One of the causes of dementia is lack of stimulation. Visual, aural, verbal. For elderly people the world begins to shrink back until they are restricted in movement within a small space, with perhaps just the television or radio for company. Even with the television you will find that eventually there will only be one or two channels watched; the news, soap operas and more than likely Midsummer murders!
This is why any social interaction is so important as we get older. For most, not all, our natural instinct is to recede to a safe zone but those who do stay in the world and continue to laugh, enjoy new music, movies, plays and group activities, stay mentally and physically healthier.
About 12 years ago my friend and radio producer Kelli Brett and I put together a couple of programmes on the subject of laughter as one of our regular health segments. We called it the Laugh Academy and it went down a storm. It was intended to show how laughter is one of the most beneficial exercises you can participate in without spending a fortune or damaging a muscle – well I believe that there were one or two cases where someone laughed themselves into a heart attack but it was nothing to do with our show – honest.
Laughter is universal – every culture will have its particular funny bone that others would not see the point of, but put most of us in a room with other nationalities and eventually someone will start us off. It might be a stand-up comedian in front of a packed theatre – or it might be round the dinner table after a couple of glasses of good wine.
Children have a natural ability to laugh from a very early age – they are not afraid to express themselves – they do not have years of conditioning about what is appropriate or not. I remember getting a fit of the giggles at my mother’s funeral – imagining her reactions to the proceedings. I only managed to hang onto my decorum by severely grasping my husband’s left thigh in a death grip which to onlookers might have looked equally inappropriate!
It is very difficult to keep a straight face when someone else is hysterical and I dare you not to start laughing when you watch this baby giggling so naturally.
There are actually laughter clubs around the world where people gather and start a voluntary laughter cycle rather than a spontaneous one. No humour or jokes involved, just a steady Ha,ha,ha. Hasyayoga is performed in groups with eye contact and you will be surprised how soon the deliberate laughter turns into the infectious kind we are used to in a crowd. The belief is that forced laughter holds the same benefits as the naturally occurring variety and a brief look at those before some links to the most viewed Time for Some Laffs from the current series.
I hope that the last thing I do on earth is to go laughing at one of my husband’s jokes – well some of them anyway!
Health benefits of laughter.
- When we laugh we tend to increase our rate of breathing inhaling more oxygen which gets pumped into our bodies filling us with energy and at the same time reducing stress.
- As we laugh heartily, nearly all of the 400 muscles in the body will come into play, which is a form of internal aerobics.
- If you laugh throughout an hour-long comedy show, or at someone’s jokes, you will use up 500 calories.
- The act of laughing causes our blood vessels to dilate reducing blood pressure and stimulates the production of more T-cells in our immune system helping us to fight infections.
- The act of laughing releases endorphins and neuropeptides into the bloodstream which have a number of measurable effects on us. These either act as painkillers or improve your mood.
- The types of problems that seem to respond well to laughter therapy are stress, asthma, arthritis, insomnia, depression, frequent infections and recovery from cancer.
- Laughing with others strengthens social bonds, attracts people with similar senses of humour, helps relieve tensions in relationships and illustrates a level of trust where you are willing to share something trivial or amusing with another. Laughter is as contagious as a cold or flu and there is actually something very satisfying about reducing someone to tears with laughter.
So it strengthens your immune system, increases your cardiovascular flexibility, makes you think clearly, improves your mood, releases stress, relieves pain, lowers your blood pressure, boosts the entire body and if it is shared with a friend doubles the effects.
There is no doubt that attitude does make a huge difference when you are battling a serious illness and laughter plays a major part in turning infusing the body with a positive energetic and healing environment.
Here are some of the most viewed Time for some laffs from the current series
So what is the Laughter Academy and how can you join us.
Well you may have noticed that one of the leading lights of the Smorgasbord Laughter Academy is author Tina Frisco who often feeds me some great gags and images that I then share with you. Here are a couple of posts as an example.
What I would love you to do is send me your jokes, Youtube links for funny videos or amusing images so that I can share them with everyone. I will put a link to your website, Amazon and your books along with a credit.
So, do you have a funny bone? Have you got some great jokes that are suitable for a wide ranging age group?
Just send them to me at Sally.firstname.lastname@example.org… looking forward to it and burning up 500 calories reading them.