Borrowing a Big Idea from Improv Comedy to Master Life

By Dr. John Schinnerer

One of the best ways to heal from pain and deal with the vicissitudes of life is laughter.  Over the years, I have made a conscious decision to be quicker to laugh; to be more open to poking fun at my self and to seeing the humor that is all around me.  And research has shown the benefits to doing so are massive – less depression, less anxiety, better cardiovascular health, higher quality relationships and more satisfaction with life.

One of the ways I’ve cultivated more laughter is by going to see live improv comedy as often as I am able. I’ve been to see Whose Line is It Anyway live several times. I go to stand up comedy clubs. I seek out top of the line comedians like Kevin Hart, Christopher Titus, Louis C.K. Sarah Silverman and more. I’ll even go with my teenage children to  watch improv at their high school.  The last time I went, I was really amazed how often I laughed at the teenagers – teens who had little comedic training or experience.  And this made me wonder, “How do improv actors build on other actors’ lines to create laughter?”

The answer is that improv relies on building upon whatever the last person who spoke provides you.

Imagine you are on stage performing improv comedy: It is your turn to speak next in a ridiculous scene where you are at a dentist trying to numb up a patient with a shot of novocaine. The patient is nervously waiting for the shot and asks you how often you use the laughing gas. For improv to be successful and funny, you must build on that premise. You don’t question it. You don’t negate any part of the scene. You build upon it. So, one possibility is to tell the patient that you had a large dose of laughing gas that morning and you begin to act drunk; shooting the novocaine into your own arm, and then your leg, and then you have a numb arm and leg (a la the classic Carol Burnett sketch).  The main rule is that you build upon what came before.

This is seen in daily language as “Yes, and.”

As in…

“Yes, I hear you, AND have you tried this?”

“Yes, I would like to go to the movies, AND I’d like to see a comedy.”

This approach draws other people closer to you, gets you engaged in life and generates stories which you can share with others, particularly when you say yes to fun activities with friends and family that lay just on the other side of your comfort zone.

On the other hand, one of the thoughts that fuels depression and pessimism is ‘Yea, but…” I hear this frequently with certain clients who are anxious, angry or depressed. For example…

“Yea, but I’ve tried all those things.”

“Yea, but that will never work for me.”

“Yea, but I could never do that.”

“Yea, but that’s too much work.”

As I’m teaching certain clients proven tools that could alleviate their suffering, they are ‘yea, butting’ me. This error in thinking prevents people from actually trying new tools which could improve their lives. It shuts down the flow of ideas. It kills conversations. And it keeps people safely in their comfort zone. Unfortunately, real personal growth only happens outside of the comfort zone.

Here are some examples of better ways to reframe these ‘Yea, but…’ statements:

“Yes, I tried that before. And perhaps I didn’t grasp it entirely. I’m going to try it again!”

“I haven’t had much success with that. And I know people don’t always learn on the first try. I’m open to another attempt.”

“I haven’t done that in the past.  However, what I’ve done in the past hasn’t worked so well for me. Let me try something different. I’ll give it a shot!”

“It seems like that will take some work. And no change has ever come without effort and perseverance. I’ll try it!”

In the 2008 comedy, Yes Man, Jim Carrey plays Carl, an introverted, pessimistic single guy with a dead end loan officer job (the ‘Yea, but’ guy).  Carl hides from life and friends in his apartment until he attends a personal growth seminar with a ‘Yes Guru,’ Terrance. Carl makes a reluctant ‘covenant’ with Terrance to say ‘Yes’ at every opportunity. And this simple change to ‘Yes, and’ transforms his life. Carl has a series of adventures which make his life more interesting and fulfilling – even when the story isn’t altogether pleasant. When life hands you an invitation, accept the invitation.

Life is all about the story. Today’s story may be good or it may be bad. Regardless, it’s an interesting, emotionally-compelling story to share with those you love.  And stories are the main way in which we connect with others. And connection is key.

So try saying ‘Yes, and’ to life. Pay attention to what you say for a week. When you hear ‘Yea, but’ change it to ‘Yes, and’. It takes practice. It will push you out of your comfort zone. This one tiny change has lead to impressive improvement in the lives of many of my clients. Try ‘Yes, and’ for yourself for one week. Be a Yes Man (or a Yes Woman). Your future self will thank you for it down the road as you will be significantly more satisfied and happier with life.

 

The Key to Success, Longevity and Health – Mindset

Dr. John Schinnerer shares the secret of the power of mindset. Numerous studies are pointing to the importance of the proper mindset in a variety of areas such as diet, exercise, aging, vision, success, intelligence, pain, stress and anxiety. Check it out!

Religion and Spirituality Impact Our Health in Different Ways

March 28, 2014

From Oregon State University

Religion and spirituality have different and complementary influences on our health, according to new research from Oregon State University.

Formal religious affiliation and regular service attendance are linked to better health habits, such as lower smoking rates and less alcohol consumption. Spirituality, including meditation and prayer, aids in regulation of emotions, which improves physiological symptoms such as blood pressure.

