It’s so easy to say it that we might as well get it out of the way now:
It turns out laughter really is the best medicine.
Hearty laughter has profound short-term and long-term effects on the body and mind.
Understanding this can make a huge difference in the lives of older adults, senior living care staff and the organizations that serve older adults themselves.
Time for a laughter break
Take a moment and laugh right now.
Go ahead. No one’s watching.
You don’t need a comedy routine. You know how to go through the familiar motions of laughter.
Notice what you feel.
Just by going through the motions of laughter, we engage in deep inhalation and a full exhalation, which inspires excellent ventilation. It exercises the lungs and chest muscles, and accelerates the exchange of residual air. Did you feel your diaphragm moving up and down as you laughed? Laughter initially boosts the heart rate and blood pressure, which then return to pre-laughter levels, so it brings more oxygen to major internal organs. This activity might reduce the occurrence of bronchial infections and pneumonia, so these findings can help older adults who commonly suffer from chronic respiratory infections.
It does a body good
What’s more, laughter benefits the central nervous, muscular, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, immune, and cardiovascular systems. It’s amazing that a single act can influence seven bodily systems! It’s comparable to cardiovascular exercise, and it shares many common physiological benefits associated with exercise. Laughter:
- exercises and relaxes muscles
- improves respiration
- stimulates circulation
- decreases stress hormones
- increases immune system defense
- elevates pain threshold and tolerance
- and enhances mental functioning.
Laughter exercises facial, chest, abdominal, gastrointestinal, pulmonary, cardiac, and skeletal muscles. Plus, muscles naturally relax after laughter, and that can break the spasm-pain cycle associated with conditions that are common among older people, such as rheumatism.
Of particular note for senior living communities, laughter stimulates the immune system’s ability to fight viral and bacterial infections. And by raising our pain tolerance, laughter helps ease painful symptoms among numerous seniors who suffer from chronic conditions.
It’s also good for our minds
The physical benefits of laughter are complemented by the scientifically validated psychological effects of laughter, which include:
- reduced stress, anxiety, tension, and depression
- elevated mood, self-esteem, hope, energy, and vigor
- enhanced memory, creative thinking, and problem-solving
- improved interpersonal interactions
- and increased friendliness, helpfulness and sense of group identity.
It is well-known that laughter promotes qualify of life and general psychological well-being.
It intensifies joy.
Consider the implications of these benefits for older adults, particularly those in senior-living communities who may suffering from depression, anxiety and feelings of isolation. The laughter used in LaughActive Exercise for Seniors also makes physical activity more accessible to those with physical limitations or those who just don’t like traditional exercise programming.
Laughter helps older adults get a happy aerobic workout. We know they need comprehensive physical activity programming. Why not give your seniors the physical and mental benefits of both laughter and exercise? Watch this powerful video to see the benefits of joyful exercise taking place with a group of Elders.