The Surprising Benefits of Laughter for Seniors

seniors laughing

We hear a lot about the power of positive thinking, and it’s not uncommon to hear the phrase “mind over matter” uttered when faced with a difficult situation. But what does it really mean?

The “mind over matter” theory was introduced by Dr. Bernie Siegel in the late 80s. His idea was that positive thinking could help to cure ailments, ranging from minor health issues to diseases such as cancer. While studies haven’t proven that laughter and positive vibes can actually “cure” anything, we do know that it does wonders for the mind, body and spirit.

While laughter is great for everyone, it can truly do wonders for seniors. This is why, at Bria Communities, we offer lots of opportunities for seniors to share laughs together. We host regular social hours, which encourage residents to get to know each other and form new friendships. Let’s take a look at some of the many surprising ways laughter can benefit seniors.

Give your immune system a boost

When the body is under stress, it simply can’t function at optimal levels. This means that when we’re stressed all the time, our bodies just can’t fight off illness like they normally would. Chronic stress puts seniors at risk for catching colds, the flu, and other nasty bugs. However, laughter can definitely get your immune system back up and running.

So how does it work? The act of laughing lowers stress levels, which in turn allows the immune system to function normally. If you really want to keep the doctor away, try a side of laughter with your daily apple!

Increase those endorphin levels

What is endorphin? It’s a type of brain chemical that is related to stress and pain response. Essentially, endorphins are our body’s natural painkillers. When released, they ease pain, and make us feel good. Think of them as natural mood boosters. When we laugh, our endorphin levels go up, which leaves us feeling great.

Lower your blood pressure and cholesterol

Seniors are at an increased risk for developing high blood pressure and high cholesterol. These conditions can develop due to a variety of factors, including diet, lifestyle, and genetics. However, when you incorporate laughter in your day, you can lower your risk significantly. When you laugh, your heart gets pumping, which increases oxygenation of the blood and improves circulation. This keeps the heart healthy and can have positive effects on seniors with concerns about heart disease and high cholesterol.

Keep calm, cool, and collected

Dopamine is a powerful stress buster and naturally calms us down. When you laugh, the dopamine levels in your body go up. As this happens, your levels of stress, anxiety and depression go down. After laughing, your muscles relax for up to 45 minutes, which provides a great physical release of stress.

This stress relief is also great news for seniors who have trouble with memory. Laughter also helps to improve short-term memory, since it is harder for your brain to remember things when you’re under stress.

Work those abs

Have you ever laughed so hard it hurt a little? There’s a reason your stomach might feel a bit sore after a good belly laugh. Laughter is actually a great workout for the diaphragm and abdominal muscles. Not only will you feel it in your abs, but it’s also great for the respiratory system too, since your lungs will be working harder to bring in air. Exercising your lungs and diaphragm is especially important for seniors with asthma or bronchitis.

Laughter also gets your heart pumping too, which makes it a great form of gentle exercise for those with mobility issues. At Bria Communities, we offer a variety of fitness classes and group activities for residents. We always strive to make exercise fun, and all our group activities are certainly filled with laughter!

Have fun with new friends

Think of laughter as a gateway to new friendships. Laughter helps bond us together. Once you share a laugh with someone, you feel closer to them, and are more likely to share things with each other.

At Bria Communities, meals are always enjoyed in a group setting to encourage residents to get to know each other. For seniors who are nervous about meeting new people, it might help them to have a few great jokes to share to break the ice when they sit down at a shared table. Once they share a laugh with someone, they’ll find it much easier to open up.