How Improvisation Changes the Brain: Creativity = Self Confidence

Science finds that engaging in creativity such as Improv Comedy builds self-confidence due to actual changes in rain function.

Are you plagued by that voice in your head? How many times have you missed out in your personal or professional life because that fear of speaking freely, fear of failure, fear of the unknown held you back?

I have seen Improv Comedy classes turn total stage fright into out going fun loving individuals in kids and adults. I have said just playing Improv Games builds self confidence. I just learned why.

Improv game play gets those happy juices flowing, thanks to the smiles and laughter that literally squeeze the fun out of your face, into the whole body while pumping oxygen into the brain. To the thousands that have seen our shows, I feel bad, playing the games is so much more fun than watching. Mind, body and soul are nourished on another level.

However, improv actually increases certain brain functions while turning off the Debby Downer “inner critic” part of your mind. Reading this article is a major AH HA moment that have seen the actualization of this science.

Here is an excerpt from Psychology Today

“During improvisation, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex decreased in activity and the medial prefrontal cortex increased. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is like your inner critic; it’s that voice in your head that says, “Don’t say that” or “What will happen if you’re wrong?” 

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On the other hand, the medial prefrontal cortex is associated with language and creativity. While musicians improvised, their brains’ censors decreased and their creativity centers increased in activity.”
From https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/play-your-way-sane/201910/how-improvisation-changes-the-brain

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Much Needed Laughter

Now more than ever we need laughter in our lives. Social AND traditional media deliver the negative vibes. The world is a crazy place. But the world has always been crazy.

What can you do about it?

LAUGH!

Our goal, above all else, is delivering laughter. We justify our existence demonstrating how Improv teaches creative writing, public speaking and self-confidence. We lead corporate workshops teaching team, leadership, sales and service.

Our greatest contribution to this world is the laughter. Laughter increases brain function, cardio pulmonary activity and state of mind/being.

Don’t take our word for it…

What the experts say…

Source https://www.mindfulnessarts.org/LAUGH_RESEARCH.html

According to William F. Fry, M.D., associate professor of clinical psychiatry at Stanford University, laughing 100-200 times per day is the cardiovascular equivalent of rowing for 10 minutes. When something strikes you as funny, you laugh. And when you laugh, your body responds. You flex, then relax, 15 facial muscles plus dozens of others all over your body. Your pulse and respiration increase briefly, oxygenating your blood. And your brain experiences a decrease in pain perception, possibly associated with the production of pain-killing, pleasure-giving endorphins.

According to Jeffrey Briar, laugh instructor at California’s Blue Pearl Yoga, those who take the [laugh] class regularly will see an improvement in their self-confidence.

According to Steve Wilson, physiologist, joyologist and founder of the world laughter tour and a board member of the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, when you look at all the research on laughter, it strongly leads us to the conclusion that one of the main purposes of laughter is the discharge of tension. Laughter also energizes people. If you laugh long enough and hard enough you reverse the physiology of stress. And anything that can reduce the ill-effects of stress is an ally in health and happiness.

There’s even hope, the scientists say, for cranky people who rarely laugh and for those without a sense of humor: They can learn.

According to an article by Kathleen Doheny on WebMD, Laughter is being called the latest weapon in the fight against heart disease, ever since University of Maryland researchers reported at an American Heart Association meeting in November that heart-healthy people are more likely than those with heart disease to laugh frequently and heartily, and to use humor to smooth over awkward situations. There’s even hope, the scientists say, for cranky people who rarely laugh and for those without a sense of humor: They can learn.

One-minute guffaw has the same health benefits as a 45-minute gym workout

Up to 80 muscles are used during a hearty laugh, the blood pressure rises, the heart beats faster and blood oxygen levels increase. In fact, a study released last year by German gelotologist Professor Gunther Sickl revealed that a one-minute guffaw has the same health benefits as a 45-minute gym workout. When the laughter stops, the blood pressure returns to normal and stress hormones are reduced – actually strengthening the immune system.

Diabetes Too?

From Diabetes Care May 2003; People with type 2 diabetes may be better able to process sugar from meals if they laugh, according to a small study. Researchers found that diabetics who watched a comedy show had a smaller rise in post-meal blood sugar than when they listed to a non-humorous lecture. The effect occurred in people without diabetes as well. Researchers are not certain why laughter appears to reduce blood sugar, but suggested that it might increase the consumption of energy by using the abdominal muscles, or might affect the neuroendocrine system, which controls glucose levels in the blood.

