As a serious and dedicated caregiver, one of the best things you can do for yourself and your loved one is laugh.

I’m not joking. Laughter truly is one of the world’s best medicines. It boosts the immune system, reduces stress hormones, decreases pain, and relaxes muscles. Not only that, laughter also calms anxiety and stress, improves one’s mood, and aids in recovery from emotionally challenging situations. Both caregivers and their loved ones are generally in need of exactly what laughter provides.

There’s a reason why people may feel an irrepressible desire to laugh during funerals or on other dark days. Those times need laughter the most. So if your loved one gets another poor diagnosis or you feel like you are at the breaking point, it’s okay to laugh. In fact, it may be just what the both of you need.

Children laugh hundreds of times a day, but as adults, we often forget to take time to appreciate the ridiculousness of life. We take pride in our serious commitments, but in the process, we may forget life’s joys. Laughter is one of those joys. Even fake smiles and laughs have a positive effect on our mood. Laughing with someone strengthens that relationship and calms conflicts. Laughter can even add years to your life.

So, how can you bring some more laughs into your caregiving journey? Here are some ideas:

1) Seek Out the Fun
Humor is everywhere if you look for it. People send funny memes to their friends, share jokes, or enjoy goofy YouTube videos. Bookstores and libraries often have humor sections, and there are websites dedicated to making you laugh. There’s also a reason why so many sitcoms, ranging from Leave It to Beaver to Friends, have such longevity. They make us laugh, and we feel lighter and happier after watching them. My husband, Don, who spent almost seven years paralyzed from the neck down, loved both sitcoms and Robin Williams’ one-man show. Watching them always lifted his spirits. So turn on a sitcom or a favorite funny movie, then get ready to feel the healing joy of laughter.

2) Fake It ‘Til You Make It
If the seriousness of life has become so intense that nothing makes you laugh, that’s okay. Nothing has to actually be funny for you to laugh. Fake laughter is as healing as real laughter. Our bodies can’t tell the difference. Both increase blood flow, improve the oxygenation of the blood, and combat depression. Even holding a pen between your teeth and pulling your lips back mimics a smile enough to have positive effects. So right now, experiment with some phony laughs. I’ll do it too, so you won’t feel alone. Start a one minute timer, and see what happens. If you’re like me, some real laughs will start making their way through, and, after 45 seconds, neurotransmitters will flood your body with happy hormones that reduce pain and enhance your immune system. Try this with your loved one. You’ll be surprised by how much fun it can be.

3) Consider the Joy
When thinking about activities to do solo or with your loved one, factor fun and laughter into the equation. If you have a friend who always makes you laugh, invite them over or go out for a meal together. If you have fond memories of bowling, singing karaoke, or playing miniature golf, then make time for one such fun activity each month. Host a game night or sit down and play with a pet. Young children can be great inspirations to silliness, so laugh with the kids in your life. Comedy clubs can also provide some belly laughs, so visit one with a friend or even your loved one. If you take the time to think about ways to up the fun and laughs in your life, you might be surprised at the ideas that occur to you.

Whatever you do, remember that even on your hardest days, it’s okay to laugh. Joy and happiness are essential parts of life, and, especially when things are hard, it’s worth making some time to laugh.

Thank you for reading, please share with a friend, and be well! —KK

We are grateful to be celebrating our 10th year of helping caregivers in need and to be supported by the many generous and caring friends who have helped make a difference in so many lives. 

Please consider donating to the Kathi Koll Foundation so you can help make a difference in struggling family caregivers’ lives. Thank you!

Photo “Laugh” for Unsplash © Tim Mossholder