Remember Dr. Bernie Siegel’s popular ‘mind over matter’ theory? It basically suggested that a positive outlook and attitude could cure terminal illnesses like cancer! While there is no science to back it up, we can relate to what he was trying to say there.
A dose of happiness, a plateful of smiles, a glass full of humour, a shot of laughter – these are instant cheer-up remedies for any person. You might have heard about hasyayoga, laughter clubs or ‘laughter therapy’ – maybe you have read it in the newspapers or seen something like it in Indian films. While on the outside, it may seem like a silly thing to do, laughter therapy can well and truly do wonders to a person’s state of mind and overall health, especially for the elderly.
Surprising benefits of laughter for seniors
• Reduced stress, anxiety and depression
Dopamine levels are said to shoot up when you laugh, and these stress-busting chemicals help lower the impact of anxiety and depression on our body.
• Increased endorphin levels
Laughing increases the production of endorphins and cortisol, natural painkillers that our body manufactures internally.
• Lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels
Laughing out loud helps oxygenate the blood and regulate its flow, thus having a positive impact with those suffering from high cholesterol and cardiovascular problems.
• Better respiration
Laughing works the diaphragm and the muscles in your abdomen, thus enabling regularized breathing among people who have respiratory issues.
• Improved immunity
Laughter is said to trigger the release of a lot of T-cells which stimulate the human immune system.
• Muscle relaxation
Laughing hard literally works several muscles at the same time, relieving muscle tension and physical stress that may have accumulated over time. Yes, the benefits of laughing hysterically are boundless and we haven’t even touched upon the most important ones… the mental and social benefits!
Several studies show that laughter has proven to have had a considerable effect on the mental health of seniors. Positivity, optimism, happiness and contentment are closely linked to people who laugh frequently.
On the social front, laughter works wonders since it makes you likeable as a person, also helps you bond with others. In fact, research shows that conflicts and misunderstandings can be resolved without aggression; simply by laughing and maintaining an honest and positive outlook towards interpersonal relationships.
Ideas to spark that streak of laughter
While some people are lucky enough to find joy and humour in even the most mundane of things (these people are the happiest souls), some might need a little bit of assistance or a nudge to tickle that funny bone. Here are a few ways to get senior citizens to indulge in a whole lot of hysterical laughter:
Board games, group activities and fun games such as Dumb Charades can spark fits of unforeseen laughter. Remember, the company matters! Get the entire family to partake in these game nights or invite your senior friends to join in the fun.
2. Comedy content
Watching a comedy movie or play, reading a joke book, skimming through comic books, watching a live stand-up comic performance or any other form of comic content can help seniors laugh their hearts out. Figure out what their favourite shows, books, artists and films are and schedule screenings or reading sessions at home!
People who live with dogs and cats are known to be happier than those who do not have any pets. These little creatures not only give you company and love but are also a great source of entertainment.
Senior citizens are known to be very fond of toddlers and young children. Make sure the elderly individuals in your family get to spend as much time as they can with their grandchildren. In case there are no kids in the house, you can take them to a nearby park or playing area where they can watch other kids have fun.
5. Laughter clubs
As we mentioned above, the concept of laughter clubs may not be as popular across India as it is in our western counterparts (and the metros in our country), all it takes is a group of like-minded people to come together every day for about fifteen minutes and voluntarily laugh.
Laughter is the best medicine and indeed its true! Need more ideas and tips? Read Dr. Madan Kataria’s much-acclaimed book, Laughter Yoga.
Here’s wishing you a life filled with fun, happiness and truckloads of laughter.
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