Humor Has An Abundance Of Benefits


Laughter is good for the soul and body. So go ahead—let loose and laugh!

Think about the last time you had a really good laugh. Do you remember how you felt afterward? There’s a good chance that you felt lighter—mentally, emotionally and maybe even physically. The act of laughing, even if it is purely an act, leads to physiological changes that make us feel better and can have long-term benefits. Can’t remember the last time you had a really good laugh? Don’t worry. You can learn to laugh more. Seriously! Humor has an abundance of benefits.

A healthy sense of humor helps us stay young at heart. Literally.

You might not have thought about laughing as a form of exercise, but in a way, it is. Smiling might only involve our face, but a good, “hearty” laugh gets our diaphragm going, contracts our abdominal muscles, stimulates our circulatory system and gives our heart and lungs a burst of activity.

Even though a cardiologist might not tell you to “go home and laugh,” getting into the habit of laughing more often can improve heart health. Done well, laughing lowers blood pressure, increases blood flow and gets the heart pumping. It even burns calories!

Laughing also produces chemical changes in our brain, increasing and releasing neurotransmitters and endorphins that help us fight stress, reduce pain and just plain feel good.

This is not to suggest that you should use laughter as a replacement for your regular physical activities, of course, but adding a healthy dose of laughter to your daily routine certainly can’t hurt. Plus, it’s free and convenient—you can take your sense of humor with you wherever you go.

Happiness and good health go hand in hand.

Laughing makes us feel happy, or at least happier. Typically, the more we laugh, the happier we become overall. Having (or developing) a good sense of humor can have long-lasting benefits.

Stress, worry, anxiety and grief can decrease our immune responses, lowering our resistance to illness. By fending off negative thoughts and emotions, laughter can protect and even bolster our immune system. This makes us better able to cope with stress and fight illness.

Can you giggle your way to good health? Maybe, maybe not, but you can sure have fun trying. As Mary Pettibone Poole said, “He who laughs, lasts!”

Learning to laugh.

Not all of us are born comedians, and some people find it easier than others to let go and enjoy a laugh.

If you’re a more serious sort, you don’t have to undergo a radical personality change to derive the benefits of laughter. In fact, you don’t even have to find anything funny to laugh about. You can, as the saying goes, fake it until you make it.

Turns out that our body can’t really tell the difference between a heart-felt laugh and one that’s done on purpose. Research shows that even if laughter isn’t genuine, it still produces positive physical, physiological and psychological effects.

It may feel odd at first to force yourself to laugh, but eventually, it gets easier and feels more natural. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Go online and watch some silly animal videos. There’s an endless supply, and you might be surprised how quickly you’ll find yourself chuckling.
  • Visit some websites that feature jokes, cartoons, funny anecdotes and other humorous content. A quick search will turn up thousands of possibilities.
  • Revisit some old sitcoms or comedy shows that made you laugh in the past, or find some new ones. It’s almost impossible to watch reruns of Tim Conway and Harvey Korman on The Carol Burnett Show and not laugh yourself to tears.
  • If you have a photo or comic strip or something else that makes you laugh when you look at it, put it on the fridge or your bathroom mirror, where you’ll see it frequently.
  • Try laughter yoga. No, we’re not making that up. It’s a real thing, and there’s evidence that it really works. It’s basically a playful form of voluntary laughter that can quickly evolve into spontaneous laughter among the entire group of participants.
  • If you have friends or relatives who love to laugh, try spending more time with them. Laughter is contagious, and some of their sense of humor might rub off on you!
  • If you have the opportunity, be around children. Watch them play. Children are usually less self-conscious than adults, and their laughter is unconstrained. We can all learn from their example.

Helping others obtain the benefits of humor.

Just as being around people who are laughing can make us feel more like joining in the mirth and merriment, we can also help those around us gain the benefits of a belly laugh or two.

We see that nearly every day at our community. Our director of resident services, Sarah Whitmarsh, recently referred to Heron’s Key residents as “a fun group.”

“They have a great sense of humor. There’s lots of laughter here. Lots of camaraderie,” she said.

As an example of the kind of fun we have around here, Sarah mentioned that on a warm day last spring, not long after the pandemic led to stay-at-home measures, some of the staff brought in squirt guns and handed them out to residents. Residents then went out onto their patios and balconies and had some light-hearted fun squirting water at each other and staff members.

In the past, we’ve used humor on occasion as our theme of the month. This year, one resident suggested making April’s theme laughter, noting that it’s a good time to “lighten up a little.”

Now that more than 95% of Heron’s Key residents have been fully vaccinated and the state has relaxed some of the most stringent safety precautions, we’re able to resume some limited in-person activities, though we are still being extremely careful and adhering to the recommended guidelines.

In keeping with the theme of laughter, we’ve planned several activities for this month that we hope will provide plenty of opportunities to laugh. For instance, we’ll be bringing back a magician who has performed here before. Only this time, he’ll do three shows back-to-back so that we can keep the audiences small. We’ll also clean the room between the shows.

We’re also planning a version of the Family Feud TV show, where residents will choose their “families” to face off against each other in a playful competition. To keep the groups small and observe distancing guidelines, we’ll hold the rounds over the course of three nights.

And, now that the weather is warmer again, we thought it would be fun to do an egg drop competition. If you’re not familiar with what that is, the idea is to create a device or contraption that will cushion the egg or slow it down, to keep it from breaking when dropped. Residents who want to participate will design their devices, and staff members will take the eggs in their devices up to a second-floor balcony and drop them while residents watch and cheer from below.

Our staff has a good time coming up with ideas like these to encourage residents to engage their sense of humor, and we know that residents have fun participating. It adds to their quality of life, and ours, too.

Learn how you could laugh more at Heron’s Key.

If you’d like to be part of the fun, we’d love to welcome you to our community.

We invite you to discover more about the Heron’s Key lifestyle here on our website. If you want to start a conversation with us—whether you’re interested in learning more in general about our community or you have specific questions, please feel free to contact us and we’ll be in touch promptly.

In the meantime, we hope you find ways to tickle your funny bone!