Is Laughter the Best Medicine for Weary Caregivers?
If you’ve ever laughed so hard your belly hurt and tears streamed down your face, you know that laughter, as the old saying goes, really is the best medicine. In fact, some researchers believe laughing actually improves your health.
Short-Term Benefits of Laughter
According to WebMD, a good, hearty laugh is similar to a mild workout. Laughing increases heart rate, while stretching the muscles in our mouth and face. It also increases blood flow to the tissues throughout our body.
Laughter burns calories. Maciej Buchowski, a researcher from Vanderbilt University, measured the amount of calories burnt from laughter during a small study group. He found that 10 to 15 minutes of laughing burns about 50 calories. Not bad right?
In addition to burning off a few chocolate bars, laughter is also an effective method for stress relief.
It may be difficult to find humor in very many situations when you are caring for a senior loved one who is declining, but the simple act of laughing can ease tensions.
Gaiam reports that laughter reduces the level of stress hormones in the body, which instantly reduces anxiety. The reduction in stress may also lead to an improved immune system, keeping your overall health in check.
Long-Term Benefits of a Good Laugh
The short-term benefits of laughter may lead to long term improvements in your health.
Decreasing stress increases the body’s natural immunity. An improved immune system helps your body fight off nasty germs and bacteria, preventing major illnesses such as the flu and bronchitis. For worn out caregivers who are often more susceptible to colds and viruses, laughter might just be a fun way to shoo the flu!
Laughing also helps to:
- Manage pain: A good laugh releases endorphins which may help to ease chronic aches and pains. WebMD reports that laughter may also break the pain-spasm cycle, which can occur in some muscle disorders.
- Beat the blues: Sharing a good laugh can also improve your mood. You’re less likely to experience depression and other emotional disorders which can lead to serious health complications.
The bottom line is that laughter is a great way to ease tension and improve your health. Use one of these cold Indiana days to pop in your favorite comedy DVD or try out a few knock-knock jokes on your children or grandchildren. It’s time to start enjoying laughter’s many benefits!