hear that we “looked a lot like dad,” “laughed just like mom,” or perhaps “went to jail just like your uncle.” I don’t know about you, but now that I’m older, I’m noticing I inherited some rather surprising things.

It seems that we actually inherit our tendency to be happy or unhappy. Now, I am big into choice. I believe a lot of what we experience is up to us. However, it has been scientifically proven that when it comes to happiness, a full 60 percent of our happiness is passed down to us in our genetic makeup. It’s a bit depressing, isn’t it? I mean, 60 percent?!

We are in control of 40 per cent of our happiness. Photo: Flickr/Creative Commons, Jason Hargrove.

What about the other 40 percent? It turns out that portion of our happiness is under our control. I don’t know about you, but I want to know everything about that 40 percent.

I actually looked into this – so much so that I wrote a book about it. It became clear there are many simple things we can do to help foster happiness in our lives and in those of the people we care about. The great news is that none of them involve having an inheritance of a million dollars. Isn’t that terrific?

So what’s one way we can feel better right now? How can we take advantage of that awesome 40 percent? Well, we can laugh. Laughter is by far the fastest, most effective way to make you feel better immediately. Everybody knows that when they laugh they feel good, but did you know that laughter produces a veritable biochemical festival in our bodies?

When we let loose with a huge belly laugh, it’s like Mardi Gras in our brains (without the nudity of course – OK actually with the nudity). Serotonin and dopamine are both “feel good drugs” – hormones naturally produced by our bodies. When we experience an increase of these drugs, we feel better right away. Laughing pumps both of these totally legal drugs into our system faster that you can say “natural antidepressant.”

Laughter can decrease levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Photo: Flickr/Creative Commons, Habibah Agianda.

Getting the giggles also introduces more oxygen into the blood stream as well. This helps increase creativity and energy levels. Many of us get aches and pains as we get older that are unexplainable. For instance, I have a pain in my left shoulder this morning for no good reason at all, except maybe for the fact that 40 years ago my brothers and I would beat the heck out of each others’ arms just for fun.

It’s really handy to know that at times like this that laughing acts as a natural pain reliever by decreasing the level of cortisol. This hormone pumps through our bodies when we are in discomfort. Trust me, we want to lower our cortisol almost as much as we want to lower our cholesterol. The benefits of laughing are quite amazing. We should find any excuse we can to laugh more often.

My favourite way is to eat dinner in front of shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. You could also give laughter yoga a try. There is a brilliant physician named Dr. Kataria who invented this great way of feeling better. Just search “laughter yoga” on YouTube and you’ll see a bunch of videos by him.

However you slice it, laughing is remarkably good or us. It’s free and it helps us feel better almost immediately – regardless of our inheritance.