No matter how much we love them, caring for family members can be a very stressful job. And all that stress can take its toll on our health and make our role as family caregivers even more difficult.
One of the best ways to reduce stress and feel better about your caregiver role is to laugh. Laughter has been shown to improve both physical and emotional health and to help us feel renewed and rejuvenated.
Here are six simple ways to add more laughter to your life:
- Make funny friends. People who make you laugh not only give you the gift of laughter, they also help teach you how to change your perspective on life and lighten up yourself.
- Read funny greeting cards especially if you’ve had a really stressful day. Greeting cards are great because they deliver a laugh almost immediately and they represent a diversity of types of humor.
- Have five of your favorite funny movies saved so you can watch them when you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress. Consider funny movies to be part of your emergency first aid humor kit.
- Wear a funny button in public. Wearing a funny button communicates to everyone who sees you that you have a sense of humor and are open to hearing about their humorous experiences.
- Look for the funny. Instead of focusing on life’s miseries, try to find the laughter in everything that goes on around you. The majority of things we laugh at come from spontaneous situations that aren’t meant to be funny. Think of it as looking at the world through a pair of “Groucho” glasses.
- Fake it. Studies show that you don’t have to feel like laughing to get the benefits! It’s just like exercise; if you work out you’ll get fitter whether you feel like working out or not. Only if you fake laughter, chances are you’ll soon feel like laughing for real.
Unexpected humorous moments are common in care giving. In fact, unprompted remarks and unintentional antics can enliven a caregiver’s daily routine.
When I was thrust into care giving for my parents, I found I had to learn how to navigate the complex and overwhelming world of responsibilities. Through the initial journey, I discovered how to not only survive, but also thrive.
Your laughter can also send a positive, comforting message. If you don’t get upset during a challenging moment, it’s likely that they won’t either. Laughing is a fantastic tension-relieving exercise for the caregiver.
But many experts say that laughing in even the grimmest situations is good for you, both mentally and physically. Laughter releases stress, strengthens the immune system, improves sleep, diffuses tension, reduces pain and boosts “happy chemistry.” Laughter is the nemesis of tension; you can’t hold on to tension when you laugh.
Numerous scientific studies suggest that laughter is a powerful form of complementary therapeutic medicine:
- Blood flow. Laughter causes the tissue that forms the inner lining of blood vessels to dilate or expand in order to increase blood flow. (University of Maryland School of Medicine)
- Immune response. Humor raises the level of infection-fighting antibodies and immune cells.
- Blood pressure. Laughter lowers blood pressure just as much as cutting salt. (Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine)
- Pain relief. Ten minutes of laughing can allow up to two hours of pain relief. In a study of patients in a rehabilitation center, 74% agreed with the statement, “sometimes, laughter works as well as a pain pill.” (New England Journal of Medicine)
- Aerobic exercise. One minute of laughter is equal to 10-minutes on the rowing machine. (Dr. William Fry, Stanford University)
Just because you laugh doesn’t mean you don’t care. A good laugh may lead to a good cry. Having a good cry feels good, too.
Laughter definitely made my life easier to cope with. I certainly understand the stress and pain that goes with care giving.
Join the dialogue, we all know someone who is a caregiver. What is their story about coping with laughter?
As always, I am…a laughter-filled Boomer Explorer.