The old adage says “laughter is the best medicine” and now scientists are proving just how true that is. It can also help combat memory loss and reduce stress.
Research has shown that when a group of seniors watched a funny video, they exhibited significant decreases in cortisol levels and greater improvement on memory tests, compared to the group that didn’t see the video. When a group of seniors with diabetes watch a funny video, they showed an even larger decrease in cortisol levels than the healthy group.
The reason this is important is that previous research found that the stress hormone cortisol can harm memory and learning ability in older adults. This new study indicates that humor may in fact reduce that damage.
Humor may also improve memory. Scientists say it is as simple as this: when the mind is not under stress, it’s memory can be better. The hormones released by stress decrease the number of brain cells, thereby making good memory more difficult. Humor also lowers blood pressure and improves moods.
In fact, the simple act of laughter increases the release of endorphins and dopamine in the brain, which provides a sense of pleasure and reward. In scientific language; people who experience prolonged periods of stress show shrinkage in the hippocampus (which is essential for memory formation and function) and the prefrontal cortex (which aids in problem-solving, glucose metabolism and control of impulse behaviors).
Ever wondered why a “really good laugh” makes the mind and body feel so good? Scientists say laughter actually causes positive and beneficial neurochemical changes in the body and the brain. Not only does that make people happy, it makes the immune system function better.
The beauty of these findings is that they can be implemented anywhere- in the home, assisted living and nursing homes. Audio recordings of comedians familiar to the senior can easily be found and are inexpensive to purchase, or borrow from the library. Any number of comedies can be found on television and funny movies are a dime a dozen. Even the old cartoons of Bugs Bunny and the Road Runner remain as funny today as they were when they were new.
Humor and laughter are just as important to a senior’s well-being as are light and water. LivHOME caregivers know this, and spend time with seniors to make them happy and lighthearted. Have a good laugh today, and watch your loved one’s mood improve instantly.