Get Serious About Aging Strong – With Laughter! 5 Ways to Laugh Your Way to Wellness
You usually hear them before you see them.
Those walking-sunshine-kind-of-people who step into a room and boom! The decibel level shoots up with laughter and joy.
Dee is one of those people. The 68-year-old Oregon woman– with her beautifully freckled face, auburn hair and wide, toothy smile – is aging strong with a superpower she learned in second grade.
The ability to laugh and to get others to laugh along with her. Often at herself.
Dee has a repertoire of hilarity, curated from every season of life, including her days as a TV personality in North Carolina. Viewers there still talk about the day she accidentally burned down the cooking show set while making popcorn cake or, during the nightly news, tossed to the weatherman, Bill Schmidt, but accidentally changed his last name.
“Now, it’s time to get a look at the weather with Bill…” (Yep. It rhymes with Schmidt.)
Laughter is a Magnet
Dee can remember the exact moment she felt the magnetic power of laughter.
“I was a second grader, in my Blue Bird meeting and I said something funny that made people laugh. I was getting a lot of attention for it, even from the ‘big kids” –– the third and fourth graders. I loved it! So, from that point on, I started looking for the ‘funny’ in life and I began building circles of friends – from kindergarten to now – who love to laugh ––especially at ourselves.”
Laughter is a Healer
“Laughter was my way of coping. I was an only child, raised by wolves,” she says, jokingly.
“Sometimes kids from troubled backgrounds use humor to soften their edges. I desperately needed to be affirmed as a child. And being funny was how I was affirmed.”
Laughter helped Dee through her parent’s divorce, her mother’s death from early dementia, multiple moves and new schools, her dad’s prison term, her own divorce, breast cancer, surgeries, a lawsuit, a head injury, a business fire and the transition from reading the news to running a forest product and trucking business.”
“I went from broadcast to bark dust. My resume looks better upside down,” she jokes.
How’s Your Sense of Humor?
No matter what our backgrounds and circumstances, humor is powerful medicine that we can learn to self-prescribe. At Consonus Healthcare our AgeSTRONG, concierge, integrated wellness care and rehab services promote joy and humor vitality through each continuum of care.
Every day, we witness how laughter can lower cortisol levels, boosts endorphins; sharpen mental powers –memory, alertness, positivity; decrease blood pressure and stress; improve confidence and self-esteem. Even burn calories! (More on that in a minute.)
The power of laughter is documented in dozens of studies, from the Veterans Administration (The Healing Benefits of Humor), Scientific American (Laugh Lots, Live Longer), the Mayo Clinic (Laughter for Stress Relief is No Joke), to Harvard (A Life A Day Keeps the Doctor Away), Vanderbilt (Laugh Outload to Burn a Few Calories) and Stanford Universities Even the stoic, National Institutes of Health (The Laughter Prescription) wants us all to lighten up!
March Your Way to 5 Tips for a Life of Laughter
In March we’re celebrating the joys of laughter with National Let’s Laugh Day, Share a Smile Day, Act Happy Day and, on March 20, one of our favorites, Wellderly Day. Let’s all remember that wellness and being elderly are not mutually exclusive. Here are 5 ways you can live well and age strong with more laughter.
#1 Be Intentional
- Create a list of the things that make you smile, laugh, or feel joy. Now, make a plan to incorporate those things into your week. It can be as simple as looking in the mirror first thing in the morning and making ridiculous faces or dancing, laughing out loud or intentionally smiling. It feels good. Try it!
- Remember that cultivating happiness boosts your immunity, lowers stress hormones, decreases pain, relaxes muscles and prevents heart disease.
#2 Begin Your Day with a Laugh and Smile
- Laughter stops distressing emotions, helps us relax and recharge, shifts our perspective to more positivity and draws us closer to others.
- Sip your coffee or tea out of a fun mug, read a daily positive affirmation, dance to fun music, ask Alexa/Google for the joke of the day, play with your pet(s) or kids and read fun social media content, a daily calendar funny or comic strip.
#3 Seek Relationships That Trigger Laughter and Joy
- Look around. Who are the people others love being around because they’re kind and funny? Laughter promotes healthy bonding and enriches our relationships.
- Find friends with whom you can share funny stories, memories and the positives of each day; dance together to fun music; watch funny shows or movies; play fun games; make funny faces at each other; share a new hobby; send each other fun greeting cards; attend uplifting concerts or plays.
#4 Make Yourself Laugh and Experience Joy
- Laughter doesn’t have to be something where you wait for it to happen. Create it yourself and it starts to become easier.
- Buy and wear fun clothes or hats, dance like nobody is watching, post fun jokes, cards, or posters around your house, play with your pet, take a walk and experience the beauty and humor around you, watch funny videos or listen to music while you work out, give yourself permission to laugh –– including at yourself!
#5 Use Humor to Overcome Challenges and Enhance Your Life
- The best way to take yourself less seriously is to talk about times when you took yourself too seriously.
- Attempt to laugh at situations rather than bemoan them. Look for the humor in challenging times and uncover the irony and absurdity of life.
- Surround yourself with reminders to lighten up –– pictures or items that make you smile or laugh.
- Don’t dwell on the negative. Try to avoid sour people and don’t focus on news stories, entertainment or conversations that make you sad or unhappy.
- Find your inner child. Take life lightly, laughing at ordinary things. Be playful!
And finally, a few bonus tips from Dee on how she uses humor to age strong.
- Don’t create another day of regret by regretting.
- Be curious. Ask questions.
- Walk a lot. Go outside. Look up. Look all around.
- Hold someone’s hand who needs affirmation.
- Consider what end of the pool you want to swim in: the deep dark end or the shallow end. I want to play around in the shallow end.
- You don’t have to be “the funny one.” Cozy up to a funny friend. We love a good audience!
- Humor is a choice. Choose humor.
- Watch old TV classics, like the I Love Lucy episode where Lucy and Ethyl are frantically stuffing chocolates in their mouths and clothes.
- Speaking of chocolate. That’s my last tip. Eat chocolate. Did you know laughing out loud ten minutes a day burns off up to 40 calories? That’s enough to burn the small(ish) piece of chocolate I’m eating right now while talking with you.”