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Risk, Relationship, Reward: Reframing Uncertainty Through Applied Improvisation
What makes improvisation delightful to experience is the right combination of risk and reward. When we learn to improvise we practice deep listening, focused attention, and openness to others' ideas, something that requires effort, emotional risk, and engagement that light up the reward chemistry of the brain. "When learning is challenging, you have to pay more and better attention to each idea, causing your brain to build stronger connections between neural networks, which embeds the new knowledge for later recall,"" write Mary Slaughter and David Rock in Fast Company. "When an experience has just enough discomfort to trigger the brain's natural problem-solving capacity - just not so much that the prefrontal cortex shuts down - it stimulates a lovely burst of dopamine, the brain chemistry associated with reward that is linked to motivation and learning. Add to that the laughter and social bonds generated by this kind of imaginative interaction and we have all the elements of a healthy, positive, social connection. The boost in positivity boosts our resilience and ability to manage real life stresses and problems. read article

5 Powerful Ways Improvisation Training Can Strengthen Psychological Resilience
Improvisation exercises are unique in their focus on radical acceptance and immediate engagement among the players, with the potential to rapidly galvanize the creative possibilities of a group. Acceptance is essential for rapid and reliable cohesion around the common goal of generating “something wonderful right away,” — which happens to be the title of an oral history of improvisation in theater compiled by playwright Jeffrey Sweet — and immediate engagement spikes spontaneity, a creative resource from which everyone involved can draw. The mental health benefits of creating with others in a positive social-emotional environment such as this are rooted in studies of resilience that cite active coping, humor, and prosocial behavior as traits that enhance the capacity to manage psychological challenges. These traits are associated with recovery from trauma, grief and depression, as well as accessing resources for living with chronic stress and anxiety. A study published in the Journal of Mental Health reported a boost in self-esteem and reduction of symptoms of anxiety and depression after an improv intervention, and a study published in Arts In Psychotherapy showed demonstrable reduction of social anxiety through improv training among at-risk youth in Detroit public schools. read article

Creativity, Agility and Improv-Ability: Managing The Pace Of Change In An Accelerated World
Change is like rain. Without it nothing can grow, but too much at once is a flood. And with the rapid acceleration of almost everything in today’s world, we are living through a kind of experiment in how human beings respond to change at an unprecedented pace. Mental agility, adaptability, and intuition are essential for capitalizing on the opportunities of this brave new world, and these are strengths that anyone can cultivate, although the self-protective, defensive thinking easily triggered by uncertainty and change can be difficult to overcome. Habits of mind are not upgraded as easily as an Iphone or any of the other devices we increasingly rely upon, but an improvisational mindset provides an uptick in thinking and relationship skills for managing the speed of change. read article

Creating A Climate For Communication in Science and Medicine Through Improvisation
Applied Improvisation is a creative method for getting very smart people who do important work to improve their ability to convey knowledge and expertise to the people impacted by it. But it is fundamentally a way to become better at all human interaction. In every area of life, we are always impacting and being impacted by others. Alan Alda - who provided the keynote address at the 2017 Applied Improvisation World Conference in Irvine, CA - created the Alan Alda Center For Communicating Science at Stonybrook University where he uses improv games and exercises he learned years ago to develop as an actor to train scientists, doctors and researchers to be more effective communicators. read article

Improv occurs when a group of people- who may or may not have any deeper interpersonal connection beyond the creative collaboration-agree to support one another through a process of great uncertainty. To make that dynamic process even possible, improvisers must generate good will, humor, warmth and a high energy that drives spontaneity. If anyone is going to take a creative risk - which is, in the end, putting our ideas and our sense of self on the line and therefore a genuine emotional risk- there must an atmosphere of support and sense of trust. Improvisers develop the positive emotions through the action. It is real life writ large, with the interesting wrinkle that an authentically positive emotional climate is being manufactured. It is being orchestrated. And it works. read article

Beliefs-which can be inherited from family systems and cultural realities as much as formed by individual experience-are a powerful force shaping the way we frame and name experiences. Even when evidence exists that challenges false beliefs they can feel more real than, well, reality, which heightens their impact on mood and drives cycles of behavior. Applied Improvisation is an ideal way to learn skills for shifting out of counter-productive thoughts and beliefs. The basic idea of improvisation is that we are experimenting together, trying things out to see what takes shape, rather than sticking to a right/wrong, win/lose belief about how it all turns out. We can flounder and flail as we try to learn the principles and skills of improvisation, but enjoy ourselves the entire time. Learning and struggle can be fascinating and fun when we are thoroughly engaged and in a creative space with other people who are committed to the same process. Through improvisation we can loosen the rigid hold that deeply-held beliefs can have on our ability to think in fresh ways, because the emphasis is on the here-and-now and on approaching the same thing from different perspectives. read article