"Laughter is the best medicine." That old adage has been passed around for years, but is there any truth to it?
Recent research has found that the effects of a good laugh can reduce stress and pain, boost the immune system, provide social connections and make people generally happier. Reasons like this could explain why we see laughter clubs, Laughter Yoga studios, and institutions like the Laughter Wellness Institute becoming more popular; they are part of the movement to formally introduce laughter into people's lives. This movement has also brought a surge of laughter therapy into senior living facilities in an effort to boost social interaction and happiness among older adults.
Health Benefits of Laughter
Laughter has been shown to improve mood, reduce stress, and change us physiologically, making us more relaxed. However, researchers aren't sure whether these benefits are caused by the physical act of laughing, or the understanding that people who laugh are more likely to have a positive attitude and good social connections, both traits shown to improve longevity. Either way, laughing has been shown to have many positive effects on the body, and it's a fun and easy way to improve overall health.
Laughter can increase your health in the short term by stimulating organs such as the heart, lungs and muscles, increasing blood flow and oxygenation of the cells. This improves circulation, which helps soothe tension in the muscles of the body, resulting in a nice, relaxed feeling for up to 45 minutes after, and improving sleeping habits. Over the long term, laughing regularly can help improve your immune system by producing neuropeptides and infection-fighting antibodies that help fight stress and other serious illnesses. Laughing also helps relieve pain and improves overall mood, lessening depression and anxiety, increasing social connections, and making you feel healthier and happier.
Benefits for Seniors
Laughter is good for anyone, no matter what age. However, recent studies have shown that the laughter is especially beneficial for seniors because laughter therapy is well-suited for aging bodies. Laughter exercises are very low-impact, requiring only use of your mouth, and gentle movement of the arms and legs. Laughter is also good for combatting depression in older adults, which is common due to loss of loved ones, changes in health, and feelings of isolation.
Therapeutic approaches to laughter such as Laughter Wellness and Laughter Yoga are a type of complementary medicine for seniors that can help keep them in good health and good moods. The exercises are low-impact, well tolerated, and easily adaptable to all levels of cognitive, sensory and motor abilities. Best of all: It’s fun!
Benefits of laughter for seniors:
- Increases cognitive function: Degeneration of brain cells makes it difficult for many seniors to understand and process humor. Laughter therapy that relies on laughing alone rather than understanding humor is ideal for seniors to help them reap the many benefits of laughter to improve their health and well-being . As little as one hour of practice per week has been shown to increase memory and cognitive function. People with dementia and the onset of Alzheimer’s have also shown remarkable improvement with laughter therapy.
- Decreases feelings of isolation: It is common for seniors, both in their own homes and in facilities, to experience feelings of isolation. Often they do not have much contact with friends or family members, and are in need of meaningful human contact. Laughter therapy is useful because laughing together fosters communication and can greatly improve cooperation and empathy between people of different ages and backgrounds. Laughing in a group means everyone can join in and develop a sense of belonging, giving seniors that much needed feeling of closeness and bonding.
- Reduces physical illness: Lack of oxygen in the cells is a common reason for frequent illness. Therapeutic laughing can help people to laugh comfortably for extended periods of time as a form of exercise, significantly increasing their supply of oxygen and circulation. This has been shown to have many health benefits for seniors, including decreasing stress related diseases, reducing chronic pain, and controlling blood pressure.
- Improves mobility: A sedentary lifestyle, illness and lack of physical exercise cause the muscles and limbs to stiffen, which leads to immobility, pain and aches. Physical fitness stemming from laughter is beneficial because when you laugh, all your body systems are affected in a positive manner. It is particularly important for seniors as well as people who are bedridden or in a wheelchair.
- Lessens stress and depression: Many factors put seniors at risk for depression, and frustration and a loss of physical and mental health is often the result. Laughter helps to reduce stress and generate a positive attitude, combatting feelings of depression. Laughing together in a group also helps to boost self-esteem and overcome feelings of insecurity.
If you can't join a formal laughter class or therapy session, there are ways to prompt laughter on your own. For example, watch a funny movie, go to a comedy club, play with a pet, or organize a game night with friends and family. With all of the noted health benefits of laughter, let your silly side shine, and find any excuse to strike up a good laugh. If you or a loved one are experiencing feelings of isolation, anxiety or difficulty while at home, consider the benefits of an in-home care provider to assist with safety and companionship at home. American In-Home Care refers qualified, screened and credentialed care providers that perform Companion Care, Personal Care, and Live-In Care. Contact us at 1-844-505-0004 to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.