What are the attributes of a great quality of life? Physical, emotional and cognitive health? Close friendships? Contentment with what you have? Freedom to live the life you choose?

What if there was something you could bring into your life that was free, easily available, had no side effects, didn’t require a prescription, addressed all of the attributes above, and could be shared with your friends and family?

There is. It’s called laughter.

The Benefits of Laughter 

Physical benefits

When you laugh, the chemicals in your brain designed to lower stress levels, called endorphins, are boosted. Therefore, because stress increases blood pressure, laughter has the opposite effect on your body. And when your stress levels and blood pressure are lower, your risk for heart disease decreases as well.

Your immune system also improves by when the level of stress hormones. In addition, laughter aids infection-fighting antibodies in your system.

Endorphins also lessen your perception of physical pain and minimize inflammation throughout your body. One study showed that people who had watched a humorous film had a significant advantage in pain tolerance over people who watched other types of films.

Mental benefits

Laughter reduces stress, which causes your brain to focus better and your memory to improve.

Laughter eases tension, stress, anger and anxiety, and stimulates blood flow, muscle relaxation, and positive thoughts.

Joy, enthusiasm for life, and self-esteem tend to increase through the power of laughter as well.

Social benefits

Laughter often becomes a source for strengthening relationships, and attracting others to you and you to them.

And sharing a laugh with someone with whom you have been in conflict can shift your perspective and heal hard feelings.

Laughter also relaxes the whole body, and allows for a recharge and a positive re-evaluation of life.

What Are Some Laughter Sources?

Gathering with family and friends. Review a photo album. Watch a comedy together. Play games. Laughter is contagious, so the more people laughing around you, the more likely that you will join in the laughter.

Think about what makes you laugh. Are there TV shows you found hilarious? Old TV comedy shows, stand-up routines and movie comedies can be purchased online. Services like Netflix can enable you to select from a wide variety of comedic offerings to watch in your home.

A visit from small children can provide some funny moments as well. And pets are a joy for many seniors.

Perhaps it’s been a while since you really laughed long and loud. Maybe you’ve allowed your sense of humor to be crowded out by other concerns or worries.

Just remember that laughter is a very important part of how your mind and body heal themselves — for free.

For more information on senior health and wellness, visit Bethesda’s Health & Wellness blog.