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Laughter is the Best Medicine

Life throws many stressors our way, posing a constant challenge for our mental health. 

Unfortunately, older adults have many unique stressors that they face. Deteriorating health, reduced independence, healthcare costs, and inability to do their favorite activities are common stressors for the elderly. 

As we age, coping with stress becomes even more difficult and more important. Our response to stress — as well as the triggers we experience change as we get older — make it harder to cope with stress. Luckily, laughter is an excellent stress reliever that everyone, including older adults, can use to cope with stress. 

How Stress Affects Older Adults

Stress affects all of us mentally and physically, but it is especially harmful to older adults. Some of the most common effects of chronic stress on older adults include:

  • Lowered immune system
  • Heart conditions
  • Hearing and vision loss from long-term adrenaline production 
  • Digestive issues from the central nervous system shutting down 

Use Laughter for Stress Relief

While there are certainly times to visit the doctor, laughter is one effective method for relieving stress that everyone, especially older adults, can benefit from. Laughter has incredible short-term and long-term health benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, the short-term benefits of laughter include:

  • Reduction of the stress response
  • Relaxation of muscles and tension
  • Stimulation of organs 
  • Release of endorphins
  • Reduce physical pain
  • Alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety 
  • Improve mood

Laughter helps improve how your body works and feels in the moment, but it also has lasting effects. The long-term effects of laughter include:

  • Ease of chronic pain including arthritis and other common progressive diseases
  • Boost to the immune system
  • Connection with other people 
  • Better coping with situations 
  • Live a longer life 
  • Improved quality of life 
  • Makes us happier
  • Reduction of anxiety and depression 
  • Improve your  sense of humor 

Why Does Laughter Help?

Many of the mental benefits of laughter are intuitive, but how does it help us physically? Laughter affects the body similar to exercise. When you laugh your pulse quickens and your move more muscles. You breathe faster, boosting the oxygen in your blood. Laughter can be seen as a mild form of exercise. While laughter will not help you lose weight, it produces some similar effects as exercise which contributes to the many physical benefits. 

Scientists can not say for sure if the actual act of laughing is what helps, or if social support and humor are contributing factors. Regardless, the situations that produce laughter are also beneficial. When it comes down to it, laughter certainly isn’t hurting. 

Ways to Laugh

Laughter is an excellent natural relief for stress that greatly helps improve mental and physical health. Finding ways to laugh is very important for seniors. One way to laugh more often is to intentionally seek out photos, comics, movies, or videos that you find humorous, and to hang them up or return to them when you need a laugh. Seniors who are able can also attend a local comedy night or even watch one online. 

One of the best ways to laugh more is to surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Get together with family and friends who lift your mood. Join peer groups to meet other people in your living community who you can laugh with. 

As Brand President of CarePatrol, Becky Bongiovanni is in charge of day-to-day franchise operations including new franchisee training programs, field training, and ongoing mentoring and coaching for all local franchisee offices to ensure each CarePatrol local office masters the CarePatrol system. In addition, she provides leadership for the franchisee operational support departments in the home office. Becky is also responsible for the information technology infrastructure and systems that support all franchise operations.  

About the author
Becky Bongiovanni
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