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Lighten Up

A chuckle a day
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Learning the art of laughter

Laughing more often and seeing humor in stressful situations can be learned. Larry Wilde, a former standup comedian who founded the Carmel (Calif.) Institute of Humor, makes a living as a motivational humorist, teaching people to laugh. At 72, he says he is free of heart disease.

Wilde hosts laughter-boosting conferences for corporations, associations, and healthcare providers. He also has a web site that offers mini lessons. Among the titles: Up Your Laugh Quotient ("Embrace the notion that humor is not incompatible with dignity and stature.") Wilde uses his own sense of humor to make others laugh: On the phone with a reporter, he says, "Why don't you come to dinner?' Told that the reporter lives more than 300 miles away, he isn't fazed. "We'll send down a jet." Which, of course, makes the reporter laugh.)

You also can improve your sense of humor on your own, Miller says:

  • Place a photo of a family event that makes you smile or laugh, or a clipping of a magazine or newspaper cartoon that made you giggle, in plain view.
  • Realize that humor is subjective. Figure out what you think is funny and expose yourself to it. "My wife thinks Seinfeld is funny," Miller says. "I don't. I think The Honeymooners is funny, but my wife doesn't."
  • Consider gathering a group of friends and engaging in an activity that no one excels at. It could be ice-skating, tennis, or basketball. The point, Miller says, is that if everyone is equally bad, you'll soon be laughing at yourselves.

Finally, for Valentine's Day: Buy your loved one a funny video instead of artery-clogging chocolates.

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