By Mark Underwood
Did you know a good dose of laughter can actually help your immune system and decrease stress? Have you ever wished you could let go and laugh more often at the silliness of life? It sounds easy but it’s not always possible, particularly if you’re facing ups and downs of life’s challenges. But if you can lighten up and be more playful, you’ll give yourself the freedom to have more fun. The good news is laughing has built-in health benefits to boot.
Here’s another reason to laugh. It’s contagious. Have you ever wondered why some people tend to attract others? Look more closely. It may be that they laugh easily and frequently even when they are surmounting numerous challenges connected with their health and aging.
Over 50 years of research back up the fact that positive social connections improve health outcomes and laughing is part of that equation. If you admire people who age gracefully, you may have noticed they smile easily and seem to radiate a joy for life even though they probably face an assortment of life’s ups and downs.
Laughter for better health
There’s no doubt about it laughter make you feel good, but research has shown that it also helps boost immunity, relax muscles, decrease pain, ease anxiety and relieve stress. Think of laughter as “internal jogging.” Laughter causes positive changes in brain chemistry by releasing endorphins, and that brings more oxygen into the body with the deeper inhalations caused by laughing. Keep in mind laughter is more than just a temporary mood booster. It is a powerful tool that helps us find new sources of meaning and hope. It gives us strength in difficult times, and connects us to others.
Giggle like a child
Boost your mental outlook by acting like a kid again. As you age, allow laughter, humor, games and playfulness to your life. Daily humor can help you feel more relaxed, creative and joyful. Studies have shown that the average preschool child in the U.S. laughs about 400 times a day. As adults we laugh far less frequently. According to studies at Ohio State University the average adult breaks out and laughs only about 15 times a day. If you can find a giggle in a situation, even for a few minutes, it will ease stress and help you refocus on positive things.
As you age, you may feel there are many things you can’t do as well as you used to. Maybe you can’t turn cartwheels like you used to, but no matter what your age, you can look for the humorous side of life. Laughter is a powerful tool. And it’s free to use anywhere, anytime.
Laugh everyday because…
Most of us don’t remember when we first smiled, but you were probably smiling when you were just a few weeks old. If you don’t laugh out loud very often, don’t despair, you can learn to laugh at any stage of life.
Look for something to laugh about everyday because you will automatically take yourself less seriously. Laugh everyday because it helps shift perspectives, recharge your batteries, and stay focused. Laughter helps you feel less anxious and sad. What’s more, having a good hearty laugh at least once a day can help trigger better relationships and stronger bonds with your friends and family members. Laughing produces a high speed exchange of positive enforcement between your brain and the people around you.
Keep a “laugh kit around”
These are some ways you can treat yourself to daily doses of good humor.
- Hang out with positive “kids” of all ages—friends and family members from young to old, children, grandchildren, and great-children.
- Surround yourself with reminders that there is a lighter side to life.
- Put a funny cartoon somewhere visible in your home where you start your day.
- Watch a funny movie or TV show.
- Play with a pet.
- Read the funnies.
Positive emotions can reduce health risks. So go ahead, create as many microseconds as possible of happiness-related chemistry. Laugh and you’ll improve your physical, mental and social health.
Mark Underwood is a neuroscience researcher, president and co-founder of Quincy Bioscience, a biotech company located in Madison, Wisconsin focused on the discovery and development of medicines to treat age related memory loss and the diseases of aging. Mark has been taped as an expert in the field of neuroscience for The Wall Street Journal Morning Radio, CBS and CNN Radio among others. Mark is also a contributor to the “Brain Health Guide” which highlights the research at Quincy Bioscience and offers practical tips to help keep health brain function in aging. More articles and tips for healthy aging can be found at TheGoodNewsAboutAging.com.