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Aging well with laughter as a tool

Patricia Harrington
Patricia Harrington - Contributed

Aging Well

By Patricia Harrington

A number of years ago I attended a luncheon marking International Women’s Day and during the event people wore silly hats and carried out an exercise of laughing for no reason.

I was only able to take part in the silly hat part and the luncheon, however. Due to time constraints I was unable to take part in the laughing exercise component.

I wanted to know if it was as good as I had imagined. I had seen a documentary about Dr. Madan Kataria, and his work with “Laughter Yoga” and I saw the benefits demonstrated.

To find out first hand from people who had attended the local “laughtersize” (exercise with laughter) I had spoken with a couple of people who were able to stay and enjoy the demonstration of laughing for their well-being.

One person explained that although she didn’t even really want to laugh at first, she participated and ended up laughing along with everyone else. When it was over, she said she felt physically different, was relaxed and felt good.

The second person I spoke with also mentioned how good the event made her feel. Feeling a sense of purpose through supporting a good cause – as it was also a fundraiser – and having a reason to laugh added a special aspect that gave a great gift towards emotional, mental, physical and spiritual well-being.

She shared another story of how special times like these weave their way through her life. She told me about how she has an annual dinner with a group of women she graduated with over 50 years ago. Staying connected with this group for so long, she questioned why they never ran out of things to share like memories, life’s experiences, troubles – and laughs, lots of laughs. They had never tired of each other. What may have appeared as “old” years ago feels very young now. Each of them was in their seventies and they knew they were not nearly done living yet. They shared how they continue to experience new things like Tai Chi, Yoga, artwork and just living life to the fullest.

Research shows the many ways in which laughing is good for us, like pain relief, greater happiness, and it even improves our immune system. This fun exercise also reduces stress through releasing hormones. This sounds technical and perhaps it is, yet we don’t even really need to know all that, we just need to know that it makes us feel better.

A part of aging well is reducing stress and feeling connected with others. People don’t always take enough time to laugh and yet it is contagious so please, take time to laugh and pass it along. Help spread the joyous feeling.

If you need a little help, pick out or create a funny card and send it to someone out of the blue. Just thinking of their reaction to it can create a giggle. Pick out a silly movie and don’t expect any great depth to the story, just take it for what it is meant, a laugh. Who knows, maybe your diaphragm will get a work out – who says being a couch potato doesn’t have its health benefits.

Patricia Harrington is executive director at Westford Nursing Home in Port Elgin. She believes it is important to share information on everyday concerns as we age and enjoys promoting these important aspects that will help our older population in aging well. She can be reached by email at executivedirector@westfordnursinghome.com or by phone at 506-538-1301.

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