Improv your health

In our fast-paced and uncertain world, we have to think on our feet and adapt quickly. One way to meet up to the challenges is to do improv.

Improv teaches people how to think on their feet and adapt to unexpected events. It enhances communication, listening, creativity and problem-solving. These skills can be transferred to the workplace to promote teamwork and reduce tension.

Improv also has health benefits. It can bring therapeutic results to people who suffer from social anxiety. More therapists are recommending improv classes to help their patients.

Improv promotes acceptance and collaboration in a fun, supportive and trusting environment. It’s an ideal activity for personal and professional growth.

What is improv?

Improv is spontaneous, unscripted theatre. The actors don’t know what will happen on stage until they’re up there. It isn’t about comedy but, somewhat ironically, improv generates heaps of laughter, especially when mistakes are made or when people behave in ways that are “off-the-cuff” and “less than perfect”.

In improv, the audience participates. The scenes are mutually decided by the audience and the host of the show. The actors work in the present moment and should not “say no” to the offers of their partners. Instead, they must accept whatever their partners do or say, take action and build on moving the scene forward with their own contributions.

For example, let’s suppose two actors, A and B, begin a scene. A has an idea that the scene should be taking place in a hospital. However, before A can say anything, B says, “Well, here we are at the beach.” If A does not accept what B has offered, the scene is blocked. Therefore, A must forget about the hospital and accept that the scene is taking place on the beach.

For a better understanding of how improv works, take a look at the show Whose Line Is It Anyway, the most popular improv show around.

The health benefits of improv

Improv can help everyone become more socially at ease. Here are nine health benefits:

  • Breaks down communication barriers and stengthens cultural diversity.
  • Promotes healthy workplaces and communities.
  • Helps people with social anxiety overcome their fears and gain comfort in social settings.
  • Reduces public speaking anxiety.
  • Encourages people to focus outside of themselves and let go of feelings of inadequacy.
  • Generates laughter and fun.
  • Increases self-confidence, self-acceptance and trust in others.
  • Helps to appreciate the present moment.
  • Brings peace of mind and quality to your life.

If there’s some live improv in your community, I encourage you to attend. It’s a lot of fun! I enjoy improv by The Renegade Saints and it comes with the additional bonus of watching my husband, John Zimmer, on stage. He and his fellow improv-ers perform regularly at venues in Geneva. In June 2015, they performed at the Slapdash Improv Festival in London. They also do improv trainings in businesses and in other settings in Europe and around Geneva. You can watch a clip of the Renegade Saints in the video below.

Julie Zimmer

Julie has extensive experience in nursing practice and education in a wide range of fields from intensive/coronary care, to medical-surgical to community and public health. Julie has Bachelor Degrees in Psychology and Nursing, and a Master’s Degree in Community Health Nursing Education. She has taught in faculties of nursing and in various communities in Toronto, Canada and in Geneva, Switzerland, and is a consultant to the International Council of Nurses (ICN). Julie also has years of experience teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) in addition to coordinating an English department in a Swiss private school.

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