A core laughter practice is intentional, self-initiated laughter. In laughter yoga this is called ‘laughing for no reason’.
Peering behind the language, it is laughing for the sake of laughing. It is a proactive, intentional yogic activity, to access the many benefits that laughter delivers.
This can be a group practice as well as an individual one. The resuts can be profound and life-changing.
Sometimes, though, they change almost nothing, even after years of practice. Why might this be?
(Spoiler alert: it is called ‘Benefit Finding’)
Many of us in the ‘laughter’ community will have had experiences of people’s lives being improved through laughter practices. Sometimes there is an almost immediate result as relief and joy break free. Sometimes it is like the bursting of a dam of seriousness and stress, and when people access this inner quality, they change permanently and instantly.
Sometimes, though, in site of years of practice, this does not happen. Again, many of us probably know people who are able to laugh and laugh without any benefit beyond the immediate physical health boost.
In one particular instance, a long-time practitioner asked me why they could laugh happily for a long time in a laughter session, and yet 30 minutes later be habitually gloomy.
One short answer is that this is a good reminder that no practice is a magic bullet. Nothing always works every time for everyone.
A further answer is perhaps that psychologically we need to be ready for change. When we are, even if consciously we don’t know we are, even a small intervention can produce big changes.When we are not, nothing will produce changes.
‘Benefit Finding’ is as it says, looking to find the benefits from situations, including or maybe especially, ‘uncomfortable’ ones. Although the array of world-wide laughter practices gives us excellent tools to improve our life, until we are ready to move into a more expansive life, the benefits from these practices will be limited.
‘Moving into a more expansive life’ might involve dealing with uncomfortable feelings. Often we shy away from uncomfortable feelings, and in this case, not even laughter practices will make a difference. We might need additional resources.
So although psychology, science, medicine and spirituality all underpin the potential benefits from laughter practices, until we are prepared for ‘Benefit Finding’, their impact will be as much or as little as we allow – and this might be very little.
As practitioners, the reminder is that our role is to deliver competent, appropriate interventions. Their impact ultimately lies with the recipient. We need to be ready to make other suggestions, or maybe just offer support.
The one thing we cannot guarantee is that laughter practices will ‘work’.
Al we can do is our best, always.