Funny side up

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 October, 2011, 12:00am


The perfect antidote to frantic living in Hong Kong is arguably laughter. The busier we get, the more we need humour. It may be overused, but there certainly is scientific truth behind the saying 'laughter is the best medicine'. It doesn't matter what makes you giggle. The act of laughing itself has healing properties.

A grin uses far fewer facial muscles than a frown. So unless you feel the need to exercise more of your facial muscles than necessary, a smile, a grin or a chuckle will make you feel much better than time spent worrying about bills and the future.

So why aren't we all putting our sense of humour to work so that we can get the most out of every day? The main reason is that people have become far too serious.

I worked in financial services for more than 17 years. During this time, I learned a lot about business, the world and, most importantly, people. I believe that much of my success was down to my ability to understand different types of people. But my success was also a result of my love of laughter.

So, I started a training and consulting business focusing on presentation skills, public speaking and increasing the effectiveness of business professionals. I taught people to use psychology and human nature rather than PowerPoint slides and Excel spreadsheets.

This led me to my current passion: stand-up comedy. In 2007, I saw an advertisement in the South China Morning Post for a comedy course offered by Jami Gong, a professional comedian from New York who opened The TakeOut Comedy Club on Elgin Street.

After that course, I knew comedy was for me. I did open mic nights for six months and now I'm a regular at the club. I have also performed in Singapore, the Philippines and Guangzhou. It has changed my life.

Making people laugh is a great thing because everyone loves to laugh. And laughter is the best medicine, after all. Laughter reduces pain by releasing pain-killing hormones called endorphins. Laughter also significantly lowers the body's level of cortisol, the hormone produced by stress.

By increasing the production of T-cells, interferon and proteins called globulins, a good laugh can strengthen our immune system.

Humour also has a positive impact on our intellectual and emotional functions.

It helps give us a healthy perspective on life's trials and tribulations by making them seem smaller. It assists in overcoming fear, it triggers creativity and it allows us to take ourselves less seriously.

Of course, you don't need stand-up comedy to get the full benefit of laughter. Here are a few ways to add some comedy to your life:

- Smile - it's the start of laughter and it's contagious. Pioneers in laughter therapy have found it's possible to laugh even when you don't find something funny. The same is true for smiling. So when you see something even mildly pleasing, give it a go.

- Count your blessings - literally. Go on, make a list. The simple act of considering the good things in your life will distance you from the negative thoughts, which are a barrier to humour and laughter. When in a state of sadness, we have farther to travel to get to humour and laughter.

- When you hear laughter, move towards it. Sometimes humour and laughter are private, a shared joke among a small group. But people are usually very happy to share something funny. It gives them an opportunity to laugh again. They can also feed off the humour the listener experiences. So when you hear laughter, seek it out and ask: 'What's funny?'

- Spend time with fun, playful people. These are people who laugh easily - both at themselves and at life's absurdities. They routinely find humour in everyday events. Their playful point of view and laughter is contagious.

- Bring some humour into your conversations. Ask people, 'What's the funniest thing that happened to you today? This week? In your life?'

As a principal at Simitri Training and Consulting, I work with business professionals on the skills they need to succeed in the corporate world.

I focus on using humour. Why?

Because it puts people at ease and makes them feel comfortable. If they feel comfortable, they are more open and honest about their feelings. If they are more open and honest, stress and conflict tend to disappear quickly.

So, keep laughing.