Could Improv be an answer to the modern diseases of Information Overload and Stress?
Mindfulness is the buzzword of our times. And not without good reason. Those of us with busy working lives spend a lot of our mental energy rehashing the recent past to appraise it, or planning our next killer move in the future – and while we spin our cerebral wheels this way, our mental motors are burning out. This makes us far less effective at work, and life generally much less pleasurable than it could be.
As a society we have finally noticed that our wellbeing requires downtime as an antidote to the constant flood of information, sounds, and images that bombard us, and the thoughts that constantly ricochet round our heads. There is much evidence that practicing mindfulness is a good way to reduce this mental stress and redress the balance. Most mindfulness techniques are based on meditation, and require sitting quietly, stilling the mind, observing the breath, noticing the small details around us. All well and good – but for some of us sitting quietly carries its own stresses. We are not all made for Buddha-like stillness – some of us are at our best when in motion, in flow.
And that’s where Improv comes in. I believe that Improv is Mindfulness for the Restless. As I have written before, improvisation requires that we notice everything. The best Improv comes not from great plans, not from great ideas, but from great noticing. Improv training, including Applied Improv, teaches us to quieten our fears, shut off our need to control, dampen the logical, thinking parts of our brain, and simply notice what is happening around us in great detail. Then we respond, truly in the moment, to whatever we see and hear.
This, of course, is also the epitome mindfulness, even if achieved by different route. Not only is Improv fun, not only does it produce laughter, joy and a great sense of freedom, but it can actively teach us to be truly present, truly here and now, truly mindful, with all the known benefits that brings.
Take the Improv Initiative, and discover Mindfulness for Restless People.