A merry heart does good like a medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)

A Maryland School of Medicine study in 2005 showed that laughter is linked to the healthy function of blood vessels. It seems that laughter causes the tissue that forms the endothelium, the inner lining of blood vessels, to expand in order to increase blood flow.  Stress (caused by any factor) has the opposite effect, constricting blood vessels and reducing blood flow.

When you laugh, blood flow increases and blood pressure rises.  When you stop laughing, blood pressure drops back to its baseline. This relaxing effect helps bring down blood pressure. This generates deeper breathing, which in turn sends more oxygenated blood through the body. The natural conclusion is that laughing more is a great way to achieve cardiac health.

There’s ample evidence that cardiac patients with a negative outlook about their recovery are more than twice as likely as optimists to die sooner. So, one of the strategies for achieving a happy, healthy longer life is to look for reasons to laugh.

In addition to all the great cardio benefits, the Mayo Clinic lists many ways that laughter helps us to be healthier. Laughter strengthens the immune system, stimulates the lungs and muscles, can naturally reduce pain through the production of endorphins by the brain, can increase memory and learning and can help lessen anxiety, fear and depression. Laughter enhances resilience. All of this and you get a good abdominal work-out when you laugh long and hard!

There are some great social benefits as well. Humor plays a huge part by fostering emotional connection. When we laugh with someone, we bond with them and this bond acts as a buffer during times of stress, disagreements and disappointments. Laughing with others is more powerful than laughing alone.

So turn the corners of your mouth upwards and feel the smile begin to grow on your face. Now allow yourself to laugh, even if it feels a little forced. Think about something amusing or a funny joke you heard. Then pay attention to how you feel. Are your muscles a little less tense? Do you feel more relaxed or maybe even a little bouncy? That’s the natural wonder of laughing working its magic on your health.

An elderly gentleman was telling his friend about a new restaurant he and his wife recently visited. “The food and service were great!” he said. His friend asked, “What’s the name of the place?” “Gee, I don’t remember,” he said, “What do you call the long stemmed flower people give on special occasions?” “You mean a rose?” asked his friend. “That’s it!” he exclaimed and turning to his wife, asked, “Rose, what’s the name of that restaurant we went to the other day?”

Be a Savvy Senior. Look for reasons to laugh every day.