Laughter – The Best Medicine

Dear Dori:

My father recently moved to an assisted living community. After my mom passed away, he was isolated and lonely. He was even beginning to develop new health problems, most notably diabetes.

While I know these are big life changes to adjust to all at once, I really miss seeing him smile and hearing him laugh. I think if we could lift his spirits and get him laughing again, his mental and physical health would both improve.

Do you have any advice?

Steven

Laughter Heals the Body, Mind and Spirit

Dear Steven:

Wow! It does sound like your father has experienced some big changes. The two he is facing now — the death of a spouse and a move to a senior living community — often go hand-in-hand.

An assisted living community will more than likely help improve his quality of life once he settles in. Companionship and life enrichment activities are just two of the many benefits of a move to a senior living community.

And you are correct in pointing out the link between laughter or humor and improved mental and physical health. The old adage, “Laughter is the best medicine,” really holds true. The healing power of humor is one way people can find relief during difficult times.

There are proven scientific reasons to LOL (laugh out loud!). They include:

  • Lower blood pressure: Laughing expands the blood vessels and increases the blood flow through your body. This, in turn, helps lower blood pressure.

  • Pain relief: Talk with any physician involved in pain management and he or she will tell you that a good laugh can help relieve chronic pain. Many believe it is linked to the release of endorphins in the body.

  • Aerobic benefits: If you’ve enjoyed a good laugh lately, you probably felt a little tired afterward. Maciej Buchowski, a researcher from Vanderbilt University, found that 10 to 15 minutes of laughing can burn about 50 calories!

Some researchers even say the need for some prescription medications can be cut by indulging in routine laugh therapy.

So what can you do to help your father enjoy himself again?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Does he have grandkids who can visit? They are almost always good for a few laughs.

  • Talk with the life enrichment staff at his assisted living community. What activities are offered? Maybe you and your father can attend a few together. Or the staff can help partner him with someone he can attend events with.

  • Stock up on some favorite old comedies. Use them to host movie afternoons or evenings with your dad.

  • As corny as it sounds, invest in some joke books. Read a few of them with your dad and leave the books behind for him to enjoy on his own.

Finally, be patient. As you already know, your father has gone through two of life’s biggest changes at once. He will need time to work his way through the grieving process.

I hope this helps you and your dad, Steven!

Best Regards,

Dori Duchin