Why laughter is the best medicine

Recently I attended a forum on ‘Humour and Happiness for Healthy Ageing‘.  It was interesting, fun, and informative.  This is some of what I learned.

According to Professor Henry Brodaty laughter has the following benefits:

  1. It improves mental functioning;
  2. It increases our pain tolerance and threshold; and,
  3. It improves respiration and breathing.

And whilst Professor Brodaty was clear that there was little or no evidence that humour can decrease symptoms of illness or medical problems, enhance relationships, marriage satisfaction or increase longevity I’d suggest that if we spend time laughing regularly, we’ll feel better about ourselves and the world.    Why?

Well, according to beyondblue, the Australian organisation with a mission to promote good mental health …

  • Seeing a smile and returning it changes our brain chemistry and gives us a natural high. It gives us more pleasure than eating chocolate, shopping, being given money, or drinking coffee. (Better than chocolate – wow!)
  • Humour helps us cope more effectively with stress;
  • Laughter helps us feel happier which makes it easier for us to think creatively around a problem;
  • Laughter brings people together (and we know that community is great for our health);
  • Regular laughter helps us feel more positive.  The good news is that the more we laugh the more positive we become more of the time.

Being a forum on humour and happiness there were many jokes and some great cartoon images that I’ll endeavour to share in the future. We also had the privilege of being entertained by Jean-Paul Bell co-founder of the Humour Foundation, Creative Director of the Arts Health Institute, and author of the book, ‘Laughter is the Best Medicine’.    I’ve subsequently discovered that Jean-Paul brought Clown Doctors to Australia having being inspired by Dr Patch Adams at a lecture he attended. Based on this success the Foundation is now introducing Elder Clowns. Whilst still in the early days, initial feedback suggests that the aged care and dementia facilities where Elder Clowns have worked are welcomed and making a difference. Imagine going to visit a parent, a friend, or a relative in an aged care facility and hearing laughter. Being entertained. A refreshing alternative to places that are often depressing and difficult places to be for any length of time.

As I reflect on the forum and write this post I wonder about my own day and week and how much I laugh. Or rather, perhaps how I could laugh more – particularly as I want to age healthily. How can I introduce laughter more into my own life? Perhaps I’ll start with smiling more often at strangers when I’m walking my dog Marlie or when I’m at checkouts, or maybe when I next step into a lift and someone’s there I’ll smile. And next time the Comedy Festival‘s in Sydney, I’ll make sure I buy some tickets.

What about you? How much do you laugh? Do you go to comedy regularly? Do you have a favourite comedian (would love to know the name)? Or, do you have a friend with whom you always have a great laugh? Do you smile at strangers? Perhaps there’s movies you know you’ll always get a laugh from (please tell me, I’m hopeless at choosing good comedy movies).  When you type LOL (laugh out loud) in a text are you smiling or laughing? Let me know. I’m genuinely interested. I’ll let you know how I go with my laughter and smiling at strangers on a post in the coming weeks.

Whilst Robin Williams’ early departure from this world was tragic he did leave a great legacy of terrific movies, many of them humorous and generally with some wonderful home truths. So, I’ll finish this post with the trailer from his movie ‘Patch Adams’ – two minutes of both humour and insights. Enjoy.

(Source: YouTube – Patch Adams [Original Trailer])



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