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If, like me, you’ve been sucked down the stream of raw sewage that’s social media, I feel you. It’s hard not to, frankly, when the freedoms we thought we enjoyed turn out to be smoke and episodes of Black Mirror.

But if clicking emojis till your thumbs bleed has left you numb, doing it more won’t help.

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In 2005, when iPhone was still a gleam in Steve Jobs’s eye, Cameron and I were detached from the rest of the world. Back then the isolation was caused by his Generalised Anxiety Disorder. We holed ourselves up in our apartment and fretted inside a prison of our own making. The Internet’s a bit like that; we can see and talk to people, but there’s a wall of glass between us.

How we crawled out of that black hole and reconnected with humanity was the same way you can now: by taking an improv class. (And if you sign up on your smartphone, I won’t tell anyone.)

“We approach improvisation as a constant examination of the moment before us.” – Improvisation at the Speed of Life: The TJ & Dave Book

The first time I studied with David Razowsky, he said, “I’m hiding a class on mindfulness in this improv workshop.”

Improv teaches us to be present, to observe and listen to our scene partner, and respond by committing fully to our emotions. Focusing your attention takes practice, as anyone who’s meditated knows. But the more you do it, the easier it gets.

The other great thing about improv is, it’s fun. Laughter, like crying, is a form of release. Which makes it a powerful antidote to anxiety, depression, and fear. As Stephen Colbert says, “You can’t laugh and be anxious at the same time.”

There’s nothing more satisfying than taking your feelings of rage and channeling them into a scene about failed spaghetti sauce. Improv gets us in touch with our imaginations again. When you create something out of thin air, it’s a powerful reminder of our ability to effect change.

There’s a lot of scary stuff happening right now, and the problems are very real. But staring at a screen for hours won’t help. If you’re feeling disconnected, the answer isn’t stewing over Snapchat, Periscope, or Twitter. It’s listening, responding, and connecting with others in real life.

Now turn off your phone, go out and create something new.

So glad we got to spend this time together. (Photo © Steve Hobbs)

There are dozens of different classes available, for Beginners to Advanced, from Improv for Actors to Improv for Anxiety, Business, Singles and more. Just Google “improv classes” and your home town or city to see what’s available near you.

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