Resources: Tips for Healthy Aging at Hebrew SeniorLife

How to Use Humor

At its best, humor is a tool for maintaining perspective on life's difficulties. The ability to laugh and enjoy the ironies and twists of the world around us is one of the great human coping skills.

Humor may be the best medicine against life's trials and tribulations . . . but it may also have some health benefits, as well.

Experts at Hebrew SeniorLife say that humor-often in the form of a good, hearty laugh-can help the mind and body in several ways by:

  • Relieving physical tension and stress;
  • Boosting the immune system, including reducing stress hormones and increasing the activity of immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies;
  • Releasing endorphins, the body's natural feel-good chemicals; and
  • Improving blood flow and the function of blood vessels, reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke.

In fact, a recent Vanderbilt University study showed that 15 minutes of laughing can burn up to 50 calories!

You don't have to be able to tell a joke or funny story well to benefit from a healthy sense of humor. HSL experts suggest the following ways to maintain your sense of humor:

  • Avoid jokes that depend on stereotypes and denigration of others;
  • Learn to laugh at your own foibles before you point out someone else's;
  • Watch a funny move or television show regularly;
  • Tell a good joke if you want to; if no one laughs, that's their problem.

While scientists continue to study the health benefits of humor, studies have shown that we are 30 times more likely to laugh when we're with other people. People who laugh a lot, researchers say, may just have a strong connection to the people around them, which, in itself, may have health benefits, including an improved quality of life. So, go ahead and have a good laugh.

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