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What is laughter therapy?

        Science | Emotions

Laughing to Get Happy

Humor is highly subjective -- what gives one person the giggles might just as easily put another to sleep. Part of laughter therapy is figuring out exactly what tickles your funny bone, so that getting some healing laughs can be just as easy as popping in a DVD. Have no fear about dealing with a curmudgeon who disdains the wit of Woody Allen or those madcap Muppets, though. Proponents of laughter therapy don't limit themselves just to jokes.

Fake laughter can be just as effective as real laughter, meaning that a laughter therapy session is just as likely to involve that zany Garfield as it is to involve a laughter coach imploring you to pretend your arms are paws and roar with laughter. Or perhaps you'll be invited to exercise some lawnmower laughter, in which you pretend to start up a mower with a few warm-up chuckles, eventually revving up to powerful laughter. People who lead laughter therapy sessions have found that these fake laughs usually give way to the real kind.

Figuring out what makes you happy, as well as cultivating the ability to find humor and laughter in everyday situations, can relieve the stress and tension that comes with life's challenges. Let's say you get devastating news, like a cancer diagnosis. You can choose to be miserable and sink into a depression that will only make fighting cancer harder. By choosing to laugh and foster happiness, you'll have more energy to fight, and you don't have to put your life on hold due to disease. It holds true for everything from disease to an assignment to work with your worst nemesis -- when you find ways to laugh and be happy, you remain in control, even if it seems like everything else is out of your hands.