How Laughter Improves Your Health

How Laughter Improves Your Health

The phrase “laughter is the best medicine” is widely known, but how did it come about? What are the reasons behind its presumed healing properties? Apparently, there’s some science behind this old saying. Laughter really does have the ability to boost your wellness! Not only can it improve your mood, it can also encourage blood flow, heighten your immunity, increase your intellectual performance, and set you up for a better night’s rest.1 

Tomorrow is National “Let’s Laugh” Day. Make some time to go down to a comedy club or to watch your favorite comedy at home. As you’ll soon learn, a little joy can go a long way! 

Blood Flow Benefits

Laughter can actually impact your physiology. To examine this, the University of Maryland Medical Center invited volunteers to watch funny and disturbing movies. While watching the movie that produced mental stress, the group developed a reduction of blood flow from the narrowing of their blood vessels. The opposite reaction was observed when they watched a movie that made them laugh. Their blood vessels dilated which increased blood flow. 

The endothelium, the inner lining of the blood vessels that is expanding or constricting, plays an important role in cardiovascular health. It’s plausible that laughter can help keep it healthy which, in turn, can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.2 


Stress is known to lower your body’s ability to protect itself. Positive, stressreducing thoughts can release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more serious illnesses.3 In addition to that, a study on laughter therapy found that laughing increases the number and activity level of natural killer cells that attack viral infected cells and even certain kinds of tumor and cancer cells.4 This means that laughter can naturally beef up your body’s defense mechanisms. Those are some powerful benefits!  

Intellectual Performance

Have you ever sat down to an exam, a difficult assignment, or a meeting, and felt too anxious to really give it your best? Laughter can help you improve your intellectual performance because it helps relieve your anxiety! In an experiment that tested this concept, participants who were exposed to funny cartoons before a mathematics exam performed better than participants who did not have this exposure.5 When anxiety cannot impair your thinking, it is easier to perform intellectual tasks. 

Better Sleep

Because laughter stimulates blood circulation and helps your muscles relax, physical symptoms of stress are allowed to dissipate.3 Reducing your stress levels can help your body reach the state of relaxation it needs in order to fall asleep and to sleep more restfully. A key finding among studies that examined laughter therapy and its effects on depression and sleep was that once a week was insufficient. Laughter therapy provided more than twice a week was shown to improve both depression and quality of sleep in participants.6 

It seems the old saying has some merit! Even if some of its effects are minor or gradual, there’s no doubt the body can benefit from a good laugh. Read up on more interesting health topics and stay in-the-know by subscribing to our monthly newsletter! 

10 Everyday Items That are Covered in Germs

10 Everyday Items That are Covered in Germs

Good health starts with good hygiene practices. Many of these everyday items are not our first thought when we think of germs, but if you know it’s there, you can do more to protect yourself from illnesscausing pathogens. Promote healthy living by keeping your immune system strong with nutritious food and regular exercise, and by washing your hands often (especially after touching or using any of these germy everyday items). 


Cash is notoriously germy and can carry potential pathogens like E. Coli, Staph bacteria, and salmonella.1 While you won’t get sick just from touching it, you can get sick if you eat or if you touch your nose or mouth before washing your hands.


Be truthful with yourself for just a minute. Has your phone accompanied you to the bathroom even once? Even if it hasn’t, research has found that phones carry tons of bacteria, including the kind that cause strep throat, the flu, and yeast infections.2 It’s a good idea to sanitize your phone regularly! You can use an alcohol-based wipe or a cotton ball with a light coating of rubbing alcohol.

Your Purse, Backpack, or Wallet

These items go everywhere with you. Your purse or backpack will often go to the bathroom with you, get set on the floor, and carry germy items like your phone and cash. Your wallet is no exception, especially if you carry it in your pocket where the warmth and humidity created by your body provides the right environment for bacterial growth.

Pin Pads

Every time you purchase something and use a pin pad or other electronic check-out device, you are touching something that hundreds of others have touched too. They aren’t sanitized between each guest, so we’re not surprised at the research that states there are as many bacteria on pin pads as there are on toilet seats!3

Remote Control

When you get home and just want to wind down with some of your favorite shows, you may want to consider what’s living on your remote control. When was the last time you wiped it down? If you’ve ever munched on snacks while watching T.V., you may have grabbed the remote to turn down the volume or changed the channel when your hands weren’t exactly clean. We all know what loves to live on sticky, oily, foodcovered surfaces.

