When was the last time you had a belly laugh? If you can’t recall, then maybe it’s time to take a humor break.
Having a good laugh can be healthy for the heart, alleviate stress, boost the immune system and enhance cognitive functioning, including short-term memory, research indicates. Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, the Department of Veterans Affairs and other online sources offer a wealth of information about the many health benefits of laughter.
Among various physiological changes, laughter releases “feel good” endorphins and serotonin, a neurotransmitter targeted by antidepressants. It also reduces serum levels of cortisol, a hormone the body produces in response to stress. Cortisol damages the hippocampus, the part of the brain involved in learning and memory. Laughter may help reverse the damage, and at the very least it can help prevent more from occurring.
As researchers have learned more about the many benefits of laughter, medical professionals have begun to use it as a form of therapy for people with chronic diseases, including cancer. Classes, such as laughter yoga, have become popular. And activities directors in retirement communities are finding creative ways of practicing humor for seniors, with the goal of getting residents to laugh more often.
So, what can you do to inject more humor into your daily routine? Plenty!
Chances are you already spend some time watching TV or surfing the internet. An easy way to develop a daily humor habit is to veer away from some of the more serious content you watch and add some shows or videos that will make you laugh.
Laughter really is contagious, so if you don’t readily laugh at funny movies or sitcoms, maybe revisiting some clips of yesteryear’s comedy shows on YouTube will get you going. Watching Tim Conway trying to make Harvey Korman laugh during skits on “The Carol Burnett Show” is a surefire way to kickstart your funny bone.
If you already laugh with ease and would like to laugh more, search online for ways to view movies and video clips featuring your favorite comedians or to find new favorites. Here are a few suggestions to help you get started:
If you’re ready to go all in, check online to see if there’s a comedy club near you and make plans to see a show. When others around you are laughing, there’s a good chance you will, too.
Growing up often means leaving our capacity to play in the past. We forget how to giggle. We trade silliness for sophistication and roll our eyes at others who are more impish.
Yet it appears that fun-loving people have the upper hand after all. Being too serious all of the time can have serious implications for our health, so why not lighten up a little?
Laughing doesn’t always come naturally, although scientists believe everyone has an innate sense of humor. If it has been a while since your inner child had the opportunity to romp, you might find it challenging to chuckle.
That’s OK. You can fake it and still derive many of the health benefits associated with laughing.
Start with a smile, even if you don’t genuinely mean it. It’s the first step.
Practice laughing in private. Force it if you have to. It still counts. You might even find you feel so silly about forcing yourself to laugh that you end up laughing for real.
If that’s just too silly, then try clowning around with your grandkids. They won’t care if you let your hair down. In fact, they’ll probably encourage it!
If you don’t have grandchildren, or they’re already grown up and beyond being goofy, then go to the dog park and watch the pups at play. Or visit an animal shelter during kitten season. It’s nearly impossible not to smile when you see little kittens pouncing and play-fighting with each other.
Remind yourself why you’re doing this: It’s good for you, now and down the road.
In observance of National Humor Month, we’re providing a list of clean and clever senior jokes you can share with your grandchildren — or anyone else who could benefit from a good laugh (which is everyone!).
One way to get in the habit of noticing life’s lighter side — and increase the benefits you derive from exercising your sense of humor — is to keep a diary of what makes you laugh.
Each day, jot down notes about funny things you see or experiences you have during the day. Aim for at least three a day. Studies have shown that doing this for a week can ease the symptoms of depression and enhance well-being for as long as six months, according to an article in The New York Times.
Plus, when you go back through your diary and reread what you’ve written, you relive the experience and achieve the same health benefits all over again. Not only will you potentially add length to your life — you’ll definitely add quality!
When you’re in the company of upbeat people who enjoy life, it’s easy to let the laughter flow.
In our community, laughter is genuine and frequent. That’s because those who live here actively engage with one another and have a strong tendency to see delight in every day.
If you’d like to explore how the camaraderie of independent living in a community like ours can make it easier to increase your daily dose of humor, come have a look around. Contact us and we’ll arrange a time for you to visit at your convenience.
In the meantime, here’s one more joke for the road: I asked a friend if she knew how to say “farewell” in French. She said, “Adieu.”
Featured Image: Yuri A. Peopleimages.com / Shutterstock