Island Senior: How’s your funny bone?

Submitted by Peggy Sue McRae, Journal contributor

“I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person.” – Audrey Hepburn.

Like many people’s grandparents in the 1960s mine had stacks of Readers Digests. Like most kids entertaining themselves with a stack of Readers Digests I turned directly to the feature in the back, Laughter is the Best Medicine, to read a page of humorous quotes, jokes, and anecdotes. But it’s no joke. Laughter really is good medicine!

According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter can provide a significant form of stress relief. The short-term benefits, besides lightening your mood, include stimulating your heart, lungs, and muscles by increasing oxygen intake. Laughing increases the endorphins released by your brain. Laughter can increase and then decrease your heart rate and blood pressure generating feelings of relaxation. Laughter reduces the physical symptoms of stress by stimulating your circulation and supporting muscle relaxation.

The long-term benefits of laughter include strengthening

the immune system. Negative thoughts can bring on chemical responses that cause stress. Conversely positive thoughts can release neuropeptides that serve as an antidote to stress. Laughter produces it’s own natural painkillers and brings ease to difficult situations while keeping depression and anxiety at bay.

“Humor has bailed me out of more situations than I can think of. If you go with your instincts and keep your humor, creativity follows.” – Jimmy Buffett

An ability to laugh at ourselves can remind us not to take ourselves too seriously and promotes positive relationships. As anthropologist Margaret Mead noted, “Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.” If we can loosen our grip on our own precious egos and find humor amongst the difficulties in our lives even tough challenges can seem a little bit easier.

Even if you think you have no sense of humor, Carolyn Todd suggests in her New York Times article, When Everything is Heavy, a Touch of Humor Can Help1, to start noticing “things that are just the tiniest bit amusing”. Todd goes on to recommend taking it lightly when things go slightly wrong. Queen Elizabeth II led such a highly scripted life of strict protocol that she delighted in things going slightly amiss. When no knife was present to cut a cake, with a slightly wicked smile, she used a ceremonial sword.

Look for opportunities to delight in life’s small mishaps. Todd also recommends spending time with people who make you laugh and curating your media intake to include more comedy.

“Comedy is a very powerful component of life. It has the most to say about the human condition because if you can laugh you can get by.” – Mel Brooks

I hope you find something today that will tickle your funny bone.