The Gasoline Pump

The gas pump is packed with germs, probably because they’re never or rarely cleaned! A study by the University of Arizona found astoundingly high numbers of microbes on gas pump handles. 71% of the inspected handles had microbes associated with illness and disease.4

Refrigerator and Microwave Doors

For the same reason you want to clean other surfaces that come into contact with food, you’ll want to clean your refrigerator and microwave doors. Not only are they commonly touched, but you may be touching them when you’re in the middle of food prep. Washing your hands before you eat is a good way to keep bacteria that was on your hands from entering your body. Follow the same principle for the surfaces you touch just before you eat.

Air Dryers

Air dryers in public restrooms circulate the bacteria in the air and deposit it on your freshly washed hands. According to Healthline, the bacteria doesn’t come from within the air dryer itself. The movement of air essentially collects the freefloating bacteria5 (which is already going to be more plentiful in a public space). Your best bet is to dry with paper towels. Fortunately, more and more tree-free products are hitting the market, so you don’t have to feel too guilty.

Toothbrush Holders

Because it’s so close to the toilet, your toothbrush holder can be teaming with bacteria. One flush can unleash fecescontaining aerosols6 from the toilet and release them into the bathroom where they can land on anything. Considering it holds a brush that goes in your mouth, try sanitizing it by popping it in the dishwasher (if it’s dishwasher safe) or washing it with hot soapy water. 

For more articles like this one, and to keep up to date on our fitness, nutrition, and wellness articles, subscribe to our monthly newsletter, today! 

What You Should Know About Women’s Depression

What You Should Know About Women’s Depression

International Women’s Day

This Sunday is International Women’s Day. The day is dedicated to women’s rights, to recognizing key achievements, and to acknowledging all that still needs to be done. We’d like to contribute to the day’s spotlight on women by discussing an important piece of women’s health: mental health. 

Depression affects both men and women, and it’s not just a bad case of sadness. It doesn’t always have a reason and isn’t gender, age, or lifestyle exclusive; it happens to everyone.  

Our focus is on depression today because of its prevalence. We hope that all readers can benefit from today’s article but would also like to note that this issue is more present among women than it is among men. This is likely due to certain biological, hormonal, and social factors that are unique to women.1 It’s an appropriate time to bring the discussion to the table and to offer up some helpful information. 

Is Depression Normal?

No. Depression is not just a part of life or something you have to live with. It’s a medical condition with many models of treatment. Yes, depression is common, but it’s also serious. It’s important to remember that sadness and grief are normal and healthy parts of the human experience. Only your healthcare provider can help you determine whether your symptoms indicate depression, but if you would like to reference a description of potential symptoms, you can find one here 

Will it Go Away on Its Own?

Depression typically requires treatment, either in the form of therapy (which isn’t scary or something to be ashamed of by the way), medication, or sometimes a combination of both. A statement from an article by the National Institute of Mental Health deserves to be reiterated here:You can’t just ‘snap out’ of depression. Well-meaning friends or family members may try to tell someone with depression to “snap out of it,” [or to] “just be positive,” but depression is not a sign of a person’s weakness or a character flaw.” Often, the reason a person is depressed stems from something that’s out of their control (like a biological, psychological, or environmental factor)1. 

Why Do Women Experience Depression More Than Men?

The Mayo Clinic offers a nice breakdown of the various elements that make depression more commonplace among women. It demonstrates exactly what it means to have biological, psychological, and environmental factors in play. We will briefly describe them here, but if you would like to read about them in greater detail, you can read the Mayo Clinic’s article on Depression in Women.


Certain factors that emerge during puberty, like sexuality and identity issues, conflicts with parents, and increasing pressure to achieve in various areas of life, contribute to the emergence of depression. These factors apply to boys as well, but because girls typically reach puberty earlier, they are likely to develop depression earlier; this depression gender gap may continue throughout life.2 

Premenstrual Problems

Most of the time, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms are minor and short-lived. Some women, however, experience severe symptoms that are significantly disruptive to their lives. This increased severity turns PMS into a type of depression that generally requires treatment.2 


Dramatic hormonal changes during pregnancy or during attempts to become pregnant can contribute to depression. There are also many other lifestyle, relationship, work, and social factors associated with pregnancy that play a role.2

