BY: MATTHEW BEARD
A few weeks ago, I returned home from Improv U, a week long improv intensive in Quebec, where I learned a ton and made new friends for life. However, when I returned home, I realized something strange.
The thing I missed the most wasn't the people or the workshops -- it was the feeling of total energy and commitment in every moment. For that week, I felt like I was running at 100% no matter what I was doing. When I returned home (after a few days of lazy, sad, post-camp sleeping), I decided to figure out why improv energized me so much, and what I could do to live like that every day. This is what I found.
#1 - Connect With Your Body
Improv is inherently physical. Every single thing we do on stage or in workshops is about bringing our mind and body together for a few minutes. Warm-ups can range from absurd chanting about Fred Schneider’s flossing ostrich, to focused counting games as a collective group. But they achieve the same common goal: bringing our bodies and minds together into a state that allows creativity and energy flow.
I realized if I wanted to keep feeling how I did on my trip, I would have to keep connecting with my body and using it to the peak of its abilities. I replaced my early morning smartphone usage with a deep stretch and breathing exercise and started running to my favourite jams at night. It made each morning feel like a gift, and each evening feel like a blast.
#2 - Find Space To Play
As I learned very quickly during my intensive, every single moment can be an opportunity for play. When you get 50 improvisers together for a week, it is an indisputable fact that they will find a game in everything. Waiting in line becomes a challenge for who can hold the door most politely. Dropping a fork becomes worthy of a standing ovation. And “quiet time” becomes a heated debate between whether men with horses could beat centaurs in one massive war (add your two cents in the comments).
As The Making Box’s co-founder, Jay Reid, has explained before, the distinction between work, play and life is an illusion. An engaged and playful person will find productivity in whatever they are doing.
Since I returned, I have started finding these moments for myself in my everyday. Like eating a skittle for each finished paragraph of this article (here I go, it's working!).
#3 - Keep A Journal
Little known fact about me -- I am a compulsive note-taker. I have been for years, always carrying a notebook to scribble down the thoughts and reflections wandering into my mind so I can reinforce them. Naturally, these notebooks are filled with the philosophies and values of improv.
Journaling is distilled thought, put under a microscope for you to examine and understand. Stream of consciousness or mindfulness journaling allow us to look into the parts of ourselves that go unnoticed throughout the day and really connect with them.
Gratitude and empathy journaling allow us to gain a new perspective on the world of others and appreciate the little moments in ours. Most importantly, a set of short prompts in the morning or before bed can refocus our attention towards the things we value most -- be it joy, supporting our loved ones, or accepting who we are.
Building this into your daily life can be tough, so I created a daily journaling tool to fill this need, it's call The Yes And Journal. It breaks down the philosophies of improv into a series of daily prompts and free-writing exercises that are quick, simple, and fun. Nothing would make me happier than sharing it with the improv community and improving theirs too.