In terms of ageing well few phenomena can compete with being a clown. The most ancient "clowns" have been found in the Fifth dynasty of Egypt, around 2400 BC.
Unlike court jesters, clowns have traditionally served a socio-religious and psychological role, and traditionally the roles of priest and clown have been held by the same persons.
Confirming a view from Elizabeth MacKinlay Director of the Centre for Ageing and Pastoral Studies at St Mark's National Theological Centre, Canberra, that laughter, spirituality and ageing have inexorable links. Whereby laughter might even be part of the spiritual dimension.
While some horror story writers have used clowns as central characters of mayhem and evil they’re better known as purveyors of unrestrained joy and laughter. One reason why clowns, the ‘specialists’ in delivering humour ‘therapy’, are at the forefront of making older people laugh. Their brand of medicine produces powerful outcomes indicating that laughter is one of the best anti-ageing secrets.
A number of studies on older people with dementia living in nursing homes concern the effects of humour therapy and quality of life. For example, it was found that agitation levels decreased significantly in nursing homes where medical clowns worked with humour therapy, compared to homes where no cultural activities took place.
Findings from other studies confirm that medical clowns had a beneficial and effective impact when working with persons with dementia, integrating skills such as drama, music and dance. Humour can stimulate social interactions in dementia care.
Positive emotions and laughter may enable people with dementia to cope better with their illness, improve immune defence, increase pain tolerance and decrease stress response. Such results point to effects that resemble intervention studies involving psychosocial interventions where social activities reduce aggressive and depressive behaviour among older people with dementia.
Stress has been shown to accelerate ageing and disease, anything you can do to reduce stress has to be good. So how about laughing more?
Recent research has shown that laughter really does help us in managing stress. Adopting a humorous view of life’s difficulties can take the edge off every day stressful situations.
Laughter prevents tension building up and stops the release of damaging stress hormones into the body.
We are probably all aware that not being too serious about everything helps us to keep some balance in our everyday lives. But laughter is more potent medicine than that. Not only does it deliver a sense of perspective but it can actually help to promote clear thinking.
Being able to laugh stress away is one of the smartest ways you have to protect yourself from the harmful effects of stress, essential for anti-ageing health.
A sense of humor also allows us to see and understand life’s little quirks and provides us with moments of true delight, even in the darkest of times.
Laughter causes synchronized contraction of facial muscles, increases respiratory rate, blood flow and the release of adrenaline in blood and ultimately leads to joy and happiness. It is the cheapest medicine for preventing many diseases and fighting against them. Laughter also decreases the heart beat rate and blood pressure while it increases oxygen intake in tissues by making the individuals take deep breaths. Hence, laughter can benefit both mental and physical health.
LAUGHTER really could be the best medicine, albeit a complementary one.
Combine it with yoga, minus the downward dogs and active wear, and it appears it not only can improve your mood, it also has the potential to lower blood pressure.
La Trobe University researchers set out to assess the effects of laughter yoga, a group therapy combining deep breathing, clapping and chuckling, on 28 people living in aged-care homes.
“A growing body of evidence indicates the health benefits of laughter,” she wrote in the Australasian Journal of Ageing.
“These include reducing stress, blood pressure and stress hormones; increasing muscle flexion and triggering the release of endorphins — the body’s natural painkilling chemicals that produce a general sense of wellbeing.”