Laughter truly is the best medicine.
When my husband, Don, suffered a massive stroke and became a quadriplegic, I thought I’d never laugh again. A friend told me how important laughter was, and I decided to give it a try. I bought a Robin Williams CD and surprised Don with it. That night, Williams’ irreverent, crazy, ridiculous act had us laughing hysterically from start to finish. This laughter gave Don a needed emotional lift, buoying his spirit and reconnecting us with each other. It couldn’t fully heal the after-effects of his stroke. Nothing in modern medicine was able to do that, but it did give him joy, relaxation, and healing when he most needed it.
After that, we incorporated as much laughter as we could into our lives. The health benefits of laughing have been proven scientifically. Laughter relaxes muscle tension, boosts the immune system by decreasing stress hormones and increasing immune cells, releases endorphins that promote positive feelings and relieve pain, and improves cardiovascular function by enhancing blood flow. People with a good sense of humor live longer and handle conflict better. Laughter even burns calories.
Also, laughing feels good and brings us closer to other people. There is nothing better than sharing a laugh with someone.
So how can you bring more laughter into your caregiving life? Here are a few tips:
1) Make a Plan to Laugh
Create a time in your day for humor. Watch an old episode of a favorite show like “Seinfeld” or “Friends” after dinner or make a date each week for a funny movie night. The things that people schedule typically happen. So schedule some fun into your life.
2) Get a Funny Book
Maybe go retro and buy a Garfield or Calvin and Hobbes compilation. Call your local bookstore or librarian to get some recommendations and experiment with a new book. Amazon has a huge section on humor, ranging from joke books to comedy essays. Or perhaps a humorous audiobook or podcast is more your style. When you find something that gets you laughing, buy another similar title to have ready when you’re done.
3) Play! Play! Play!
As adults, we sometimes forget to play, but you’re never too old to play. If you have children in your life, spend some time being silly with them or goof around with your pet or your loved one. Learn a new joke on the internet and try it out with the people in your life. Even the groaners can make us laugh, and the search itself can provide joy.
4) Make It Happen
If you just can’t find anything to laugh about, force the issue. Laugh just to laugh. Set aside a minute to laugh, and if possible, do it with your loved ones. Just sitting together and pretending to laugh can stimulate the real thing. So give it a try. Simulated laughter has been found to be just as healthy as real laughter, and it can prod you to find more humor in life.
So go out there and laugh. Have a little fun. It can only make your life and the lives of your loved ones better.
Article by Kathi Koll © 2020