Are you too overwhelmed with keeping doctor’s appointments, cooking meals and doing household chores to even crack a smile, let alone sit back and start laughing? Have you replaced your sense of humor with strict rules for getting things done?
It’s important to stay organized, but you should also find time to fit humor into your busy caregiving schedule. In fact, laughing may be the key to all things healthy.
So go ahead and add some levity to your and your loved one’s day. Here’s why.
Laughing helps your body and mind relax and restore a negative vibe, helping ease tension and forget about a sensitive matter. Humor doesn’t mean laughing at someone’s expense, but on days when an unpleasant situation occurs, getting yourself and your loved one to chuckle can help make it easier to deal with. For example, if your loved one is laying in bed not feeling up to par, try out some of your best jokes or say something to cut the tension, like “At least we’re having tacos for dinner.” This can help normalize the situation and lift the mood.
Laughter can boost the immune system, fight infection and lower cholesterol and blood pressure, according to research. It also triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s feel-good chemical. What’s more, a few guffaws can also fuel your heart and digestion rate, increase blood flow and boost oxygen in the bloodstream, which benefits your cardiovascular system.
And did you know your body can’t distinguish a fake laugh from a real one? So even a phony laugh can help offset sadness or anger. Try this: Look in the mirror, put your shoulders back and belt out the loudest I-don’t-know-why-I’m-laughing laugh. Or fake a smile, start giggling, gradually increasing to laughter, raising your volume as you go. You might be surprised at how quickly it can enhance your mood.
Have you ever heard that laughter is contagious? When others laugh, a positive brain response is triggered in the listener’s brain. This response provides involuntary smiling and causes you to mirror the laughing person’s actions, helping social interaction, an important role in strengthening the bond between individuals.
How to bring on the laughter? Do some “laughter yoga” with your loved one. This mind-body technique combines laughter and yogic breathing exercises (deep and rapid breathing). Laughter yoga allows you to spread laughs and feel better in the process, not to mention impart a greater connection for you and the person you’re caring for. Find a laughter club near you at laughteryogaamerica.com/maps . 
Finding your funny bone can help you see things in a new light—and stressful situations may not seem as stressful anymore. Fretting about your loved one’s test results or medication side effects? Go see a comedy show or watch a funny flick. Even the mere anticipation of a humorous event can aid in reducing stress hormones including cortisol and epinephrine, say researchers at Loma Linda University in California.
So, seize every opportunity to laugh. These may be the last moments you have with your loved one. Would you rather spend the time stressing—or laughing?