Funny Business: Why Laughter Is The Best Medicine

by Francesca Baker
Funny Business

Comedy has long been associated with sadness. Not just when you pick a dodgy night and the jokes just don’t quite land, but in relation to mental health. However, humour is super powerful, and the ability to make mistakes and laugh at ourselves all part of living a confident and liberated life.

Funny Business, run by Funny Women, was a day to celebrate the use of humour and to celebrate women. Taking place at the rather swanky JLL offices in central London, supporting Refuge and supported by Benefit, it was a day that resulted in smiles and laughs galore – and a whole lot of food for thought.

Rather than conform to male stereotypes on stage or in the boardroom, this packed schedule of speakers and sessions was compiled to inspire and enable attendees to be themselves, and have a laugh doing so. I feared that everyone would be hilarious stand up comedians, but found myself amongst business women, artists, healthcare advisors, entrepreneurs, pilates instructors, community activists and more – all finding their funny.

So whilst I can’t say that I left with a bag full of witticisms and riddles to tell at the next party, I did leave with tools and tricks to help me live my best possible life and fulfil my potential. And that’s a good feeling. That’s a sense of positive mental health that you can’t find in a joke book.

Start your morning with a prayer and some chocolate

That’s what Maggy Whitehouse does, and the Independent Catholic Minister, Author and Comedian is hugely successful. Her approach to prosperity helped her free herself from divorce, debt and business failure. Drawing on biblical practices, she encourages everyone to use the tithing system, prioritising inspiration, celebration and then charity – or the to do list and the giving to others. After this, take your Sabbath rest day to nourish and care for yourself.

As simple as a pound in a bank account for some new shoes, or a piece of chocolate first thing, or reading an inspiring quote, it’s these acts of self-care and encouragement that will strengthen you. What inspires you? What lifts your heart? That’s what matters. Seek it out, focus on it, and it will come. Visualise a future full of it, and the universe will bring it. Whilst Maggie knows that some will dismiss her approach as ‘wanky bollocks’ she doesn’t apologise for it. She’s happy.

Be like Madonna

Strike a pose. Power poses are nothing new, but have much to give. Saskia Schuster, commissioner for ITV and ITV2, uses them on a daily basis in order to feel strong and get through any situation where she feels underprepared. Fill the space, breathe and be strong she recommends. And if you can smile whilst doing it, all the better.

Know what you love AND are good at

Not one or the other – both. For many freelancers it can be hard to know what exactly it is you do – what your brand is. As freelance journalist Harriet Minter explains, your personal brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room, and in order to progress in your career and social life, and enjoy both these things with a sense of purpose and alignment, you need to make sure that brand is owned and created by you. Identifying what makes us happy and that we feel we are good at, the values that underpin everything else, will enable us to live it on a daily basis. From tweaking a job description to meet these attributes to focusing on them in our daily routine, knowing our personal brand makes it clear what you stand for. Identifying those underlying threads helped Natasha Boardman-Steer, urban innovator who ran a workshop on crowdfunding. ‘I realise that people in my community appreciate how hard I work locally and my values and ethos. I had been worried that because I wear so many hats my branding was all wrong….but now feel much more confident in how I express myself.’ Telling others what lights you up and what you rock isn’t bragging, it’s passion. Feel it and manifest it, and shine out to the world.

Make the best of every day

When you’ve got four deadlines, your boss is being an arse, the kids are crying, the bread’s gone mouldy, you forgot yet again that it’s bin day, there’s a pile of unopened, let alone unpaid bills, piling up, and your mum has been on the phone complaining that you don’t love her…and it’s only 8.30am. yup, that’s modern life. Winging it and making the best of a situation on a daily basis is how Kelly Maxine Ford gets through those challenges. Being creative, drawing on past experiences and resources, and really owning it all mean that even when things threaten to tumble down, she can tick off items on that list.

Listen

Listening to others is the most crucial attribute to building successful relationships, says Lynne Parker, Founder and Chief Executive of Funny Women. Chucking away the rule book, hiding the mobile phone, putting down the laptop and ditching the self-analysis all mean that when someone else is speaking we are fully able to focus on them, confident in the knowledge that our response, whilst maybe unprepared, will be authentic and relevant. If you can communicate more effectively and memorably, with passion, relationships will flourish, and so will your career.

Be aware and breathe

Once you know what it is that is holding you back, you can change it. Our beliefs and ideas are what generate our reality, and by stopping and challenging those automatic perceptions, it’s possible to move to new places. And Sandra Lamb of BodyMind Solutions knows that it’s not just about mind over matter. Body and mind are intrinsically linked, and the neural pathways in our brains in a cycle with our bodies. Changing the physical requires changing the psychological, and keeping up this endless loop. Complex and clever evolutionary processes led to humans being able to recognise and counter predators in ancient times, but have also resulted in panic and fear to  things that are no longer life threatening. The physiological response is, however, the same. Awareness of the mind and body relationship, and how it might impinge on our progress, means we can move out of autopilot, create new pathways and responses, and flourish. The first step? Stop, and breathe.

About Funny Women

Funny Women was founded by Lynne Parker in 2002 to help women find their voice through performing, writing and using humour in business and everyday life. They run stand up, comedy writing, improvisation, sketch and character, self development and business workshops, weekend events and conferences, in London, Manchester, Brighton, Kent and Edinburgh, as well as events and evenings that feature both big names and offer complete beginners a chance to get up on stage. Anyone interested in getting involved, as a newbie to the scene or a big brand looking to support it should get in touch.

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