Ageing is no laughing matter – or is it?
The daily challenges of ageing can leave many people feeling overwhelmed, unhappy, depressed and anxious. But while you may lose many things as you get older, your sense of humour shouldn’t be one of them.
As it turns out, laughter really is the best medicine, and can help sweeten the inevitable onset of ageing. If you want to age well and enjoy your senior years happily, then laughter needs to be a big part of your life. And while humour and laughter can be enjoyed at all ages, it’s particularly beneficial for older people.
Laughter can definitely help you cope with the challenges and changes associated with ageing – and its benefits extend to the physical, mental and emotional spheres. Here are some of the benefits of laughter and a positive attitude as you get older.
Laughter is good for your health
Laughter can cause a wide variety of positive physiological changes in the bodies of older people, by:
- Reducing stress levels
- Reducing the likelihood of experiencing negative emotions, such as worry or anxiety
- Assisting in keeping blood vessels healthy by promoting better circulation and slightly decreasing blood pressure
- Boosting the immune system, by reducing cortisol levels and increasing oxygen intake and blood flow
- Improving cholesterol levels
- Reducing the level of cortisol in your blood
- Increasing the T-cells (lymphocytes) in your body
- Benefiting asthma and bronchitis sufferers by exercising the diaphragm, heart and abdominals
- Helping burn calories
Studies have shown that when it comes to treating agitation in people suffering dementia, humour works just as well as antipsychotic drugs. Laughter can also help deal with chronic illnesses such as heart disease and high cholesterol.
Laughter can reduce your stress levels
Laughter can have a powerful impact on relieving stress, by relaxing muscles, increasing the level of oxygen in your blood and lowering blood pressure. Laughter increases dopamine and stress-reducing chemicals in the body, and stimulates the immune system, which works to counteract the negative impact of stress on the body.
Laughter can improve your memory
Not only is laughter good for your health, it can also improve your brain’s ability to learn and retain information. Laughing activates all parts of the brain simultaneously and can help improve cognitive function. Laughter can actually improve short-term memory, and can help your brain become more flexible and inventive. A good laugh can help change your perspective – which has a flow-on effect to both your mental and physical health.
Laughter can improve relationship quality
Being a good-humoured and happy person can improve the quality of your personal relationships. People who laugh together form a stronger bond, and tend to feel more emotionally in tune with each other. When you laugh, others around you are likely to join in – leading to stronger and deeper relationships.
Laughter just makes you feel good
There’s no doubt that laughter will improve your mood! Laughter reduces feelings of stress and anger, as it releases endorphins (the “feel-good” chemicals). Laughing boosts your overall feelings of happiness and you’ll usually feel better after a good laugh.
Laughter can relieve pain
Aches and pains seem to come with the territory of ageing, but the same endorphins that make you feel happy also have an effect on relieving pain. Laughing can literally reduce your perception of physical pain. While the effect is not comparable to pain-relief medication, any small impact on pain and inflammation can be welcome for older people suffering from painful conditions.
Laughter changes your perspective
As George Bernard Shaw said, “You don’t stop laughing when you grow old; you grow old when you stop laughing.”
When you laugh, you tend to view life differently. Laughter can help you see the lighter, less serious side of life, and look at your situation more objectively. Laughing also improves your resilience and ability to cope with stressful situations. When you can laugh about something, it ceases to have such a hold on you, and fear can diminish.
Laughter can help you live longer
The benefits of laughter are so immense that studies have shown a reduced mortality rate in those with a sense of humour, compared to those who had difficult laughing at daily events. Laughing can actually help you live longer!
How to get more laughter in your life
Laughter is essential for good quality of life as an older person, so how can you bring more of it into your life? Ageing is not always a walk in the park, and sometimes it can feel like there’s not much to smile about. However, no matter your circumstances, you can always cultivate a positive attitude.
Try these strategies to bring more laughter into your life:
- Start with a smile. Be ready to smile at others more often.
- Look for the humorous incidents of life. By being more aware of the potential for humour, you’re more likely to notice it around you.
- Ask people you meet about what funny things have occurred lately.
- Get a pet, or if that’s not possible, find a way to spend time with an animal such as a puppy or kitten.
- Play some fun board or card games.
- Watch a funny movie or TV show.
- Spend time with grandchildren or young people.
- Buy a jokes book or tune in to a comedy performance.
- Share some laughs with old friends.
- Go dancing.
So, if you want to live as much as possible, laugh as much as possible – it’s as simple as that.