Even for those of us with two left feet or who are considered the worst ‘dad-dancers’, dancing has a wonderful way of making us feel happy, enabling us to let our hair down and celebrate. It can be a great ice-breaker, a way of expressing sentiment and emotion, a way of mixing with others and a real reliever of stress. All these things can make a difference to how we feel – and its effects are not just for the short term. But what is it about dancing that makes us feel so good?
It’s fairly obvious that dancing can help you lose weight, improve muscle strength, co-ordination and posture, but there have been numerous studies which have shown that dancing can also help to improve mental health. It has been shown to be particularly effective in relieving stress, depression and anxiety. Dancing has several advantageous ‘side-effects’.
As with most types of movement, when you dance the body releases mood-improving chemicals such as dopamine which can improve how we feel and make us happier.
Dancing with other people can make us feel more connected to the rest of the world and those in it. It’s a very social activity and if we are dancing with a partner, the sensation of touch can be very important in making us feel, not only connected with someone else, but also less anxious and stressed.
Being able to express our feelings and emotions freely and individually by dancing can be liberating and help how we feel. It has long been used as a therapy to help sufferers of social anxiety – the idea being that dance allows them to feel less self-conscious when interacting with others.
Dancing is not just good physical exercise; it also exercises the brain. When learning a set routine or a particular dance, great concentration is required to learn and recall the steps in the right order and in time to the music. Making the brain work hard is a good thing, especially in maintaining cognitive ability and improving memory skills as we get older.
Dancing should never replace the help of a mental health professional, but it can form a useful and effective part of a recovery from some mental health conditions – and most of all, it’s fun!
If you are struggling with your mental health, we can help. Please get in touch.