How laughter can help your memory and your life

Portrait of a man laughing out loud

Image: hyperionpixels/

There’s natural memory loss as we age—or perhaps we should call it memory recall loss because we often know we know, but can’t remember what we know we know.

Laughing can help.

This was shown in a study from the US that had the catchy title: ‘The effect of humour on short-term memory in older adults: a new component for whole person wellness.’

It involved two groups of healthy, older adults in a simple test. Those in one group were asked to watch either of two humorous videos (their choice)—a Red Skelton comedy or a Funniest Home Videos montage—for 20 minutes.

The other group was asked to sit ‘calmly’ for 20 minutes. They weren’t allowed to read, sleep, or talk on their mobile phones.

A series of tests were then used to assess short-term memory, learning ability, delayed recall, and visual recognition in both groups. Those who had laughed were way ahead in all three areas.

It was as if they had laughed their memory—their short-term memory, at least—into action.

This is a by-product of laughter reducing stress and decreasing the levels of the hormone cortisol. The researchers suggest that humour could become a part of ‘programs that support whole-person wellness for older adults’.

They see a place for the development of ‘positive, enjoyable and beneficial therapies’ for age-associated memory difficulties.

The findings of this test can be added to the other benefits of laughter. It has long been known that laughter reduces stress. It also stimulates circulation and muscle relaxation.

Laughter can also improve your immune system, relieve pain, increase life satisfaction and improve your mood. These are huge benefits—in and before retirement.

Life can be a serious business, but there are times we need relief from serious and have a good laugh. Give it a try. You’ll not only feel better, but your memory will also be enhanced.

Try this: Knock-knock . . .

Bruce Manners: the author of Retirement Ready?, Refusing to Retire, and founder of

Category: Attitude, Brain Health

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