How Laughter Can Benefit Healthy Aging

You probably already know that a good laugh can lift your spirits and brighten someone’s day, but did you also know that laughter can positively impact your health and promote healthy aging, too? And while we recognize the aging and caregiving experience is different for everyone, numerous studies show that humor can play an important role in our physical and emotional wellbeing as we age.

7 Ways Laughter Can Benefit Healthy Aging

1.   Positively impacts your mood – every time you laugh, your body naturally produces endorphins, the same chemical responsible for making you feel good. So, the more you laugh, the better you feel.

2.   Helps reduce pain – since laughter can trigger a release of endorphins to help you feel better, it’s no wonder laughing can also help reduce pain. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, the act of laughter alone may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers.

3.   Strengthens your heart – not only does laughing increase your heart rate, but it causes you to take more deep breaths, which means more oxygenated blood circulating through your body, better vascular function, and a reduced risk for heart disease.

4.   Boosts your immune system – with increased blood flow, decreased stress levels, and lower blood pressure, it’s no surprise that a good laugh can boost your immunity. And according to psychology and neuroscience professor Robert R. Provine, who studies the health benefits of laughter at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, laughter can even help you fight off germs, flues, and other illnesses.

5.   Improves mental health – as seen in a US study involving twenty participants, published in 2014, humor can have clinical benefits and rehabilitative implications that support whole-person wellness for older adults. And according to a small qualitative study published in SAGE Publications, laughter may even cause improvements in memory, sociability, and communication for people with mild dementia. 

6.   Alleviates stress levels – “Laughter is the physical manifestation of finding something funny. It can help reduce inflammation and stress hormones, improve circulation, and enhance the immune system,” says Heidi Hanna, Ph.D. executive director of the American Institute of Stress. “It’s not about making difficult things funny or ignoring pain and suffering but allowing ourselves to see the lighter side of life more often to release the tension and recharge our own battery.” 

7.   It gives you a physical workout – getting regular exercise is a great way to contribute to your health and wellbeing. And while laughter may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about working out, it can get the heart pumping, blood flowing, and abs burning in seconds. But that’s not all, because according to Dr. Buchowski from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, “10 to 15 minutes of heavy laughter can burn between 10 and 40 calories.” 

Now that you know more about how humor can benefit healthy aging, here are 10 fun and easy ways to add a healthy dose of laughter to your life.

  • Find something to smile or laugh about every day
  • Watch a funny movie or TV show
  • Read the funnies in the newspaper  
  • Bring humor into everyday conversations
  • Invite friends or family members to a comedy club
  • Spend more time with people that make you laugh or smile
  • Check out the humor section at your local bookstore or library
  • Make more time for fun activities
  • Surround yourself with pets or kids (or both)
  • Laugh at yourself

Want even more tips on healthy aging? Check out our recent blog post about 8 more ways to improve your physical, mental, and social wellbeing.