LAUGHTER IS STILL THE BEST MEDICINE

Posted on December 7th, 2011

For some people, life after 65 represents the golden years, but for others it’s filled with a plethora of doctor visits that can make life a drag. One of the best ways to feel better is also the simplest:  laughter.

Never say, “Never.”

It is never too late to start letting the little things go, and looking for opportunities to make light of silly situations. One way is to look for ways to connect with people who have a slightly skewed – even ridiculous – take on things.  They will bring you more joy and help you react to things less seriously. Try reminding yourself every day of the importance of laughter, and you may even be able to affect change in those around you.

Scientists are still learning how and why laughter benefits our health.

Laughter is a natural impulse. It may not be as important or automatic as breathing or blood pumping, but it is right up there with crying or scratching an itch…only better. You know that laughter is good because it feels great at the time and you feel better afterward.

Norman Cousins had the right idea!

Ever since Norman Cousins wrote his book, Anatomy of an Illness, in which he personally explored the benefits of laughter, scientists have been researching laughter benefits. What they know for sure is that laughter relieves pain. Cousins liked to watch the Marx brothers and Candid Camera on television when he was ill, and claimed that 10 minutes of laughter helped him sleep for two hours without pain.  According to Cousins, “Hearty laughter is a good way to jog internally without having to go outdoors.

Laughing is good for you!

Some doctors now recommend getting 15 minutes of laughter every day. They believe laughing benefits health in the following areas:

  • Good Hormones – Laughter produces the natural feel-good endorphin hormones, which can help reduce stress, aid relaxation and sleep and produce a natural “high.”
  • Mini Workout – Pioneer researcher William Fry compared exercise to laughter, concluding that just one minute of “hearty laughter” elevated his heart rate to the same level it reached after 10 minutes on a rowing machine.
  • Heart Health – Laughter increases blood supply and expands the inner walls of your arteries.

The most satisfying laughter is shared. Think back to the last time you really laughed. Were you alone? Probably not. Couples know that laughter is a superglue-like bonding experience, allowing them to achieve intimacy and smooth over ruffled feathers with a single snort.

Families benefit from shared laughter.

Siblings can become best friends. After all, it is hard to dislike a person that makes you laugh. Laughter is infectious. Laughter gives you the ability to make choices when everything seems to be out of your control. Instead of falling apart at provocation, you can choose to laugh about it, which in turn makes you feel like you’re in control.

Laughter can help you survive with your sanity intact.

Laughter is helpful in large and small doses, but it is best when it is spontaneous. When you experience a good laugh, your brain secretes endorphins and the movement of laughter within your body actually exercises many muscles of the body. Endorphins are the “feel-good” brain chemicals, which raise both your mood and your ability to cope.

Humor helps to keep your body strong.

Laughter is one of the body’s safety valves; a counter balance to tension. When we release that tension, the elevated levels of the body’s stress hormones drop back to normal, thereby allowing our immune systems to work more effectively.

Yes, laughter is actually is the best medicine and good for our health!

Lois Young-Tulin

Lois Young-Tulin, PhD, is an Assistant Geriatric Care Manager at Elder Connections

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