Laugh out Loud

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New evidence seems to suggest laughter facilitates social bonding, improves our mood and decreases anxiety. Here are some ways to go about it.

1. Recall a moment when you laughed till your sides ached

Then mentally “bookmark” it for those times when you’re down or low on energy. Or keep a “funny” book. Every time something funny is said or done (by your kids, for example), jot it down. Funny quotes, great scenes from a movie, favourite jokes – add them too. Refer to the list when you’re in need of a good giggle.

2. Fake a laugh

Try it in a low voice, then a squeaky one. Go on, no one’s listening. And apparently it works to lighten your mood – in spite of yourself.

3. Go to a laughter ‘yoga’ class

Indian physician Dr Madan Kataria founded the laughter yoga movement in 1995. The idea is to “fake it till you make it” by laughing as a group for no reason at all. It also involves role-playing major life stress factors and laughing at them.

4. Practice smiling

Even when you don’t feel like it. Social psychologist Fritz Strack found that people forced to use their smiling muscles (by holding a pen with their teeth) rated cartoons funnier than those whose mouths were contracted in a frown (by holding the pen with their lips) – suggesting our facial expression may influence our mood to some extent.

5. Take a trip down memory lane

Also known as “did we really wear that?!” avenue. Get together with old friends often – this inevitably leads to good laughs about wicked times.

6. Check out the Skype Laughter Chain

What started out as a viral campaign to market free Skype-to-Skype video calls became a three-hour video of laughter.

The campaign launched in July 2008 with a four-minute film featuring eight people with infectious laughs. Viewers were then invited to watch the film while filming their own responses on webcam and adding to the chain. By the time the chain was stopped (in February 2009), 11,000 people in 77 countries had shared their laughter! See www.youtube.com/user/skypelaughterchain

7. Cross over to the dark side

If sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, then satire is its better half. Try Oscar Wilde, Bernard Shaw, Terry Prachett, Dorothy Parker, Christopher Buckley and P.J. O’Rourke.

8. Visit Funny or Die (www.funnyordie.com)

The site allows celebrities, comedians, regular users, and the Funny or Die team to upload self-created videos and mockumentaries.

9. People watch

Whether in a park, at the airport or a car passenger, allow yourself to freely appreciate the absurdities and idiosyncrasies of The Human Being.

10. Learn to laugh at yourself

Humour fosters acceptance of our humanness and our foibles. What’s needed is a gentle, playful perspective that embraces humanness, but never at the expense of others, or ourselves. See your life not as a distraught drama, but as a rom-com.

11. Laugh with your partner

Laughter shifts your perspective and allows you to see situations in a less threatening light. Defuse a situation and laugh about it before it becomes irritating for both of you.

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