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Laughter can be an effective coping mechanism against short-term stress, as in laughing off workplace hassles, but it can have risks.
Warning: Joking about a serious situation can be counterproductive. You don't want to laugh off risky behavior, such as smoking or reckless driving.
Another use of laughter: Pain relief. Studies have found laughing comparable to progressive relaxation and minor analgesics in reducing stress and pain.
Here are my guidelines for inviting laughter into your life...
Be social. When you build friendships, you're building laughter. The best way to start yourself laughing is to find someone to laugh with.
Television is only a last resort. And pets, though good for company, fall way short in stimulating laughter.
Seek out groups. The old adage The more the merrier is true. A large crowd laughs more than a small one.
Follow the sound of laughter. Laughter is contagious, so put yourself in situations where you'll catch it.
Say you're at a party and see a group of people laughing. Join that group. Whatever is going on there is likely to elicit laughter and humor in you.
Lower your laughter threshold. We tend to do this automatically in certain situations. If you are with someone who once made you laugh, you expect to repeat the experience. Once you're primed for laughter, even mild humor may seem hysterical. You wouldn't walk into an annual performance review with the boss in the same spirit, however.
Keep funny things around -- photographs, joke books, movies you've enjoyed, etc.... or something that connects you to another person even in his/her absence, such as a funny card he has sent you. Such items can be potent pick-me-ups, so make them readily available for when you need them most.
Think beyond your own laughter. A sense of humor, a trait admired by everyone, refers not to your yuks and titters, but to your ability to give the gift of laughter. Laughter is a gift that is always returned with interest.