Red Nose Day, and why laughter really is the best medicine for all
“Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.”
This year, Red Nose Day falls on Friday 18th March. It’s an annual event designed to put an end to child poverty around the world through fundraising events and TV specials, raising money to keep children safe, healthy, and educated. Red Nose Day forms an important part of Comic Relief which was founded in 1985 by comedy writer Richard Curtis and comedian Lenny Henry in response to the famine in Ethiopia. This annual charity event, together with Sport Relief campaigns has raised over £1 billion to tackle worldwide child poverty. Red Nose Day underlines just how important it is to use the power of laughter to make a difference to people living incredibly tough lives in the UK as well as funding organisations that are supporting people right now in Ukraine, and those attempting to cross the border.
The power of laughter is encapsulated in a very well-known adage; ‘Laughter is the best medicine’. The saying is believed to have originated, albeit now in a snappier form from Proverbs 17:22 of the King James Bible in which it is written ‘a merry heart is like medicine.’ Others say that it stems from 1300, when Henri de Mondeville, a professor of surgery found out the advantages of humour in treating ailments and starting to experiment with humour as a medicine for post-operative treatments. Another professor and journalist also started experimenting with mood-elevating techniques by laughter. His experiments reveal that just ten minutes of laughter is enough for relaxation for up to a couple of hours. Whatever its provenance, the proverb has become an integral part of global culture and is often used in conversations, as well as in practice.
In fact, ‘laughter is the best medicine’ really is more than just a proverb as the power of laughter has long been recognised by both medical and spiritual experts. Laughter is believed to have predated speech by millions of years as a way for our early ancestors to share joy and tell others they are open to friendship and there is nothing to worry about. This is a proverb that not only promotes good physical health, but also mental health as well. It encourages us to adopt a happy lifestyle and be in the company of happy and healthy individuals.
Laughter and Community in retirement
Happiness, laughter, and a sense of community go hand in hand. Getting older and retirement both involve a change in lifestyle for most people – and as outlined above, it’s important to take care of your mental health as well as physical health. It has been well documented that being part of a community can have a positive effect on mental health in well-being, in the way that laughter can. They are inextricably linked! Community involvement provides a sense of belonging and social contentedness. It can also offer extra meaning, purpose and enjoyment to everyday life and can help improve and enrich one’s retirement. Communities can exist or be created from a shared location, hobbies, lived experiences and backgrounds – and LifeCare Residences provide their residents with just that, a sense of community. The award-winning and internationally renowned retirement community operator recognises the importance of socialising, fun and a community spirit. The communities operated by Lifecare Residences provide vibrant places to live offering a full-spectrum of five-star amenities and services that make day-today living smoother. The LifeCare Residences team believe that staying socially active and feeling part of a community empowers self-esteem and a sense of self-worth. To help achieve this, every LifeCare Residences retirement community benefits from the services of a lifestyle co-ordinator who organises local excursions, talks from visiting speakers on a variety of topics and on-site activities and functions. The teams at Battersea Place in London, Somerleigh Court in Dorchester, Dorset, and Grove Place in Hampshire are dedicated to helping facilitate a wide array of clubs, activities and classes to get involved in, as well as helping to arrange interesting trips and visits. What is more, laughter itself forms contagious social bonds, research has found. The pleasurable and calming effects of the endorphin release caused by laughter promote feelings of safety and togetherness – much the same as the sense of community provides. The endorphin release induced by social laughter may be an important pathway that supports formation, reinforcement, and maintenance of social bonds between humans. So, as well as making us feel better, laughter can also improve the wellbeing of those around us. Another study found how the brain responds to the sound of laughter and preps the brain and face to join in the fun. The residents at Grove Place love throwing themselves into some community fun. Most recently, the residents had a good laugh on Shrove Tuesday with a pancake tossing competition. A fun snooker tournament was also held recently where the residents were delighted to take on and beat the staff! Indeed, residents Elaine and Philip Gaussen made the move to Grove Place to begin the next chapter in their lives and have never looked back as they thoroughly embrace the buzz and sense of community. Elaine adds, “We hadn’t realized how strong the Grove Place community was before we arrived. It’s so lovely to have nice friends and neighbours to socialise with. Everyone is so kind, and we feel at home here.”
Laughter and Charity
First and foremost, Red Nose Day and Comic Relief are important charity initiatives. But it is also interesting to note that there is a connection between how volunteering to help others has also been proven to make you happier. Basically, when we do good for others, it does us good right back! Research shows that we are happiest when we’re doing good for other people. Professor Santos, a Professor of Psychology at Yale University says, “People who do more volunteer work tend to be happier than those who don’t. This is a universal phenomenon. In fact, pro-social behaviour seems to cross most cultures and improve people’s happiness.” The residents at Grove Place in Romsey, Hampshire are a particularly generous hearted group and readily give up their time and energy for charity fundraising events. Most notable are the ‘Desert Island Disc’ events that resident Mike Lemon holds monthly, where the profits go directly to charity. These are good community events where the residents not only have a good laugh, but they also feel that warm glow of doing a good deed. Social psychologist Naomi Eisenberger explains that there’s a neurological cause for that ‘warm glow’. She says, “When we help another person, or donate to charity we see ‘reward-related’ activation in the brain. These acts of kindness typically lead to positive feelings or what is sometimes referred to as the ‘warm glow of giving’”.
The positive benefits of laughter
There are many other additional benefits of laughter. A good hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving our muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after. Laughter increases then decreases our heart rate and blood pressure, stimulates circulation and aids muscles relaxation. It has also been said that laughter can boost the immune system – as negative thoughts can manifest into chemical reactions that can affect our body by bringing more stress into our system and decreasing immunity. In contrast, positive thoughts can release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more serious illnesses. Furthermore, it has been proven that laughter can ease pain. Research has shown that watching comedy videos can decrease a hospital patients need for opioid painkillers. Viewing or participating in comedy led to higher pain tolerance and people who laughed more felt less pain later. By surrounding yourself with like-minded and good fun people, their natural joy can rub off on you and it has been proven that embracing the powerful natural medicine of laughter can make our bodies and mind healthier and more relaxed.
If you would like to learn more about our offering and how we can enhance the ‘every day’ please call T. 0800 009 6950.
For those who are unable to visit in person, we are also able to offer virtual tours of our communities at your convenience.