TV Experts Agree

“Laughing is great exercise. It tightens your abs, gets your endorphins going, and filters out all those anxieties that weigh you down.” Denise Austin, TV fitness guru. Source: July 2006 Redbook Magazine

YES! And… How Improv Builds Stronger Personal Relationships

YES! And… Is the #1 rule in Improv. This simple two word governing principal packs a lot of benefits for your personal and professional life.

How much easier would it be to interview for a job, make new friends, interact with co-workers, have an honest conversation with partners, or even lead a team if we could reduce or out right eliminate fears of failure, fears of the unknown and social anxieties such as stage fright?

We daily claim to clients from corporate teams that Improv Comedy will help build team, leadership, sales and service skills. We claim Improv builds creative writing, critical thinking, public speaking and self-confidence.

But how does Improv comedy build these skills?

Stage Fright is the #1 phobia, combining both the fears of unknown and fear of failure. Combined these fears paralyze the best of us and even cause physical sickness and nausea.

Similarly social interaction anxieties thrive in this phobic space.

Improv turns fears of public speaking and social interaction on their head by simply playing games as a team. No one individual is left out to fail. The team forms a tight knit unit that works together to play.

That’s right, we don’t perform, we play. We play games.

We pass words around like a sports team passes a ball. In fact, sometimes we even pantomime passing around a ball.

We start with the basics. We play games that require listening and focus to succeed and nothing else. A game like ZIP ZAP ZUP seems silly and ridiculous, but it’s genius is it’s break down of all other needs. All you have to do is to follow the energy around the room, listen and focus. You don’t have to think. You don’t have to impress. You just do.

Then we add words. We don’t try to be funny. We don’t try to be clever. We just listen and respond. We simply contribute to the team.

Then we create sentences, one word at a time. Eventually we offer entire sentences at a time.

At each step we teach just adding a word is better than trying to think of the perfect word. Any word you say is good enough and accepted. There are no mistakes. There is no failure. There is no judgement.

Think like a five year old. Just play. Leave behind all those things we learned in middle school like fear and judgement.

Also let go of ego, the over compensation for insecurity. Find a space where all are on equal footing, regardless of age, experience etc.

I tell students of any age not to even hold myself, the teacher with 18 years experience as better.

Psychological Safety achieved. The spark of self-confidence blooms. Wonderful things emerge….

Creativity Now Thrives

As artists, this space, free of judgement, free from fear, the brain’s synapses start to fire.

Now that we have relaxed our tensions and laughed a bit, oxygen is pumping in at new highs. The head actually starts to tingle.

Ideas flow. As an actor, ideas about character. As a designer, shapes and colors circle. Even programers start to see new patterns for computer codes.

We become open to new ideas from others as well. Creative collaboration thrives.

Critical Thinking

William Fry, the late great humor guru from Stanford University, states that humor builds a better brain by constantly comparing two otherwise unlike items.

Once you let down your guard, you see more possiblity. You can’t think our of the box when stuck in your own construct.

The world tries to put us in a box, stop doing that to ourselves. (Branding “experts” might disagree lol).

As a team, YES! And… will lead to all sorts of possibilities. The solution to the problem is never found at the initial brainstorm. Too many teams and companies and individuals fail by not fleshing out all the options.

“Never fall in love with your first draft” or idea. But letting those first ideas flow without fear of failure will lead to the amazing choices.

Better Presentation Skills

Most classes in public speaking have it backwards, trying to build your confidence by teaching you better presentation skills.

Simply building confidence, reducing fear of failure and unknowns, opens one up to present information better. Over time you will learn from mistakes, because NOW you are not afraid to make big ones. You are taking chances.

Now if you misspeak, stumble, for draw a blank for a moment you won’t freak out. You can simply smile, breathe and move past the inconsequential moment in time, and find humor and joy in your “failure”.

Also Improv teaches storytelling. Your presentations, whether to a mass gathering or small table of friends, will become more interesting.

Relationships

Both personal and business relationships are destroyed, or never formed, due to these fears.

Many amazing connections are avoided altogether, because we fear the word NO, in others.