Post-Partum Depression

Many new moms experience sadness, anger, and irritability after giving birth, but serious and long-lasting depressive symptoms may point to post-partum depression. This occurs in about 10-15% of women.2 

Peri-Menopause and Menopause

The erratic fluctuation of hormone levels can increase the risk of developing depression. Other factors like poor sleep and weight gain also play a part.2

Life Circumstances and Cultural Stressors

Unequal power and status, work overload, and sexual or physical abuse, also contribute to depression in women. These factors occur in men too, but usually at a lower rate.2 

What to Do if You or Someone You Know is Exhibiting Signs of Depression

For the person experiencing depression, the most difficult part of treatment is recognizing the need for it and seeking help. A good first step is to talk to your doctor. They can help assess your symptoms and point you in the right direction. 

If you would like to help someone who is struggling with depression, the best thing you can do is to be present. Show your support by listening and asking how you can help. Sometimes the preferred help is simply that you sit with them for a while. Avoid giving unsolicited advice, minimizing the problem, or trying to “fix” how the person is feeling.  

Depression is not to be taken lightly, and the risk of suicide is very real. If you believe your loved one is at risk for suicide, do not leave them alone. In the U.S., call 911 or the National Suicide Hotline at 1 (800) 273 – 8255. The new 3-digit national crisis hotline (988) is not yet active. In Canada, call the Canada Suicide Prevention Service at 1 (833) 456 – 4566. For anywhere else in the world, visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention to find resources and helplines for wherever you are. 

For more articles like this one, read our article on the Elimination of Violence Against Women. To stay in-the-know on important health and nutrition topics, subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the Living Healthy Blog! 


  1. “Depression in Women: 5 Things You Should Know.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,  
  2. “Women’s Increased Risk of Depression.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 29 Jan. 2019,  

10 Ways to Take Advantage of the Increasing Daylight

10 Ways to Take Advantage of the Increasing Daylight

Spring is rapidly approaching and, with it, those longer days of sunshine! With the exception of Hawaii, a large majority of Arizona, and a handful of U.S. territories like Puerto Rico and Guam, the clock will shift forward by one hour this Sunday, March 8th 

With more daylight, you can do a lot more with your evening hours. To enjoy that benefit, you’ll have to exchange your crisp blue morning for a darker one. Here are some tips for how to adjust to the darker morning, and how to make the most of your longer evening. 

Your Sleep Schedule

Your sleep schedule is getting thrown off again, when it seems you’ve only just gotten used to the new routine. Your circadian rhythm regulates your alertness or sleepiness, and it accomplishes this by assessing the light levels in your environment. Because your mornings will now be darker, you may notice greater difficulty with waking up. You might also have more trouble getting sleepy as your usual bedtime approaches because it won’t get dark until later.  

Turn on some lights when your alarm goes off in the morning to help you feel more awake and be mindful of the time in the evening so you can give yourself time to wind down before bed. 

Take Advantage of the Extra Evening Light 

The best thing about extra light in the evening, is that you can actually tackle your to-do list. With the extra daylight, these items no longer have to wait for the weekend. 

  1. Clean Out the Rain Gutters: If you have your own house, you’ve probably needed to clean these out at some point. You probably also know how dangerous it can be to do this job while it’s dark. Use your judgment to determine whether it’s best do this before or after the April showers.
  2. Do Some Gardening: Unless you really love nighttime critters, it’s a good idea to do your gardening in the daytime. You’ll have a better sense of the bigger picture you’re creating and also better gauge color and plant sizes.   
  3. Food Prep: Sometimes we just can’t get to this on the weekends. A little extra daylight can help give you that boost of energy you need to tackle this one on a weeknight! 
  4. Laundry: Mid-week laundry sessions can help you make up for the times you’ve let things pile up. Just like with food prep, the extra light can keep you energized during this monotonous chore.  
  5. Get Dusting: Natural light can help you see where the dust has been collecting. Take the opportunity to wipe off dusty surfaces and sweep or mop the floors. With allergy season looming, you’ll be glad you did! 

Add More Fresh Air to Your Week 

Your to-do list isn’t the only thing that can benefit from extra daylight. You can finally enjoy the outdoors again as the weather warms. Here are some ways to add a little more fresh air to your week. 

