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The old saying goes that laughter is the best medicine. And now it seems modern science agrees that having a good laugh has major benefits for both our physical and emotional wellbeing. The act of laughing temporarily raises our heartbeat and breathing rate, and when we’re done we experience a release of tension, feelings of relaxation, and lower blood pressure.
Laughing also releases the feel-good hormone serotonin, helps us feel closer to the people we are with, and reduces the symptoms of anxiety. And laughter’s effects are just as powerful, no matter how old we are. In a recent Australian study, 28 residents of an aged care facility – including 13 people living with dementia – all experienced improvements in their blood pressure and sense of wellbeing after doing laugh yoga (more on that in second).
So, what are some of the ways to get yourself laughing? And how can carers get a smile back on the face of their loved ones in elderly care? Here are five tips to get you giggling:
Don’t worry. No-one will ask you to sprawl on the floor or take on an uncomfortable pose. Laugh yoga involves coming together with others in a playful environment and ‘forcing’ yourself to laugh. Because laughter tends to be contagious, laugh yoga sessions typically end up with all of the participants genuinely having a good time. If you find it difficult to leave the house, you can even virtually attend a laugh yoga session via the Skype application on the Internet.
Laughter yoga groups were formed in the mid-90’s to help patients wean off their medication. They used the activity to release serotonin, the natural feel good hormone, and lift the levels of joy in the community.
The Hollywood star WC Fields gave the advice that actors should never work with children or animals – they’re just too cute and unpredictable. But those very same traits make kids and pets perfect for summoning up laughter. Just try watching a cute toddler react with surprise or seeing a fluffy puppy trip over its own feet without cracking a big smile. Hugs from children and the tactile pleasure of patting a dog or cat are also sure to improve your sense of well-being.
Some of the biggest belly laughs we get as human beings come from watching films. Maybe you’re old school and you like getting your laughs from the Marx Brothers, the Three Stooges or Laurel and Hardy. Or do you prefer the absurd humour of Flying High or Monty Python? Whatever your taste, purchase or hire your favourite comedy, put up your feet and get laughing. Better still, watch the film with a friend and get double the laughs.
Music has a powerful effect on the human brain, and when you move your body in time with your favourite songs as well the benefits to your mood and wellbeing are doubled. No-one is saying you have to jump up and do a John Travolta on the dance floor. You don’t even need a partner. Gently swaying in time to the music, moving your feet, or maybe just having a wriggle from a seated position all have the ability to get you laughing. Remember: dance like there’s no one watching and sing like there’s no one listening.
Human beings are social animals. While we sometimes forget it when we’re in pain or tired, being with others helps us to feel better and to smile again. Think of the last time you caught up with friends who have known you since you were young, and the fun you had swapping stories and remembering old times. Make an effort to attend social events, to get involved in group activities and to try to learn a new skill with others. You’ll find a smile radiating from inside and lighting up your eyes in no time.
There are lots of options to help you start laughing again. Our social clubs will help you connect with like-minded people, you can take an excursion to see a funny film, or try a music-based activity. To find out more, contact the BaptistCare Customer Engagement Centre on 1300 275 227.