After 37+ years of regular workouts, my body has decided to defend itself by developing osteoarthritis. Every workout is now a rousing game of Will It Hurt If I Do This? Oh, what fun.
But unlike a real game show, no prizes are awarded, no audience cheers me on and Door Number 2 does not hide a new sports car – or even a booby prize of a bucket of oats and a donkey. If only. Nope, the only reward is no pain if I win, pain if I lose.
I have two types of topical analgesic products to ease the discomfort. One is a roll-on. The other day I found myself rolling the soothing gel over both knees, my left thumb, my right toe and my right hip, all of which had decided to hurt for no reason whatsoever.
I started laughing as I realized I would gladly pay money for a head-to-toe roll on if it could erase every ache and pain.
In reality, I could skip the hilarity, throw myself a pity party (everyone’s invited!) and simply give up and lie on the couch, feeling sorry for myself. I could lament about the “good old days” when I could do lunges without pain, all while whimpering into my Chunky Monkey.
And to say I’m never tempted to do just that would be less than honest.
But here’s the thing. Aging happens. Everyone does it, whether they want to or not, whether they try to hide it or not.
Mother Nature has her way with all of us in one way or another.
Yes, even Madonna, Cher and every other woman in show biz, who pretends not to age, isn’t hiding from Mom Nature, I assure you. You can’t fake out your hormones, no matter how many vials of Botox or full body lifts you endure.
Making fun of myself and these changes has been my lifelong way of coping. And, it turns out, I was onto something.
Laughter goes beyond simply good. Here are a few ways laughter boosts health.
A 2014 Loma Linda University study found that humor may reduce brain damage caused by the stress hormone, cortisol, which then helps improve memory.
After watching a 30-minute humorous video, learning ability improved in the 60- to 70-year-old participants by nearly 39 percent. Scientists believe this occurs due to the ability of laughter to lower cortisol.
An earlier study by Texas A&M researchers shows humor increases hopefulness by relieving stress and producing a general sense of wellbeing.
Increases Heart Health
Research from the University of Maryland shows that an ability to laugh can even protect against heart disease.
The study found that people with heart disease responded less humorously to everyday life situations (even positive ones). They displayed more anger and hostility than those who did not have heart disease.
Numerous other research demonstrates the ability of laughter to lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormone levels and boost your immune system.
What’s Not to Love?
Problem is, if you’re Crabby McCrabby Face, it may take some work to turn that frown upside down.
Though keep in mind, I’m not talking about making light of serious situations. Sadness and other negative emotions are often warranted. We all go through tough situations in life that are not and never will be funny no matter how much time passes.
But on ordinary days, when your computer crashes, you’re stuck in traffic, or the cat barfs up a fur ball in the middle of your dinner party, putting things in perspective not only helps you move forward, but lowers cortisol and potentially avoids a whole heap of health issues.
When you’re having “one of those days,” at least one or more of the following tips should trigger your funny bone to do its thing.
Tap into Your Environment
Manipulate your environment on a daily basis by setting aside time to watch funny movies or videos or sitcoms. Think about what you find funny and schedule time for play or fun every day. Clown noses, funny cat videos or watching a favorite standup comic all work.
Create a Fun List
Jot down at least 10 things that bring a smile or a laugh. Your list should include things you can do when you’re feeling depressed or tired – times you’re typically least able to think of something fun to do.
Maybe it’s a Nerf ball you can throw at the wall, a Dave Barry book you can read for perspective or simply watching your cat play with a ball of paper.
Listen to Humor
Use audios of comics and humor writers on your iPhone, iPad or other mobile device. Look for humorous podcasts, videos of standup comics on YouTube or others. Brian Regan and Jim Gaffigan are two of my favorite comediennes and appeal to a lot of people.
Call a Funny Friend
We should all have that someone who makes us laugh (my friends tell me I’m that person for them). Call him or her to talk about your frustrations. By the end of the call you should feel much better simply from talking it out and sharing a laugh.
Use Social Media
Do searches for “humor” on Pinterest, and you’ll find boatloads of funny quotes and cartoons. Same with Twitter. FunTweets.com has a lot of one-liners, some from professional comediennes, that will make you smile and laugh out loud.
Decide to Laugh at Yourself
Case in point: I just returned from a dentist appointment after writing half this blog. Part of my lip was still numb, so when I attempted to drink water out of a bottle it ended up pouring out down the front of my shirt and into the waistband of my jeans. I laughed and went in the bedroom to change clothes.
I assure you, that whole story will end up as a topic for a future blog.
In the meantime, be sure to take action and make that funny list ahead of time, so it’s ready for the next time you’re tempted to let a bad day get the best of you.
How do you incorporate humor into your life? Do you have any funny movies, websites or social media groups that make you laugh? Please share a funny story that happened to you recently!