Fear of initiating contact could lead to missing out on a valuable partnership.

Great sales people and con artists are successful because they know about the numbers games AND never fear it’s perceived failures. A NO is not a failure, it’s just a NO.

The Confidence to Say YES

Saying NO is easy choice. Saying NO is the lazy choice.

Saying YES puts responsibility on your shoulders. It requires follow through. It requires listening. It requires confidence in your self.

Saying YES puts yourself out there for possible failure, possible hurt.

How many say no at work, because you fear backlash.

NO, we can’t afford that.

NO, we don’t have time for that.

NO, the bosses won’t go for that.

How many great ideas are left behind because too many lacked vision?

Instead, what if you enacted a little improv exercise? Ignore the kneeejerk NO and take two minutes to brainstorm that idea.

Maybe it leads no where, but chances are it leads to another even better idea that NEVER would have materialized.

This vision takes YES AND leadership.

The Confidence to Say NO

We focus on saying YES in the improv world. But it needs to be stated that we should always say yes UNLESS it puts us in physical, mental or emotional harm.

Having confidence to say NO at the right time can save a life time of pain. Too many reserve NOs for fear of involvement but fear saying NO when it will save us pain, in some cases physical injury.

Saying NO to an abusive friend or family member or partner, because we fear being alone, financial ruin etc is real.

Saying NO to a “friend” daring us to ski down that that slope we are not easy for can kill.

Building confidence gives us the power to choose our story.

It’s Not All Kumbaya

For me, YES And… is a selfish choice. I surround myself with, and support individuals that support me. Those that choose to judge or abuse are left out. I give them every chance to embrace, I try to teach them to let go of the old games, but at the end of the day, I get to choose my family.

I experience pain and hurt. That’s part of life. But in between tough moments I am surrounded with smiles and laughter. I have amazing clients that come back year after year. I work with the best team of artists. When I have love to give I give. When I am hurting I have a village of support, now from around the world thanks to social media.

Have the confidence to make GREAT choices in business and personal life.

Start building your tribe today, surrounding yourself with supportive genuine friends buy discovering self confidence and other skills from improv comedy.

HAVE FUN BUT NEVER AT ANOTHER’S EXPENSE!

Team Building via Zoom

For the past 18 years we hosted events at our Times Square theater(s) and traveled nationwide as far as Orlando, Maine and Nebraska. Since March 2020 we have been working with teams around the world via ZOOM, including Australia, Germany, India, UK, Canada and all over the United States.

Online Improv Comedy Workshop Package

Online session with EIGHT IS NEVER ENOUGH
  • We will host your team of up to 90 on our ZOOM platform.
  • We invite your team on up to 15 minutes before class time.
  • One teacher will work with up to 10 of your team mates for 60 minutes playing games that teach teams to play as one through better communication, listening, self-confidence and using humor and laughter to build trust in others.
  • We will leave the room open after the show for another 15 minutes to interact with your team.
  • EMAIL Walter now to book an online team building workshop for your team for just $100! (We can negotiate longer times, additional teachers or add on a show)
Corporate team Building for BING, JP Morgan Chase, and BDO.

Corporate clients include JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Twitter, BING/Microsoft, BAML, Home Depot, Ernst & Young, Louis Vuitton, Coach, UBS, BDO, AMEX, Master Card, Datadog, NY Life, Accenture,
 Macy’s, 360i, IBM, GM, KRAFT, UNILEAVER, HBO,  and 100s more… CLICK HERE to read our philosophy behind using Improv to teach team building

In 18 years providing improv comedy team building workshops, the biggest challenge our team faced was answering the question:

“How do we apply these techniques to our remote teams around the world.”

Their team would come to New York and include as as part of their 2-3 day recruiting, team launch or other training.

In the past six months we have now presented 100+ shows online via ZOOM and other platforms plus logged 1000s of hours of class time teaching Improv comedy. We have had to adjust our games, and create some new ones, to continue our own team’s existence.

We are now armed with the tools and techniques to teach team skills on ZOOM to be utilized in your online interactions moving forward.

“YES! And…” Takes Us to the Learning Zone

Psychological Safety is the #1 determining factor in team success, according to 2015 findings of Project Aristotle, the four year study into teams by Google. Balanced with Performance Drive we enter the learning zone.

