7/28/2022 | By Terri L. Jones

It feels great and is healthy, too. Humor is beneficial beyond simply the fun of the moment. Seniors Guide writer Terri L. Jones examines the health benefits of a good laugh and offers five suggestions for including laughter in your day.

Remember the last time you had a long, uncontrollable belly laugh? Maybe you were watching a television show or funny video … or someone just said something that tickled your funny bone. It felt pretty good, right?

While that burst of laughter seemed no more than just good fun at the time, some very important things were also happening inside your body. No wonder some health care facilities bring in clowns or laugh mobiles to spread humor among patients while they’re recovering from their illnesses or surgeries!

Five health benefits of a good laugh:

  1. Keeps illness away. Laughter decreases stress hormones, while increasing immune cells that help you resist disease.
  2. Safeguards your ticker. When you laugh heartily, you improve the effectiveness of blood vessels and increase blood flow, which can lower the risk of a heart attack. And the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports that those who laugh more are less likely to experience arrhythmias and recurrent heart attacks during cardiac rehab.
  3. Makes pain more bearable. According to Swiss researchers, laughter helps you tolerate pain better, probably through the release of endorphins, which relaxes muscles. Not to mention, says Professor Willibald Ruch of Zurich University, “Humor can be used specifically as a cognitive technique, for example in terms of a distraction to control the pain and increase pain tolerance.”
  4. Sharpens recall. A small study at Loma Linda University in Southern California showed that subjects who watched a funny video had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can negatively impact memory. Also, laughter can improve memory and recall by shifting brain wave activity toward a “gamma frequency.” So one of the benefits of a good laugh is to help you better remember dad jokes!
  5. Helps with weight loss. The physical action of laughing can actually help you burn calories – around 40 of them over 10 to 15 minutes of laughter per day. Over a year, that’s two to three pounds!

How to embrace the benefits of laughter daily

couple laughing and hugging Noriko Cooper Dreamstime. Humor is more than just fun! We look at five health benefits of a good laugh and offer five suggestions for including laughter in your day.

We all know about watching sitcoms, visiting humorous websites, going to comedy clubs or watching hilarious videos to generate a laugh or two. But there are many other strategies for reaping the benefits of a good laugh. Check out these five to get you started:

  1. Display effective triggers. If you read a cartoon or saying that makes you guffaw, or if you have a funny photo of your pet or spouse, display it on the refrigerator or in another prominent place to give you a little chuckle every time you pass it.
  2. Host a game night. A friend recently invited me and my husband to a game night. We’ve never been avid game players and were a little reluctant to attend, but we went anyway. Once we were there, we realized that the object of the game wasn’t winning; it was laughing. We definitely scored big in that category! Besides reaping the benefits of a good laugh, a game night is great for social interaction and combating loneliness.

Some funny, belly-laugh-inducing games include the classic game of Charades (no special equipment needed), Balderdash, Scrawl, Tell Me Without Telling Me, Cards Against Humanity (a tad raunchy, and best if your adult group knows each other well), and Speak Out. Just remember – winning isn’t the object of the game!

  1. Play with a pet or a child. There’s nothing more humorous or fun than getting down on the floor and playing with your dog, cat, or grandchild. Roll around and chase each other, play ball, or hide and seek – whatever gets you energized and giggling uproariously.
  2. Turn that frown upside down. Say you do something dumb or embarrassing (don’t we all?!). Rather than beating yourself up for it or hiding in shame, learn to laugh about it! Better yet, retell the story and laugh along with those you’re sharing it with.
  3. Fake it till you make it. Your body can’t tell the difference between laughing for real and just pretending. Case in point: A Georgia State University study proved that bouts of simulated laughter included in a seniors’ exercise program helped improve both their mental health and aerobic endurance. In fact, an exercise program called laughter yoga, practiced all over the world, helps people engage in deliberate, unstimulated laughter with others. Not only is laughing with others – even when it’s faked – contagious, but it can also lead to the real thing!

Related: How Laughter Yoga can improve your health

The benefits of play for seniors

I just got back from a doctor’s appointment and there was an older man in the waiting room telling jokes to literally everyone who would listen (he even had a Spanish-speaking lady laughing with some Spanish he had learned). As it turns out, the man had recently had a stroke and I’m guessing that sense of humor is what helped him through it!

Share a laugh for someone today. It’s fun, it’s free and it could help you live longer!

Terri L. Jones

Terri L. Jones has been writing educational and informative topics for the senior industry for over 10 years, and is a frequent and longtime contributor to Seniors Guide.

Terri Jones