By Kathy Gaillard
Laughter is no joke and there is research to prove its health benefits. While the science of humor is fairly new, studies on the health benefits of laughter consistently demonstrate that there is a connection between laughing and longevity.
For example, studies show that laughing lowers blood pressure while increasing blood flow and oxygen intake—all positive physiological effects that have been linked to reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Scientifically speaking, laughing triggers the release of the drug-like neuro-chemical endorphin, making people feel better. Studies also show that after a hearty laugh, physical pain and discomfort can be suppressed for up to two hours.
At the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, researchers found that “a wave of electricity sweeps through” the cerebral cortex (the entire brain) just before we laugh, supporting the notion that humor improves cognitive functioning by activating all parts of the brain simultaneously.
In addition, other research studies demonstrate that laughing triggers a number of other positive physiological responses such as:
• Relaxing the entire body, relieving muscle tension and stress
• Decreasing levels of cortisol—the stress hormone–dropping and minimizing body pain and
• Reducing blood pressure, combined with a moderate increase in the heart rate and improved blood circulation and oxygen intake
• Stimulating the immune system by releasing T-cells and salivary immunoglobulin
During a study by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, researchers reviewed the health records of 53,000 Norwegian older adults. After examining their health and longevity in relation to their ability to see the humor in situations they found that after seven years, the study participants who had a “sense of humor” enjoyed a 20 percent lower mortality rate, compared to those who were less likely to laugh at daily events.
Did you know that there is such a thing as Laughter Yoga? Laughter Yoga is a wellness workout that combines interactive laughter exercises with deep breathing and calming movements.
It is especially beneficial for older people who tend to want or need human contact. Many older adults miss the bonding that occurs with family and having someone close with whom they can share their emotions. Laughter Yoga sessions have the power to advance the health benefits that can occur with laughter. Many seniors enjoy these meetings because it gives them a sense of belonging and provides that much needed feeling of closeness and fraternity.
In addition, laughter therapy may be just what the doctor orders for older adults with the beginning signs of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Degenerating brain cells often make it difficult for seniors to understand and organize facts, let alone find humor in their lives.
Laughter therapy helps them to be able to laugh and start living a life full of joy once again. Since laughter is a physical process, it does not require any mental abilities so it helps older people understand humor without using their cognitive faculties.
A few hours of laughter every day can increase memory, thinking ability and intellectual capacity. People with senile dementia and the onset of Alzheimer’s have shown remarkable improvement when exposed to laughter therapy.
Other scientific studies show that a lack of oxygen in the body cells may be the culprit among older individuals who experience frequently illnesses. Laughter and deep breathing exercises promote wellness by increasing the supply of oxygen.
Laughter practitioners of all ages who suffer from chronic pain, migraines, headaches and asthma have found attacks to become less frequent, and in some cases, to disappear completely. Many people with high blood pressure, severe spinal, neck or shoulder problems and even diabetes become more stabilized and some require no medication because of laugh therapy.
So, go ahead…laugh your way to better health. Here are a few jokes about aging to get you started:
An elderly gentleman had serious hearing problems for a number of years. He finally went to the doctor and the doctor was able to get him fitted for a hearing aid that allowed the gentleman to hear 100 percent. A month later, the elderly gentleman returned to the doctor and the doctor said, “Your hearing is perfect. Your family must be really pleased you can hear again.” The gentleman said, “Oh, I haven’t told my family yet. I just sit around and listen to the conversations. I’ve changed my will five times!”
Three sisters, ages 92, 94, and 96, live together. One night the 96-year-old draws a bath. She puts one foot in and pauses. “Was I getting in the tub or out?” she yells.
The 94-year-old hollers back, “I don’t know, I’ll come up to see.” She starts up the stairs and stops. She shouts, “Was I going up or coming down?”
The 92-year-old is sitting at the kitchen table having tea, listening to her sisters. She shakes her head and says, “I sure hope I never get that forgetful,” and knocks on wood for good measure. Then she yells, “I’ll come up and help both of you as soon as I see who’s at the door.”
An old couple was sitting in their living room when the old woman leaned over and said to the old man, “Remember when we were younger and you used to hold my hand?” The old man grabbed the old woman’s hand. Then she said, “Remember when we were younger and you used to put your arm around me?” The old man put his arm around the old woman. Then she says, “Remember when we were younger and you used to nibble on my ear?” To the old woman’s surprise, the old man got up and walked away. “Honey, where are you going?” she said. The old man replied, “I’m going to get my dentures.”
Remember, laughter is good medicine and it is good for your health. If you need a little more humor in your life, here are some senior citizen humor sites for you to visit to get your daily dose of medicine: www.SuddenlySenior.com, www.Pruneville.com, www.JokeMaster.com