- A man goes to a psychiatrist. “Nobody listens to me!” The doctor says, “Next!”
- The Doctor says, “You’ll live to be 60!” “I AM 60!” “See, what did I tell you?”
- The doctor says to the patient, “Take your clothes off and stick your tongue out the window”. “What will that do?” asks the patient. The doctor says, “I’m mad at my neighbor!”
I don’t know about you, but Henny Youngman jokes still crack me up every time. They are so simple and goofy, that for a few moments all the problems of the world slip away as I lose myself in a good belly laugh. But that is not where it ends. The effect of laughter lasts far beyond the last line of the joke. Yes, humor does give us a mood lift, but did you also know that laughing has an influence on your physical wellbeing too?
So how is laughter important to aging happy?
Well, if you have ever suffered from the chronic pain that affects so many of us later in life (and it is estimated that over 50% of older adults deal with some kind of ongoing pain), this might interest you:
Researchers conducted an experiment with two groups of nursing home patients, a population that usually suffers a higher rate of chronic pain than do older adults living in the community. One group (the experimental group) was exposed to an 8-week humor therapy program and was compared to the “control” group, who did not receive the intervention. When the program came to an end the findings were significant. Those who had the “humor training” reported substantial decreases in pain, diminished sense of loneliness, and significant increases in happiness and life satisfaction. No such changes were reported amongst the control group (by the way, this group was then offered the humor therapy group in accordance with good research ethics).
The researchers offered several suggestions to increase humor in the lives of an older population, but one of them especially piqued my curiosity, because I had never thought of it before.
We all know that increasing humor in our daily lives, makes us feel good, and there are many ways to do this:
- Rent a funny movie at the end of the day
- Watch your favorite comedy TV show
- Hang out with a friend who always makes you laugh
- Put on some music and dance or sing with abandon
- Play with your grandchildren or pets
- Watch old clips of your favorite comedians on YouTube
The researchers found, that despite patients’ physical conditions, making a “Happy Folder” can empower them to manage their symptoms. They don’t go into detail about what goes into a Happy Folder, but I would think anything that makes you laugh or smile when you re-read your entries.
- Funny stories that happened to you or someone else you know
- Jokes (like the Henny Youngman one-liners he was famous for)
- Philosophical musings about the absurdity of something you’ve observed or experienced.
The possibilities are endless! I say we all start our own Happy Journal and see what happens. If you have an entry that you’d like to share, do comment below. At any rate, please “like” and share this post with your friends, or with anyone who needs a laugh today. So happy to have you on board!
Reference: Tse, Mimi M., et. al. (2010) Humor Therapy: Relieving Chronic Pain and Enhancing Happiness for Older Adults. Journal of Aging Research.
© Raeleen Mautner, Ph.D. 2018