Why dancing can help keep your mind healthy
It’s not gonna surprise you that dancing can help keep your mind healthy but why, how? Let’s Emilie Berge, my friend, from the blog Me, my health and I answer to that question.
Emilie is an amazing woman who had suffered from depression.
She had made many researches on depression and had discovered many tools to manage it : yoga, diet, ayurveda, hypnosis, NLP. She shares in her blog all she knows about mental health to help people to get through depression and to have a healthy mind.
And now, let’s give her the floor!
Ever wondered why dancing can help keep your mind healthy? Well, wonder no more; I have your answer. Research dating all the way back to the 1980s has shown that dancing regularly can help to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. But why is this the case?
Dancing CAN help keep your mind healthy: the neuroscience of happiness
Alex Korb Phd explains in his book “The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time” what happens in our brain when we feel down and how the infamous chemical imbalance works.
The good news is that the chemicals needed to rebalance our brain are available to us at any time if we take certain actions. 8 to be precise.
Applying the principles of the book to dancing made me realised that dancing is in fact one of the best natural antidepressants that you could ever find, which by the way explains why Aurelie Chapelain, owner of this blog, is such a happy and positive person. If you haven’t had the chance to
meet Aurelie in person, check out our interview where we discuss how Bachata can improve your confidence and alleviate depression. You will feel her positive energy through the video!
Dance a natural antidepressant
If you’re feeling down, dancing regularly can bring you up for the following reasons :
1. You are moving your body
Out of the 8 main chemicals that are involved in the mechanics of our mental well-being, 6 of them are positively impacted by moving our bodies: serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, endorphins, endocannabinoids and BDNF.
It turns out that 3 of these chemicals are “natural drugs” responsible for making you feel good 😊
And like with everything else, the more intensive the exercise, the bigger the benefits.
2. You sleep better
The awesome side effect of dancing is of course that regular exercise will improve your sleep. After exercise, sleep is the next best tool to bring your mood up as it impacts 5 out of the 8 chemicals involved in the depression circuits.
Indeed, sleep will prepare your melatonin, improve your mood with serotonin, reduce your stress with norepinephrine, reward your dopamine system and reduce pain with endorphins.
So if you have trouble sleeping, you know what to do… Go to a Bachata class in the evening!
3. You are creating a positive habit
When you dance regularly, without realising it, you are developing a very good habit, which can be a powerful boost for your mood.
This is because once you set a positive habit in motion, you start changing your life without any additional effort. Good habits impact your Serotonin and Dopamine levels.
The key here is regularity. If you only attend a dance class once in a blue mood, you feel great on that day but it won’t have the long term impact we are describing here. One easy hack is to agree to meet someone at the class. You are more likely to go if you know someone is waiting for you.
4. You can set yourself some goals on your progression
If you are like me, you might want to set yourself a goal to motivate yourself to go to the dance class. It can be something as simple as mastering a specific move or moving from the beginners’
group to the intermediates’ group.
Whatever the goal is, it is good for your brain. Setting yourself a goal will help your brain in the following ways: engages the prefrontal cortex, focuses attention and enhances perception, increases enjoyment, increase dopamine, override and utilise habits, creates perceived control, reduces worry and anxiety and helps make more decisions 🙂
5. You meet new people and expand your social circle
It might sounds a little scary to go to a dance class the first time but if you keep going to the same class, you will see the same faces regularly and very quickly you will have made new friends. I mean, you have at least one thing in common with these people, right? You might not get on with
everybody, but chances are there will be a couple of people that you will like.
With certain types of dance, especially Bachata, there is a strong sense of community. I absolutely loved it when Aurelie told me that every time she arrives in a new town, all she has to do is go to a Bachata class to find her people. You literally have friends all around the world! How I wished I had had that conversation before I started moving abroad! It would have made my expatriation experiences quite different!
Now for the neuroscience behind it all. Social interactions change the activity in the brain, mainly by boosting oxytocin and dopamine levels and this can do the following things for you: reduce pain and discomfort, improve your mood, ease stress and anxiety, social support counteracts social rejection, decrease depressive symptoms, and increase calmness and happiness.
Biofeedback is the fact that the brain changes its activity depending on what the body is doing.
Simple actions like changing your posture or slowing your breathing can impact your brain activity and as a result your stress level, your thoughts and even your mood.
This is an area where dancing can do wonders! Dancing will improve your posture, will impact the way you breathe, you will relax certain muscles and if you can smile while dancing, it’s even better!
What about the other actions
You may have noticed that this amount to 6 actions (I did help you out a little with the numbering there – you’re welcome 😉).
The last 2 actions recommended by Alex Korb to improve your mental health are therapy and gratitude.
Other ways dancing can help keep your mind healthy
You are having fun
One of the best ways to get yourself out a funky mood is simply to laugh!
So if you are going to your weekly dancing class with the firm intention to have fun, you will have fun and it will impact your mood.
Sometimes we take life a little bit too seriously, and it doesn’t do us any good. This is how we create stress and unsatisfaction unnecessarily. I know what I am talking about. When I was growing up, I
spent years beating myself up for not being able to play music pieces to perfection when piano lessons were after all meant to be fun!
If you have a hobby, make sure you keep it fun and light-hearted as it is after all what the point of a hobby is!
It will boost your confidence
If you persevere with the dance classes, after a while you should improve. The better you become, the more confident you will become. If you need some tips on how to be more confident on the dance floor from Aurelie click here.
Depending on how often you dance, it is also likely that you might tone up. Your arms and legs should get a little bit more defined than they use to be. Seeing positive changes in your body will also give you a confidence boost.
Confidence will in turn improve your opinion of yourself and as a result your well-being.
Dancing can help keep your mind healthy because it is a natural anti-depressant. It targets 6 out of the 8 actions recommended by neuroscientist Alex Korb to reverse the course of depression or prevent it altogether.
Oh and by the way, it isn’t just me saying it… The NHS agrees!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Have you observed the effects of dancing (or not dancing) on your mood?
PS: if you have enjoyed reading “Dancing can help keep your mind healthy”, you might also enjoy Positive habits and well-being.
Thank you Emilie for that article. I hope you enjoyed it. Don’t hesitate to have a look to her blog, to know more about a healthy mind !