Tag Archives: laugh

Smiles for the new year

A new year offers new beginnings. Time to set goals, reflect, resolve. Does the thought of making/keeping new year’s resolutions make you grimace?  If so, it’s time to turn that frown upside down and create a resolution you can easily keep this year. Resolve to Smile more! Why? Smiles are amazing.

Senia & Wayne's – ‘smile-selfies’
Senia & Wayne’s – ‘smile-selfies’

It turns out that there are a whole host of health benefits associated with smiling. In an article titled, “15 of the best and free health benefits of smiling” includes heart health, pain and stress reduction as well as an increase in productivity and longevity.

Smiles are also contagious.

According to Scientific American,  if you smile at someone, they smile, and then you both get a little happier. It has to do with something called ‘mirror neurons’ in our brains. The way this works is, if you see someone smiling, your mirror neurons for smiling fire up as well, initiating a cascade of neural activity that evokes the feeling we typically associate with a smile.

If you are a caregiver, this can be especially good news. Try smiling at your loved one several times throughout your day and watch how they respond.

Another fun ‘smile-adventure’ can happen while getting a bit of exercise as well. For instance, take a smile walk. It can be in your neighborhood, or where ever your favorite place to stroll might be.  On your walk, be determined to make a point of smiling at a half dozen folks. Watch their reactions. As a result, most people will smile back. You may also be pleased by how happy you feel by the end of your walk.

What if you don’t feel like smiling?

Don’t despair! According to PhychologyToday.com, smiles – even fake smiles do a lot more than simply let the world know you’re happy. Each time you smile, you throw a little feel-good party in your brain. As a result, the act of smiling activates neural messaging that benefits your health and happiness.

Smile Studies

An article titled, Smile: A Powerful Tool by Alex Korb Ph.D.,  reveals the power of a smile:

“One of the best experiments to demonstrate the power of a smile came from the late ’80s. The researchers devised an ingenious way to get the subjects to flex certain muscles of their face without knowing why. They had subjects hold a pencil in one of three ways. The first group held the pencil widthwise between their teeth, forcing a smile. The second group held the pencil in their lips lengthwise, which means they couldn’t smile,and were actually making kind of a frown. The control group held the pencil in their hand. Then the subjects looked at some cartoons, and rated how funny they were. The “smile” group gave the cartoons much higher “funny” ratings than the “frown” group, while the control group was somewhere in the middle.”

Other studies found similar results.  They had subjects mimic some of the characteristics of a smile, by making the long “e” sound, which stretches the corners of the mouth outward. Other vowel sounds were also tested, including the long “u,” which forces the mouth into a pouty expression. 

As it happens, happiness is that easy. The takeaway here is that smiles might just be the best resolution you can make and keep all year long…and best of all, they’re free!

Has your world been touched by dementia? My recent book, “FinishingWell: Finding Joy in the Journey”, is a collection of stories and tips about doing life with my Mama.  May it encourage and inspire you to find the joy on your own, unique journey.

Find our group on Facebook 

Paperback or Kindle edition
Paperback or Kindle edition




The onset of dementia brought about a surprising change in Mama. She developed a love for slapstick comedy.  My genteel Mama who had always loved Broadway shows and Classical music suddenly enjoyed watching someone get a pie in the face. Of course, the masters of slapstick themselves, the “Three Stooges” zoomed to the top of our movie stack.

There is one particularly entertaining scene where one of them is playing a violin and the bow keeps catching on the toupee of the guy standing next to him.  That particular bit caused Mama to almost roar with laughter. So, of course we played it over and over. And over. It was ALWAYS a surprise to her when the wig came off and she loved it. We loved watching her laugh and be happy.

We also began watching “Laurel and Hardy” as well as “Shirley Temple”. The nice thing about slapstick is that it is a sudden action that doesn’t have to be explained.

When Mama watched her funny movies, it lightened her mood and the rest of the evening usually went smoother. It seems that the saying is true, “If Mama’s happy, everyone is happy”.

The Bible tells us in Proverbs “A joyful heart is good medicine” Laughter may be especially good medicine for dementia patients – and best of all, it doesn’t have any unpleasant side effects.

A recent ‘SMILE Study’   conducted by the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia appears to agree. They used humor therapy on 400 residents at 36 different nursing homes to discover whether humor could improve the lives of people living with dementia. The results showed a 20 per cent reduction in agitated behavior such as aggression, wandering, screaming and repetitive actions.

Even Shakespeare recognized the value in growing older with joy. In “The Merchant of Venice”, he wrote: “With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.”

Some of the well-known Benefits of laughter include:

  • Lower stress hormones
  • Ease of anxiety and fear
  • Easing tension and lightening the mood
  • Strengthened lungs/immune system
  • Increase in social interaction

Find ways to laugh. Be silly, make silly faces or even pretend to laugh-which at times can be enough to prime the laughter pump.

Watch funny movies and read books that are humorous and take your mind off the situation. Mama also loved looking at a directory we happened to have that contained some faces with funny expressions.

Dementia is no laughing matter, but both caregivers and patients will fare much better if we remember to laugh. Find a way, seize a moment, and laugh every single day.

How has laughter benefited you or your loved one with dementia? Share your story about how laughter has made a difference.