Our #1 rule: HAVE FUN! But NEVER at another’s expense.

Building psychological safety in your team directly leads to productivity. Psychological safety paired with performance drive also makes you a better leader, a better sales person and better at customer service.

  • “YES!” produces psychological safety. We agree and support our team.
  • “And…” is performance pressure. We need to carry our weight and contribute to the team

Together there is nothing we can’t achieve.

Improv Teaches Presentation Skills

Improv teaches presentation skills in two ways.

  • Public Speaking Techniques
  • Story Telling Techniques

The first perhaps is more obvious. Improv is 100% performance on day one. Every warm-up game and technique exercise is applying public speaking skills. We grow confident just by doing. We learn to consistently energy our voice, using appropriate projection and diction. We learn very early that something funny is not funny unless it is heard and understood.

Less obvious maybe the story telling skills. When you make a presentation, using story will help you persuade your audience. Whether leading a team in a new direction, making a sales pitch, or appeasing a disgruntle client/customer, story will shape information. When you merely present a set of facts, individuals will interpret their own directions.

Story also engages the audience. The more details you give the more clearly the audience will see your intended message. Improv teaches us to shape our stories with emotion and conviction.

Improv Teaches Critical Thinking

Humor and creativity work in similar ways. By creating relationships between two disconnected items, you engage the whole brain. 
Humor guru, William Fry, M.D., of Stanford University

Simply playing improv comedy games builds a better brain. Akin to playing word games and SuDoku to sharpen your focus, Improv is problem solving. Two or more play together to create story form scratch.

Improv teaches to think out of the box. By letting go of how we think a thing should be, we are able to discover its true nature. We open up to new possibility. We discover new pathways. We learn to solve problems anew.

We become open to others ideas and interpretations on a subject.

Improv Delivers Much Needed Laughter

In many cases, the laughter supersedes all other benefits. Bringing laughter to a classroom improves test scores, according to research at Johns Hopkins. Laughter increases cardio pulmonary function, getting more oxygen to the brain. Laughter creates community, while reducing stress, depression and blood pressure. The laughter alone increases individual and team health. Laughter tears down walls of resentment, replacing with strong bonds of trust.

Laughter and Joy will make your team work together better, will make folks follow your leadership, make your students listen to your teachings, buy your products, and accept your customer service efforts.

NOW MORE THAN EVER you need to bring laughter to your work, school, home and community. We do this with shows and classes.

PSYCHOLOGICAL SAFETY = “YES AND…” USING IMPROV to enter the LEARNING ZONE

Psychological Safety is the #1 factor in team success!

In 2015, Google released the findings of their 4-year study into what makes a successful team. Project Aristotle found that the most consistent factor behind team success is Psychological Safety – meaning every member of that team feels safety to contribute and has a sense of value to the project.

“YES!” is all about accepting your colleagues and their contributions to the team. We create a safe space and level playing field for all. We accept our colleague 100% as is. EVERYTHING they say and do. We do not judge. We do not fear. We trust each other AND ourselves.

Corporate team Building for BING, JP Morgan Chase, and BDO.

“AND…” is all about contributing valuable work and information to the team. We are going to take this to the next level by accepting our colleagues’ work, building upon with our own contributions. Performance drive is not a selfish process. We have a collective ambition to grow and achieve together as a team.

When the whole team embraces “YES! And…” we enter the learning zone together. No challenge is insurmountable when we work together in a supportive exchange of ideas and actions.

EIGHT IS NEVER ENOUGH Improv corporate clients include JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Twitter, BING/Microsoft, BAML, Home Depot, Ernst & Young, Louis Vuitton, Coach, UBS, BDO, AMEX, Master Card, Datadog, NY Life, Accenture, Macy’s, 360i, IBM, GM, KRAFT, UNILEAVER, HBO,  and 100s more…

Over the past eighteen years, EIGHT IS NEVER ENOUGH Artistic Director, Walt Frasier has worked with hundreds of corporate teams as well as teachers and K12 school children, using Improv comedy to teach team building, leadership, sales and service skills. Since March 2020 Frasier and his team deliver online shows & classes.

Other credits include TV (Billions, Friends of the People, Royal Pains, Blue Bloods, Letterman, MTV, NICK, WE), Commercials and international credits in theater, comedy and music.