As well as being just plain good fun, laughing has been scientifically proven to lower blood pressure, improve concentration and alleviate anxiety, stress and depression. People who often laugh and smile are more likely to earn more money, live longer and have better health, are found more attractive by others and have better relationships too.
Unfortunately it’s not always possible to laugh on command; aside from the fact that it might be the last thing we feel like doing when we feel down, it’s also possible that we could attract some strange looks if we amble the streets giggling to ourselves. But we don’t need to attend a comedy club or tell bad jokes in order to get chuckling, in fact, NLP coach Lesley Lyle says humour doesn’t need to be involved at all, and uses unconditional laughter, the kind where you can laugh alone or with others, for no reason at all other than to feel happy.
Here are Lyle’s techniques for laughing on your own:
- Mirror laughter: Lyle notes that this technique is often easy for people as our body language and facial expressions are reflected and mirrored back at us. Imagine you are sharing a joke with yourself and laugh. Try making faces. Lyle explains that finding what works for you is the most important part of beginning laughing on your own.
- Aloha laughter: Raise your arms above your head and stretch, saying ‘Alooooooo’, loud and long, before lowering your arms and laughing out ‘ha ha ha ha’, to finish the ‘aloha’ greeting. Lyle explains that the anticipation adds to the effect.
- Swimming laughter: This one is simple; pretend you are swimming and laughing at the same time. Breaststroke, backstroke, frontcrawl – try them all!
- Surprise laughter: A Psychologies office favourite. Take a large gasp of air as if you have just been surprised. Hold it for a second and then let it out with laughter. Keep going until you can’t release any more breath.
- Silent laughter: For the times when you can’t laugh out loud; visiting friends, on a work trip, or even in the office toilet, but Lyle says it’s fun to do at anytime. Imagine you are laughing, but use no sound. Shake your shoulders up and down and feel the laugh in your belly. Lyle notes that this technique can be a great way to start spontaneous laughter.
- Machine gun laughter: Great for getting rid of pent up stress, use each ‘ha ha ha’ to line up and obliterate each problem. Lyle enjoys this one any time she is feeling stressed and often finds it can create fits of giggles.
Laugh Your Way to Happiness: Use The Science Of Laughter For Total Wellbeing by Lesley Lyle (Watkins, £8.99).
Photograph: Plain Picture/Johner
Read Happiness comes from giving, not buying or having by Dr Steve Taylor on LifeLabs