I turned 52 yesterday…yikes. I used to think people in their 50s were lame and already had one foot in the grave. Well, now I’m there and it happened in the blink of an eye. Fortunately, I’m nowhere near a cemetery (she says crossing her fingers) and I’m still pretty cool – in a middle age kind of way, that is. Admittedly, I don’t let my bra straps show, I don’t have any tattoos or piercings on my face, I prefer Aerosmith to Nicki Minaj, and my goblet holds a dry Chardonnay instead of Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill, but I do have my contemporary moments. My kids tell me I’m the “cool” mom.
Unfortunately, hip or not, there’s no hiding my age. I have annoying crow’s feet (wait, let’s call them “smile lines”), I’m finding little brown spots in places they didn’t before exist, and my C-section tummy has completely lost its grip and has to be restrained. I wear reading glasses and I have to take medication to sleep and to keep my heart from beating right out of my chest, you know, old people medicine. In fact, I’m a real hottie… my night sweats make me feel like a bucket of water has been poured on me at least once a night. Yuck.
But I’m not throwing in the towel just yet. I post a little wellness tip on my blog every week because I am bound and determined to stay youthful as long as possible. Today we are going to explore the anti-aging benefits of laughter.
I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose.
~ Woody Allen
Studies have shown that laughter and humor benefit the body physically, emotionally, and socially, and that it is a valuable tool for healthy aging.
- Strengthens immune system – Laughter increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
- Boosts energy – We change physiologically when we laugh. We stretch muscles throughout our face and body, our pulse and blood pressure go up, and we breathe faster, sending more oxygen to our tissues. If you have more oxygen in your system, you are more likely to feel energized.
- Reduces pain – Using our sense of humor can have a positive impact on the perception of pain. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural morphine. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
- Decreases stress – When we experience a stressful situation, certain hormones flood our circulatory system to help us act quickly (“fight or flight”). Over time, the hormones damage the lining of blood vessels. But when something is humorous, the brain releases endorphins that dissolve stress hormones. Tension is released, fear and anger lessen, and muscles are relaxed.
- Relaxes your muscles – A hearty laugh relieves physical tension leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
- Prevents heart disease – laughter lowers blood pressure, increases blood flow to keep our blood vessels healthy, and improves cholesterol levels.
- Exercises the brain – One of the things the family notices first about early Alzheimer’s disease is that their loved one’s sense of humor changes. Several areas of the brain work together to produce the perception of humor, so if parts of it are damaged, that perception is impacted. Humor also can be solid mental exercise, which trains us to approach ideas in different, innovative ways.
Laugh at yourself and at life. Not in the spirit of derision or whining self-pity, but as a remedy, a miracle drug, that will ease your pain, cure your depression, and help you to put in perspective that seemingly terrible defeat and worry with laughter at your predicaments, thus freeing your mind to think clearly toward the solution that is certain to come. Never take yourself too seriously.
~ Og Mandino
Laughter just makes us feel good. Even a smile can go a long way to improving our mood. And laughter is contagious…why not spread it around?
Emotion Benefits of Laughter:
- Adds joy to life – humor makes us feel good!
- Eases anxiety and fear. Laughter makes us feel more optimistic, in large part because of the endorphins released in the brain when we laugh. . Humor is a great distraction and can “take us away” from our cares. It provides a long-lasting mood boost, and is sometimes prescribed to help treat depression and anxiety.
- Relieves stress – laughter can help us process painful events, even death. At funerals we often share humorous stories about our loved ones to manage grief.
- Enhances resilience – Humor is also a powerful tool for seeing ourselves as part of the human race and reminding ourselves that we all have problems.
- Strengthens relationships – When we laugh with someone, an emotional bond is formed. This connection buffers against disagreements and stress.
- Attracts others to us – who wants to hang around a Debby Downer all the time. People are attracted to happy people. This is especially important in a senior living situation in which newcomers want to make friends.
- Enhances teamwork – a team of ornery people is not effective. Laughing with others is powerful
- Helps defuse conflict –laughter helps us take ourselves less seriously and relieves tension between people. Just think, if we could just all laugh at ourselves more, there would be more peace in the world. Telling a good joke is a good ice-breaker, too, but don’t tell a blonde joke in front of a fair-haired audience!
So you can see how important laughter may be in helping you age more gracefully. As we get older and our bodies are giving out, it is difficult to find things funny. It has be very intentional.
How do YOU insert more joy in your life? What makes you laugh? Please leave a comment and share!!!