Dance your way to better mental health

As a resident of Seattle for only a few months and as someone who has never experienced a prolonged absence of sun, (I’ve lived in Texas, Florida, California and the Philippines) I’ve found that this dreary weather can weigh heavy on the mind.  I don’t know if the feeling can solely be attributed to the cold, or the lack of vitamin D. It is more likely a combination of the two, but never the less, I’ve felt a significant change in my day to day mental state.

calvin hobbes dance

Nothing in the world can snap me out of a rut like a good old fashion dance sesh. Give me some ratchet hip hop and a dance floor and I am a happy camper. My healthy obsession with dancing has led me to research and see if there is any scientific evidence behind this correlation of using rhythmic movement to improve a mental state.

What I found was amazing, and reason enough to share it with you in this blog post. There are studies that have shown that dance can improve social skills, counteract depression, among numerous other benefits that I didn’t initially consider.

Dancing accelerates the body’s ability to produce endorphins, which are commonly referred to as the “happy hormone.” Researchers have also cited that dancing with a partner can significantly increase testosterone production, which promotes muscle growth and improved self confidence.

One study conducted in the University of New England, showed that participants that spent 6 weeks attending dance classes showed significantly lower levels of depression than a control group that took no classes. The dancers’ lack of depression also closely mirrored the results of a third group that were taking meditation classes. The author of the study credited the concentration and mindfulness required in dance as inhibitors of negative thought patterns that contribute to anxiety and depression.

The expressive nature of dance also contributes to its cause. Dance can be a release for pent up emotions and feelings, and may also serve as a first step in dealing with them. “Depressed patients tend to have a curved back, which brings the head down so it’s facing the ground,” says Donna Newman-Bluestein, a dance therapist with the American Dance Therapy Association. “Dancing lifts the body to an open, optimistic posture.”

Music also has a therapeutic quality to it. A Stanford study shows that music engages areas of the brain which are involved with paying attention, making predictions and updating events in our memory. So, as your body is engaged in dance, so is your mind. It is truly a full body workout!

Thank goodness we all have access to Community Fitness and our wonderful dance classes! And be sure to check out Jhon Gonzalez’s cardio urban master class on March 11 to level up your dance skills!

-Andrew Avillanoza

 

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One Response to Dance your way to better mental health

  1. Zequek Estrada says:

    I’ve never been into dancing before. However, I’d like to give it a try. I wasn’t aware of the studies that have been done on how beneficial dance classes can be. My depression isn’t bad, but occasionally it spikes. This sounds like it would be fun and enjoyable. Plus, I’d get a workout.

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