Lana Barhum is a legal assistant, patient advocate, freelance writer, blogger, and single parent. She has lived with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia since 2008 and uses her experiences to share expert advice on living successfully with chronic illness.

A giggle a day can help you cope and even reduce your pain because it promotes relaxation. Further, laughter releases feel-good endorphins that people living with pain really need.

Recent research has found that laughter holds great benefits for people who live with pain and illness. But, as you know, living with illness and pain isn’t fun and finding reasons to laugh can be difficult.

Here are nine ways to laugh and be joyful despite chronic illness.

  1. Don't take life too seriously. Chronic illness can bring with it challenges that can get the better of you. When you start stressing about your challenges, it is hard to find solutions. If you focus on not taking life and challenges too seriously by laughing rather than stressing, you give yourself a confidence boost that can help you overcome hurdles. Smile, laugh, and don't be too critical of yourself.

  2. Find humor during tough times. There will always be situations that are hard and that are no laughing matter. But most situations are only as complex as you allow them to be. So, the next time you find your stress getting the best of you, allow yourself to laugh over the things you have no control over. By doing so, you give yourself the opportunity to see humor and blessings all around you.

  3. Remind yourself of funny times. If you find yourself getting worked up, remind yourself of something that made you laugh. Think about a funny joke your son or daughter told you or a funny movie you recently watched. If you call upon your memories often, you will find that your anger, sadness, and fear decrease.

  4. Surround yourself with people who love laughter. I am sure you have heard this before, but it bears repeating: laughter is contagious. Make a point to spend time with people who love to laugh and laugh easily. Connect with those who enjoy life and you will see a difference in your own well-being. Young children are especially good at finding joy and laughter in everyday things.

  5. Get a pet. Animals love to play, and they do the funniest things without even knowing it. A pet can bring great joy and happiness to your life. In fact, numerous studies have shown that people who have pets experience better moods and lower stress levels and are less prone to depression.

  6. Eat foods that make you happy. When people are stressed and in pain, they have a tendency to eat foods that are high in sugar and salt. While these foods taste good, they bring with them negative health outcomes, such as weight gain and increased disease symptoms. Instead, try eating foods that give your body positive energy, such as cherries, mushrooms, dark chocolate, and salmon.

  7. Celebrate life. Living for today can be difficult when you are sick because you are constantly trying to figure which direction your health will go. Help yourself by experiencing what life has to offer. Try to enjoy every single moment of your life. Travel, shop, cook, watch a funny movie, enjoy time with loved ones, sing at the top of your lungs, dance, and just have fun.

  8. Express emotions. Frustration, sadness, confusion, anger, and resentment are feelings that chronically ill people live with and are normal and expected. Express and talk about them in a manner that is healthy and respectful to those around you. When you acknowledge these feelings, you can move on from them and give yourself room to feel love and happiness instead.

  9. Start out your day smiling. Before you get out of bed in the morning, start your day with a smile. Make sure that smile radiates into your face and eyes, runs deeply through your heart and mind, and gets through to every part of you. Smile and breathe deep into your lungs to rid yourself of anger, fear, and sadness before your day even starts. This might sound silly but give it a try and you might be surprised at the result.

Laughter helps us stay balanced during tough times. If you find just one reason every day to laugh and feel joy, you will find that your moods are better, your sleep is improved, you are less stressed, and your pain levels are decreased. And laughter is natural and free, so go ahead—laugh long and loud, and reap the emotional and physical health benefits laughter has to offer.

To learn more on this topic:
"Mental Vitamin D:" Dr. Gary's Tips for Relaxation, Happiness
8 Ways to Love Life (With Diabetes)
What We Learn from Living with a Medical Diagnosis