Among the primary interventions identified to ward off dementia are increasing physical activity and social contact, and decreasing depression.
An idea that came to me early in my applied improvisation training was that these exercises were like brain-training games, but instead of an individual alone with a screen, they are instead experiencing physical activity, social engagement, and the benefits of laughter. And all three of these elements are key in combating depression. And these are only a few of the benefits of improv! Cool, huh?
I think of Bernard De Koven as the Godfather of Play. I've written earlier about his lifelong dedication to giving people the gift of cooperative, joyful play. In this one-minute video, Bernie makes a simple distinction between game communities and play communities.
It's a story I hear again and again. "I took an improv class, and it changed my life/outlook/confidence..." etc. We all deal with some level of uncertainty on a daily basis. Likewise, we engage in conversations and relationships, work in groups, make choices, mess up, and choose the next step. In this brief article, writer Kim Quindlen lists the life lessons that she gained from playing improv. Some of these are:
First of all, I must tell you that Bernard DeKoven is one of the loveliest humans I have had the pleasure of meeting. He has made a career of bringing play and playfulness to a world that so needs these things. In the late 1960s, Bernie wanted to make learning more fun for his 5th and 6th grade students, and so he made a game of everything possible. He has practiced and perfected what he calls "the playful path" ever since then. He is a game developer, teacher, and speaker, but above all, he is someone who sees that the human capacity for joy is closer than many of us realize. In this post, Bernie notes that it's obvious how to make life fun again, "Because the invitations are everywhere. And all we need do to make our game of life more fun is open those invitations and ourselves a little bit more up, and, from time to time, maybe just once in a while, play, help, love.
An article in The Atlantic magazine looks at psychologists who are applying improv as part of a therapeutic practice. Key elements of improv theatre include acceptance (yes, and...), collaboration, making your partner look good, and making strong choices without knowing where they will lead. The psychologists in this article say that playing improv games together generates trust in the group and greater self-confidence. "The lack of planning and structure in improv means that performers must function without a safety net, but...if all play authentically to each other, fear of failure loses its sting—a net of support is constructed from the openness, trust, and acceptance.”
Read the article here.