Welcome to the blog, and Happy Spring! March has been a busy month for me. In addition to my work as a counselor, I work as a teaching artist for a few different theatre groups. In the past four weeks, all three of my groups made it to and through their performances (and did amazing jobs!). If you’re familiar with the theatre, you know that the process of putting on a play or musical takes significant time and effort. Getting to present what you’ve been working on to an audience is the exciting culmination of a huge amount of creativity and hard work. Depending on the nature of the project, it can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few years to rehearse and mount a production. I’ve been participating in theatre, in one form or another, for just about my whole life, and being part of an opening night is still one of the best feelings I know! But a successful opening night never happens without one essential thing: rehearsal.
Rehearsal is this thing that all actors, dancers, and musicians participate in before they perform. They can be corporate (e.g. a group of dancers learns new choreography, a band practices a song), or individual (e.g. an actress memorizes her lines, a comedian works on a new joke), but without rehearsals, performances would be messy, terrifying, and likely nonsensical. Even if you’ve never been involved in the arts, I’m guessing you’ve experienced some form of rehearsing — if you’ve ever played on a sports team, given a speech, or stood up in a wedding, you have practiced and prepared in advance what you plan to perform publicly. When we go over what we will do or say in advance, it makes it so much easier to perform the way we’d like to. The way my students performed this past month was directly related to the quality of their rehearsing — the ones who were focused in our rehearsal time together and spent additional time practicing on their own were more confident and better prepared on the day of the show.
Sometimes people ask me if there’s any kind of connection between counseling and theatre. There are actually many connections (some of which I may revisit in a future post), but the one I want to highlight today is that when it comes to mental health — thoughts, feelings, habits, behaviors — what we rehearse is directly related to the kind of life we live. In psychology, the term rehearsal refers to the mental repetitions we engage in throughout the day. When I continually rehearse the thought that I’m not good enough, I spend less time doing things that are positive, productive, and fulfilling. I feel lousy. When I intentionally rehearse the thought that who I am and what I do is valuable, I can complete tasks with confidence and clarity. I feel strong. If you are struggling (with procrastination, self-image, relationships, etc.), why not stop and consider what you might be rehearsing with your thoughts or actions? If you notice something that isn’t true or helpful, maybe changing up your rehearsal could affect your performance.
This idea might seem simplistic; certainly, rehearsal is only one part of a journey towards mental health. But it is a potent one. There is actual research that smiling even when you don’t feel like it makes you happy. The physical act of turning up the corners of your mouth and crinkling your eyes triggers a chemical reaction in your brain that affects your emotions in real time. Other types of rehearsals may take longer to create lasting change, but the method is effective. I encourage you to give it a try — write your script to say that you are valuable, capable, and worthy, and begin to rehearse for your ideal role on the stage of life!