As taught by Lee Strasberg
And how the Sunshine Exercise is beneficial and soothing for relaxing and calming down for actors and anyone else.
The Benefits of Sunlight
A right balance of sunshine can have a mood-lifting effect. Sunlight triggers the release of hormones in your brain. Exposure to sunlight is believed to increase the brain’s release of serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone associated with boosting mood and helping us feel calm and focused.
Without enough sun exposure, your serotonin levels can be considerably lower. Low levels of serotonin are associated with a higher risk of major depression with seasonal patterns (formerly known as a seasonal affective disorder or SAD). This is a form of depression triggered by the changing seasons.
There are several health benefits associated with catching moderate amounts of sun rays such as more strong bones, healing skin conditions, cancer prevention and vitamin D intake.
Neuroplasticity Background and the Power of Thought
Our thoughts cause neurochemical changes, some are temporary, and some can be lasting. Practising this exercise is beneficial whether or not you are using it to master Method Acting. Our body is continuously physically reacting and changing in response to our thoughts. It has been proven that thinking about something can cause your brain to release neurotransmitters. These chemical messengers allow it to communicate with parts of itself and your nervous system. Neurotransmitters control your body’s functions, from hormones to digestion to feeling joyful, sad or stressed.
Studies show that thoughts can improve strength, performance, vision, fitness. The placebo effect, as demonstrated with fake operations and drugs, is effective because of the Power of Thought. Expectation and belief can change the brain’s chemistry and pathway circuits providing real physiological and cognitive outcomes such as reduced anxiety such as less fatigue, lower immune system reaction, and elevated hormone levels.
In The Intention Experiment: Using Your Thoughts to Change Your Life and the World, Lynne McTaggart writes:“A sizeable body of research exploring the nature of consciousness, carried on for more than thirty years in prestigious scientific institutions around the world, shows that thoughts are capable of affecting everything from the most straightforward machines to the most complex living beings. This evidence suggests that human thoughts and intentions are actual physical “something” with astonishing power to change our world. Every Thought we have is palpable energy with the power to transform. A thought is not only a thing; a thought is a thing that influences other things”
About the Exercise
The Sunshine Exercise serves to test your sensory response to an imaginary sun, as well as to practice stimulating every part of your body.
Everyone has different physical and emotional reactions to the Sun. You learn to recreate the Sun through your senses. It is most effective when the exercise is not about being hit by unbearable or scorching heat, but instead a pleasant and comfortable warmth. The unrelenting and burning heat Is used is a different Method exercise.
While practising this exercise you might recall memories of times spent in the Sun, and the people who were with you at the time, refrain from going with those stories, or with any other recollections you may have. Focus on how the Sun feels on each part of the body. Train your mind to stay with the exercise and not to wander away with distractions.
You can do this exercise indoors or outdoors. The sensation of the Sun touching your skin can be very shooting; you can use this exercise as a relaxation tool while waiting to go into an audition.
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- When possible prepare before performing the exercise by being in the sunshine, feeling the Sun on all the different parts of your body.
- In a class or at home, place an imaginary sun in a spot of the space. Don’t imagine yourself being in a place where you usually experienced the sunshine. Create a new home for the Sun in your room.
- After the Relaxation exercise, close your eyes and feel the Sun in full detail on your skin, your face – cheeks, nose, eyes, ears, mouth, and forehead – and on every possible part of your body.
- Notice the intensity of your reactions and how your feelings may vary from one side of your body to another. Compare and contrast how your body feels in different areas.
- Feel the warmth on each of your hands, fingers, feet, and toes. Feel the Sun on your shoulders and back and front of your torso, arms, and legs. Feel the strength of the heat through your clothing.
- Be creative. Imagine the feeling of the Sun on places you rarely think about or where the Sun doesn’t usually shine, such as the palms of your hands or the soles of your feet or your tongue.
- Note the how experience was on any particular part of your body where the warm Sun generated the most energetic impulses or sensations and note them in your Journal.
The Method Acting Exercises Handbook — Written by Lola Cohen. Exercise Originally devised by Lee Strasberg. Inspired by Konstantin Stanislavsky.
I saw the other actors basking in their warm, delicious sunshine, but I once had a bad case of sunstroke, and doing the Sunshine Exercise brought back blisters, pain, and desperation so severely that I had to go splash water on my face. After some relaxation, I went back to the exercise I was able to remember when I loved the Sun, and some of those pleasurable sensations came back. Now I have this exercise getting me to either that trapped, desperate, and painful place by using a burning sun beating down on me or basking in a warming sun. I was able to regain the additional positive sensory response to sunshine.
Reference: The Method Acting Handbook by Lola Cohen