So a resident walks into our restaurant, sits down and tells a bad joke… 

Most everybody at the table groans. A few laugh. But everybody smiles. Some other things happen too. Stress decreases. Immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies get stronger. Plus, feel-good endorphins kick in.

That’s no joke. Laughter really is one of the great medicines. Life gets tough sometimes, no question, but a smile and a laugh can help us cope mentally and physically.

According to the Mayo Clinic, data is mounting about the positive things laughter can do. When you laugh, it lightens your mental load and induces physical changes in your body, increasing your intake of oxygen-rich air. This helps your heart, lungs and muscles and can reduce pain.

You get that good, relaxed feeling, and your muscles relax a bit. Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations and help you connect with other people. And for those who sometimes fight depression, laughter can help with that too.

Taking the long view, laughter fights the negative thoughts that provoke unhealthful chemical reactions. On the other side of the coin, positive thoughts can release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses. Laughter also helps the body produce its own natural painkillers. 

It’s not a replacement for going to the gym, but one study found that laughing for 10 to 15 minutes a day can burn about 40 calories. That could be three or four pounds over the course of a year.

Humor can be learned – again, no joke

It’s probably easier than you think. Look up some jokes on your phone, then try them out on people you see around the community. Odds are they’ll have a couple for you too. It’s a great ice-breaker. Tap into movies and books that make you laugh. Play with a dog. Also, try to avoid negative people and don’t dwell on news stories, entertainment, or conversations that make you sad or unhappy – or, instead of stressing about them, make it into a joke.

Have a few laughs right now and see!

Two elderly women were out driving in a large car – both could barely see over the dashboard. As they were cruising along, they came to an intersection. The stoplight was red, but they just went on through. The woman in the passenger seat thought to herself, “I must be losing it. I could have sworn we just went through a red light.” After a few more minutes, they came to another intersection and the light was red. Again, they went right through. The woman in the passenger seat was almost sure that the light had been red but was really concerned that she was losing it. She was getting nervous. At the next intersection, sure enough, the light was red and they went on through. So, She turned to the other woman and said, “Mildred, did you know that we just ran through three red lights in a row? You could have killed us both!” Mildred turned to her and said, “Oh, crap, am I driving?”

Morris, an 82 year-old man, went to the doctor to get a physical. A few days later, the doctor saw Morris walking down the street with a gorgeous young woman on his arm. A couple of days later, the doctor spoke to Morris and said, “You’re really doing great, aren’t you?” Morris replied, “Just doing what you said, Doc: Get a hot mamma and be cheerful.’’ The doctor said, “I didn’t say that.. I said, You’ve got a heart murmur; be careful.”

Two elderly ladies had been friends for many decades. Over the years, they had shared all kinds of activities and adventures. Lately, their activities had been limited to meeting a few times a week to play cards. One day, they were playing cards when one looked at the other and said, ‘Now don’t get mad at me … I know we’ve been friends for a long time, but I just can’t think of your name! I’ve thought And thought, but I can’t remember it. Please tell me what your name is.. Her friend glared at her for at least three minutes she just stared and glared at her. Finally she said, “How soon do you need to know?”

A man was telling his neighbor, “I just bought a new hearing aid. It cost me four thousand dollars, but it’s state-of-the-art.. It’s perfect.” “Really,” answered the neighbor. What kind is it?” “Twelve thirty.”

Hospital regulations require a wheel chair for patients being discharged. However, a student nurse found one elderly gentleman already dressed and sitting on the bed with a suitcase at his feet, who insisted he didn’t need any help to leave the hospital. After a chat about rules being rules, he reluctantly let the nurse wheel him to the elevator. On the way down she asked him if his wife was meeting him. “I don’t know,” he said. “She’s still upstairs in the bathroom changing out of her hospital gown.”