“Religion helps regulate behavior and health habits, while spirituality regulates your emotions, how you feel,” stated Carolyn Aldwin, a professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU.

Emotional management helped by spirituality not religion
Spirituality helps regulate emotions

Aldwin and colleagues have been working to understand and differentiate the links between health, religion and spirituality. The outcome is a new theoretical model that defines two unique pathways.

“No one has ever reviewed all of the different models of how religion affects health,” reported Aldwin, the Jo Anne Leonard endowed director of OSU’s Center for Healthy Aging Research. “We’re trying to impose a structure on a very messy field.”

There can be some overlap of the influences of religion and spirituality on health, Aldwin said. More research is needed to test the theory and examine contrasts between the two pathways. The goal is to help researchers develop better measures for analyzing the connections between religion, spirituality and health and then explore possible clinical interventions, she said.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Oregon State UniversityNote: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Carolyn M. Aldwin, Crystal L. Park, Yu-Jin Jeong, Ritwik Nath. Differing pathways between religiousness, spirituality, and health: A self-regulation perspective.Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 2014; 6 (1): 9 DOI: 10.1037/a0034416

International Happiness Day March 20, 2014 – Free Positive Psychology Talks

The United Nations declared March 20th International Happiness Day, and to mark it there will be free video  presentations about how people are using Positive Psychology in their lives and careers starting tomorrow.

Positive psychology leads to International Happiness Day
International Happiness Day March 20, 2014

March 20, 2014

Listen and learn from the world’s foremost experts in the application of positive psychology. Each speaker will share usable, practical, evidence-based insights to enhance your well-being personally and professionally.  Celebrate the United Nations’ International Day of Happiness by learning how to create more happiness for yourself and others and increase the total tonnage of happiness in the world.

All of the talks are available at the same time so you can pick and choose what you want to hear/view, but these videos will cost a modest amount (either $25 or $50) starting on March 21.  All of the presenters are graduates of the University of Pennsylvania Master’s of Applied Positive Psychology degree program (MAPP Program).

If you want to just register and see who is presenting and what the topics are, you can get a free ticket to use at this link: https://www.entheos.com/International-Day-Of-Happiness/  Just type in your name and email address. There’s tons of fantastic, useful info here. I’m sure you will find something helpful…fast!

To life, love and laughter!

 

Dr. John Schinnerer
Positive Psychology Expert
Anger Management Specialist
Founder, Guide to Self, Inc.
913 San Ramon Valley Blvd. #280
Danville CA 94526
Positive psychology blog: http://DrJohnBlog.GuideToSelf.com 
Anger management blog:
http://WebAngerManagement.com
The Path to Happier:
http://HowICanBeHappy.com
Twitter: @johnschin

 

Two Different Types of Love Evident Through Mindfulness Meditation

February 14, 2014

We’ve known for some time that romantic love activates the same reward areas in the brain as cocaine. And it’s equally addictive for many of us.

Recently, Yale School of Medicine researchers have discovered a more selfless variety of love — a deep and genuine desire for the happiness of others without any expectation of reward — actually turns off the same areas in the brain that light up when lovers see each other. This phenomenon has now been documented in the minds of experienced meditators.

“When we truly, selflessly wish for the well-being of others, we’re not getting that same rush of excitement that comes with, say, a tweet from our romantic love interest, because it’s not about us at all,” reported Judson Brewer, adjunct professor of psychiatry at Yale now at the University of Massachusetts.

Brewer and Kathleen Garrison, postdoctoral researcher in Yale’s Department of Psychiatry, share their discoveries in a paper to be published Feb. 12 in the journal Brain and Behavior.

The neurological boundaries between these two types of love become clear in fMRI scans of experienced meditators. The reward centers of the brain that are strongly activated by a lover’s face (or a picture of cocaine) are almost completely turned off when a meditator is instructed to silently repeat sayings such as “May all beings be happy.” These sayings are most commonly encountered in a particular type of meditation known as loving-kindness meditation.

Such mindfulness meditations are a staple of Buddhism and are now commonly practiced in Western stress reduction programs, Brewer notes. The tranquility of this selfless love for others — exemplified in such religious figures such as Mother Theresa or the Dalai Llama — is diametrically opposed to the anxiety caused by a lovers’ quarrel or extended separation. And it carries its own rewards.

“The intent of this practice is to specifically foster selfless love — just putting it out there and not looking for or wanting anything in return,” Brewer said. “If you’re wondering where the reward is in being selfless, just reflect on how it feels when you see people out there helping others, or even when you hold the door for somebody the next time you are at Starbucks.”

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

Dr. John Schinnerer
Positive Psychology Coach
Anger Management Specialist
Founder, Guide to Self, Inc.
913 San Ramon Valley Blvd. #280
Danville CA 94526
Positive psychology blog: http://DrJohnBlog.GuideToSelf.com 
Anger management blog:
http://WebAngerManagement.com
Twitter: @johnschin