Laughter has many positive impacts on both our mental and physical health. However, studies have found we laugh less as we get older. The average 4-year-old laughs 300 times a day, while the average 40-year-old only laughs 4 times a day. No one knows exactly why getting older means laughing less, but there’s no doubt the stresses and changes of aging can have an impact on our happiness. Here are just some of the many benefits of intentionally including more laughter in your life.
1. Laughter Relaxes Tight Muscles
A good laugh contracts your diaphragm, abs, and even reaches the muscles in your shoulders. After laughing, these muscles loosen up and can stay relaxed for up to forty-five minutes. This physical relief of tension and stress is similar to what happens after exercising and has a positive effect on the entire body.
2. Laughter Boosts the Immune System
Laughing has been shown to boost your immune system’s ability to fight infection. The physical act of laughing stimulates circulation, more efficiently delivering oxygen and nutrients to your cells. It also helps boost the number of infection-fighting antibodies. A 2007 study found that college students who watched funny videos had more antibodies important for immune function than others who watched an instructional video.
3. Laughter Strengthens the Heart
The American Heart Association recommends laughing for a healthy heart. While not a substitute for exercise, laughter’s effect on your heart is similar to an aerobic workout. It improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect against a heart attack or other cardiovascular problems. Research has also shown laughter can reduce artery inflammation and increase the production of “good” cholesterol.
4. Laughter Reduces Stress
In addition to easing the tension in a stressful moment or situation, laughter also reduces stress-related hormones like epinephrine, DOPAC, and cortisol. While it’s normal to feel stressed from time to time, chronic stress can have long-lasting effects on both mental and physical health. Some of these negative effects include elevated blood pressure, increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, gastrointestinal problems, and mental health conditions. The positive emotions of humor and laughter act as a stress antidote and decrease the risk of conditions caused by chronic stress.
5. Laughter Lowers Blood Pressure
Stress and blood pressure are closely related, so it may not surprise you to learn those who laugh regularly have a lower standing blood pressure than those who don’t. Researchers at Osaka University in Japan studied the effects of music and laughter on stress levels. After three months, they found participants’ blood pressure decreased by 5 mmHg (units used to measure blood pressure). Blood pressure taken immediately after sessions designed to make participants laugh was even lower (7 mmHg). People in the comparison group showed no change in blood pressure readings. Other studies have also shown the positive effects laughter has on blood pressure.
Bringing People Together
The amazing power of laughter lies in its ability to bring people together. Laughter is contagious and sharing humorous moments with those around us is a way to strengthen relationships and build communities. Even when separated by physical distance, laughter brings us closer together and creates moments we remember for the rest of our lives. We hope this inspires you to find someone to laugh with today!
Community is part of what makes life at Sunset so special. We strive to make each of our senior living facilities a place where people connect and share in the ups and downs of life’s journey. Our services are tailored to each resident and are designed to meet mental, physical, and spiritual needs. Contact us today!