Is Laughter Therapeutic? We Think So.

BY: 

INSPIR SENIOR LIVING TEAM

Humor is proven to have many benefits for people of all ages. It helps us get through challenges, cope with change, and lift our spirits. Simply said, humor promotes good health. That’s why it plays a key role in our approach to whole-person wellness at Inspīr. Laughter is one of Nine Core Elements woven into our integrated care plan. So, why is it so important? According to Caregiver.com, “Laughter establishes or restores a positive emotional climate and a sense of connection between two people. In fact, some researchers believe that the major function of laughter is to bring people together—the more social a person is and the more social support a person receives, the more likely that laughter will result from that social connection. Mutual laughter and play are an essential component of strong, healthy relationships. By making a conscious effort to incorporate more humor and play into your daily interactions, you can improve the quality of your relationships.”

We incorporate a little humor into everything we do at Inspīr, because laughter is like therapy to residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Laughter also helps our dedicated employees to be even better caregivers by lightening the mood and allowing them to better connect with residents through humor.

The American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine has a piece called “The Laughter Prescription,” which notes, “given that laughter and humor are key elements to happiness and are often used as therapeutic tools for depression, both traditionally and more recently in the form of ‘Laughter Yoga,’ they could potentially be used to counteract the effects of depression and aid in new approaches to lifestyle change. More recently, laughter and humor are being used in geriatric care of patients with dementia, resulting in a positive climate that could also potentially be fertile ground for instituting lifestyle changes.”

The Mayo Clinic highlights short-term benefits from laughter, including soothing tension, activating and relieving your stress response, and stimulating organs. It actually improves oxygen intake, which stimulates the heart, lungs, and muscles, and increases the release of endorphins by your brain. Long-term effects include a better immune system that fights stress and illness more effectively. Laughter also helps to ease pain, helps you connect with others, and of course, improves your mood. It’s especially helpful for those suffering from depression or fighting a long-term illness.

At Inspīr Carnegie Hill, we are working with Rocco Natale from the Open Arts Alliance in Greenwich, Connecticut, to infuse laughter into our programming with improv. When asked why he felt laughter was so important, Natale told us “Laughter is a social cue for those around us who are willing and wanting to engage. It is a commonly shared experience that is unique to every culture but also specific to each person. When two people laugh together, there is an empathetic connection that links them to one another and the larger human experience. On a physiological level, laughter has not only been shown to relieve stress but to increase respiratory activity and improve the digestive tract and immune system.”

Thanks to Rocco Natale’s work with the Open Arts Alliance’s “Yes, And Improv” program, Inspīr residents can expect to laugh and learn. He uses fundamentals of theatre games and arts education techniques to encourage participants to move in new ways and think of scenarios off the top of their heads. The beauty of improvisation is that there is no experience required, and our program can be enjoyed by everyone—including those with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or limited physical mobility. Games like "Mirror," "What are you doing," and "Tell me a story" are some of the fun, user-friendly activities that residents of all ages can look forward to playing.

Rocco told us that the improv programs he runs usually last for ten weeks, and while the residents who have Alzheimer’s may not necessarily remember the games or activities week-to-week, there is a kind of cognitive repair—or growth—that seems to occur. The staff at the communities he visits often tell him how residents are nicer after he leaves. His programming brings back smiles. Bringing back smiles—that has a nice ring to it. We look forward to welcoming Rocco to Inspīr Carnegie Hill, and we’re eager to see him work his magic.

We believe in laughter at Inspῑr Carnegie Hill. So much, that we’ve also partnered with Hilarity for Charity to raise awareness, and most importantly, to add some laughter and light to the terrible disease of Alzheimer’s. Hilarity for Charity’s mission closely aligns with Inspīr’s commitment to providing residents with a brain-healthy lifestyle in addition to providing progressive care and support to those living with Alzheimer’s and their families. On February 29, 2020, at 7:30 PM, we are presenting “It’s All in Your Head Live” to benefit Hilarity for Charity at 92Y. What could be a better fit than partnering with an organization that uses comedy events to spread awareness to younger generations and raise funding to push Alzheimer’s research forward?

Because for residents at Inspīr, the healing properties of laughter might be just what the doctor ordered. Stay tuned to read about our music and arts programs in our next blog.