Play pretend. One of the patients at Laughter Club came up with this idea: Have a fake snowball fight. "Pretend you're leaning over, picking up the snow," says Puckett. "You're going to throw the imaginary snowballs, get hit by imaginary snowballs, and if you're feeling really mischievous, you can sneak up and put a snowball down someone's back." It's this "permission to play," as Puckett calls it, that will lighten the mood and, hopefully, cue the laughs.
Adjust your environment. Admittedly, an exuberant fake snowball may not go over well in your cubicle. But you can bring that same spirit to the office, so you'll be in a sunnier mindset that's more receptive of humor. Keep toys at your desk, or photos of your family. If you spend lots of time in your car, tuck feel-good items in your glove compartment. If you have a smartphone, load it with photos and games that make you happy so you can access them anywhere.
Fake it. Believe it or not, at Laughter Club, there are no jokes or humor. The focus is on the physical part—the laughing. They start with the three laughter centers of the body: The hee hee's in the head, the ha ha's in the heart and the ho ho's in (you guessed it) the belly. Try replacing your vocabulary with hee hee's, ha ha's, and ho ho's. Sing the tune to the birthday song in these sounds, by yourself in the car or in the shower. Or at the family dinner table, try a conversation of hee hee's, ha ha's, and ho ho's. These kinds of exercises may feel awkward at first, says Puckett, but at Laughter Club, participants typically lose their inhibitions pretty quickly and wind up giggling away.
Don't force the laugh. "Laughter should always be invited and never demanded," Wilson says. Similarly, Puckett never waltzes into the hospital room of a cancer patient and tells a joke; Laughter Club is voluntary. If your coworker seems bummed, or your mom's facing illness, don't assume they want to laugh. Start with a smile and go from there.