Long before a baby utters its first word, they have their first laugh. Laughter is a universal language on its own that every age, country, and culture knows and appreciates. But laughter doesn’t just feel good in the moment; there are actually short and long-term health and spiritual benefits of laughter, too.
With National Let’s Laugh Day just around the corner, let’s celebrate some of the surprising health benefits of laughter for seniors.
8 Health Benefits of Laughter for Seniors
- Laughter Releases Endorphins.
What are endorphins? Endorphins are chemicals that are released from the brain that quickly reduce stress and physical pain. Some people can trigger endorphins through exercise, yoga, or — you guessed it — laughter. Laughing instantly boosts endorphins and, therefore, lowers stress levels.
- Laughter Reduces Blood Pressure.
One of the most dangerous side effects of too much stress is that it raises your blood pressure to dangerous levels. However, here’s a positive domino effect: If laughing reduces stress, then your lowered stress level also lowers your blood pressure.
- Laughter Helps Fight Depression.
Depression is not a normal part of aging, but it can affect seniors as they transition into a different season of life. But with the release of those endorphins, you can see a decrease in symptoms of depression. Additionally, laughter can help shift your focus from those things that are unpleasant and cause feelings of depression or stress.
- Laughter Increases Blood Flow.
When you laugh, you improve the function of your blood vessels, which in turn increases your blood flow. Why is this good? Well, good blood flow can help protect you from a heart attack or other cardiovascular issues.
- Laughter Promotes Fitness.
Laughter may not be cardio (however, certain movies make you laugh so much that it feels like it), but laughter still engages almost all of the body’s systems, including all muscles and nerves. This engagement boosts energy and makes you want to move more — not to mention, it gives your abdominal muscles a workout!
- Laughter Boosts Your Immune System.
With better blood flow, lower blood pressure, less stress, and more energy, it seems like a no-brainer to say that laughter also boosts your immune system. With regular laughter, some common illnesses that might land a senior in bed for a few days are fought off with a stronger immune system.
- Laughter Improves the Memory.
Stress can have a powerful adverse effect on the brain. When the stress hormone cortisol runs rampant, it can eat away at your short term memory function. With laughter, those stress hormones are reduced, which gives your brain time to repair itself from the damage that cortisol does.
- Laughter Can Soothe Tension.
With increased blood flow through laughter also comes better circulation. It stands to reason then that with better circulation, your muscles that are experiencing tension will be adequately soothed. This can lead to less pain and better sleep at night.
Different Ways to Get Your Laughter In
Now that you know laughter has lasting physical and mental benefits, you might be looking for some different ways to have a good chuckle and start reaping those benefits. Here are some guaranteed ways to have a good laugh and start releasing those endorphins.
Spend time with family and friends
You’re more likely to laugh when you have other people around, and you’re socializing. Have a small gathering and start talking about some of the good times you’ve all experienced together. Chances are that conversation will inevitably end up in laughter.
Watch a comedy
With Netflix and other convenient streaming services, you now have thousands of comedy titles at your fingertips. Whether you like stand-up comedians or slapstick comedies, your bases are covered. With just a couple of clicks on the remote, you can find something that will tickle your fancy and get you laughing in no time.
Try laughter exercises
You might not be feeling particularly “laughy” one day, but that doesn’t mean you can’t fake it. Laughing exercises, also known as laughing yoga or laughter therapy, are exercises of self-induced laughter that might be “faking it” but have the same health benefits as actual laughter. And who knows? Hearing yourself fake laugh might actually lead you to the real thing.
When the wise man once said that “Laughter is the best medicine,” it turns out they were onto something. With health benefits that stretch from improving cardiovascular health to increasing your short term memory, laughter can improve your body in lots of ways besides just making you feel better.