  1. Go for a Jog, a Walk, or a Cycling Session: Not only is it safer to do this in daylight, it’s also a perfect time for evening exercise. Once summer weather arrives, the day’s heat can make evening workouts far less enjoyable. If you’re accustomed to early morning exercise, make sure you wear bright, reflective clothing because the darker morning will make you less visible. 
  2. Go Out to Watch the Sunset: After a long day, you’ll actually have time to make it out to a good spot to catch the sunset. Don’t waste that opportunity! 
  3. Enjoy Your Dinner Outside: If you live in a part of the country that’s already serving up picnic weather, take your dinner outdoors and banish those wintertime blues. 
  4. Build Something: It’s not fun when you’re sanding, painting, or staining your project in artificial light and later realize it looks nothing like what you expected. Use your precious daylight to work on projects that need a bit of extra care.  
  5. Pause for Playtime: Take your pet to the park or give them some much deserved love and attention at home! Or, enjoy some time with friends or family that isn’t focused on homework or chores. 

How will you use your extra daylight? Share your thoughts in the comments below! Stay in-the-know on trending health and nutrition topics and subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the Living Healthy Blog! 

4 Common Stress Responses and What You Should Do Instead

4 Common Stress Responses and What You Should Do Instead

Physical and biological responses to stress can really mess with our health. We experience varying levels of this emotion every day, so it’s good to draw some attention to some of the unconscious responses to stress that have the potential to damage our wellbeing.  

Here are 4 things you probably do when stressed, along with 4 things you can do to cope with them: 

Common Stress Responses 


When you’re stressed you may unconsciously clench your jaw, tighten up your shoulders, or clench your fists. You probably won’t realize it in the moment, but this habit can lead to pain down the road.  

A tight jaw can lead to headaches or neck aches, and it can also lead to teeth grinding while sleeping. Teeth grinding can also be a source of pain as it can cause tooth sensitivity, receding gums, and headaches 

Do This Instead: Make a conscious effort to relax your muscles. When you notice you are feeling anxious or stressed, try doing a full-body scan in your mind and relaxing each group of muscles as you go. 


Eating has a special connection with stress. Psychology Today explains that stress involves the release of the hormone cortisol. When you have this hormone in your system, your brain sees it and automatically stops producing more so your system isn’t overloaded with it. However, the role it plays in your body is part of the reason why you feel comforted by eating.  

Cortisol tells your body to prepare immediate energy for your muscles to either fight or flee from the stressful situation. When you “stress eat” you’re psychologically comforted by the fact that you are replenishing the energy stores your body has been demanding. 

Do This Instead: When we have access to high-calorie foods, it’s more difficult to turn down the impulse to stress eat. Try to avoid stocking those foods or buy only a small amount. If you don’t have a lot, you’re likely to eat them less often because you’ll want to stretch your supply to last longer. The preferred solution, however, would be to address the source of the stress. That is the healthiest long-term solution.


The opposite of stress eating can also be true. Sometimes, when your stomach is in knots, you’ll find you don’t have the desire to eat at all. The Cleveland Clinic explains that this is more about not noticing your hunger cues because you’re so focused on the stressor. It’s important to note this distinction because loss of appetite can also be a symptom of depression. 

Do This Instead: If your stomach is in knots and you can’t seem to eat, focus on relaxing to melt some of that stress away. Keep a stress ball at your desk, take a minute to step outside, try some breathing exercises, or refocus your energy by giving yourself something to do.  


When things look hopeless, it’s often tempting to just stop trying. Whether you’re struggling to achieve something you’ve been working towards or have encountered an unexpected obstacle, throwing in the towel is a common stress response. The sudden rush of relief from no longer needing to work through a problem can make it easy for us to give up. This is also tied to feelings of anxiety.  

Stress and anxiety can be good for you in small doses. They are good motivators and help you move forward with things that need to get done (for example taking a test or preparing for an interview). When they start to become overwhelming and cause you to withdraw from people, situations, or tasks more than is healthy, it’s a good time to address these emotions more seriously. 

Do This Instead: Instead of throwing in the towel when you feel stressed, ask yourself some questions first. Why did your situation become the way it is? Are your worries realistic or are you blowing the problem out of proportion? Do you have feasible options you’re trying not to take because they look scary or difficult? Being honest with yourself can help you assess your situation better and help you decide if it’s really better to abandon your goal.  

What are some ways that you combat stress in your life? Share your approach with us in the comments below! For more ways to care for yourself, read these reminders of why you are worth the self-love. Stay in-the-know and subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the LA Fitness blog! 



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