By Stan Walens
They say that laughter is the best medicine, and they may just be right. A recent article by Carolyn Butler in The Washington Post noted that “There is a growing body of research indicating that a good guffaw may improve immune function, help lower blood pressure, boost mood and reduce stress and depression… Laughter triggers an increase in endorphins, the brain chemicals that can help you feel good, distract you from pain.”
Laughing may even improve one’s overall health…and there are some indications that it may help you lose weight! Evolutionary biologists have suggested that unforced laughter — real, spontaneous belly laughs — derive from the sounds other primates make when they want to signal playfulness and build social connectedness through play. And some scientists have proposed that laughter may be one of the most important methods for bonding between men and women, a mode of emotional connection, shared enjoyment and intimacy that is a key component of seduction.
Yet so many of us, as we mature, lose that sense of spontaneity and unfettered joy we had as children, and begin to feel that we have become disconnected from our authentic selves and from even our closest friends and family. Recent research even shows that this sense of disconnectedness affects women more than men, and that women, who may be as funny as men, stop feeling spontaneous in a higher percentage than do men, even though they may actually be better listeners and more supportive partners than are men.
And this is where taking a class in Improv 101 can really help. Improv isn’t about being funny (although funny can happen), or telling jokes: it is a set of techniques of playfulness that improve listening skills, enable you to learn to accept offers and ideas from others, and to work with partners so that each of you enhances the other’s actions. You can learn to share a spirit of camaraderie and absurdity, learn to let go of the strictures that tie you into emotional knots, learn to live more in the moment. Improv helps you sharpen your mind and free up your feelings.