How Does Dance Help Your Wellbeing?
Let’s start with what Wellbeing means…
Broadly speaking, wellbeing means being happy, well and comfortable. It involves a balance of different elements of life: physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and social. There will be variations between people on the relative importance of these different aspects, times when one area is more important than others, and at different stages of life some areas will have more significance. Let’s start finding out how does dance help your wellbeing and read my conslusion!
Does Dance Help Your Wellbeing?
Modern lifestyles are sedentary, and in the developed world access to sugary, refined foods are cheap and easy. Obesity, diabetes and heart disease are on the rise. Lots of people just don’t exercise enough. Dance is great because it is a pleasurable way of being active.
In fact, there is increasing understanding and research which shows that dancing is about the best exercise you can do for the entire body (muscles, bones, nerves etc). It increases oxygen intake through the use of muscles and brain, thus improving aerobic fitness. It helps with weight management, brain functioning, a healthy nervous system, flexibility, agility, balance, and more. It is also helpful for many of the effects of aging: from thinning bones to brain aging, dementia and Parkinson’s.
Take a breath… there’s more.
Dance and Emotional wellbeing
Generally dancing improves mental health and motivation because when we listen to music and move, we feel better about ourselves and more connected with others. It’s a great antidote to stress and anxiety. On a hormonal level, scientific studies show that dance promotes the production of dopamine (reward system/increases motivation), endorphins (pain suppressors/relaxers), and serotonin (physical & emotional wellbeing). The stress hormone, cortisol, is suppressed by dancing.
Dance also helps improve relationships, energy levels, self-esteem, confidence, bereavement, trauma, aging, and general life challenges.
Dance and Spiritual wellbeing
Dancing takes us out of ourselves and our petty problems. It transcends ‘normal’ conscious experience. When we become completely absorbed in movement and music, we can experience euphoria and ecstasy, often tapping into energy reserves we barely knew were there. We get to feel free.
Dance has had this special effect on human beings over millennia, and as Barbara Ehrenreich reminds us in her book, Dancing in the Streets:
‘Clearly, danced rituals did not seem like a waste of energy to prehistoric peoples. They took the time to fashion masks and costumes; they wantonly expended calories in the execution of the dance; they preferred to record these scenes over any other group activity.’
Dance and Social wellbeing
Dancing at its best is a group thing. A major reason why human beings have survived and flourished in the world is our ability to collaborate and cooperate. Dance, it turns out, was pivotal in creating this group bonding.
Another modern-day malaise is the ‘epidemic’ of loneliness and isolation, and it’s terrible for our health. We thrive in groups. We need to feel connected with others. Moving together bonds us, building trust and cooperation. Dance movement bypasses people’s individual opinions and helps regulate emotions thus allowing for more straightforward contact and connection. It is also a great social equalizer.
Dance and Science
I could give you endless facts and figures (of which there are many) that prove that dancing is beneficial to overall wellbeing. If you want to know more, check out this book by two neuroscientists:
Dancing Is the Best Medicine, J Christensen and D Chang.
Or do a quick Google search on dance and wellbeing. Lots of favourable studies and analysis will come up.
You will have to search hard to find anyone who says that dancing is bad for wellbeing, although sometimes articles talk about over-doing physical exertion and the risks of sprains and injuries. The dance world has also been associated with a perfectionist approach to our bodies, and eating disorders have been particularly prevalent amongst dance professionals.
Conscious dance and Research
Conscious dance or dancing with awareness but without being self-conscious, is the kind of dance I am particularly interested in. This includes the rapidly-growing Ecstatic dance, as well as 5Rhythms, Open Floor and my own Flomotion dance.
Very little research has been specifically done into conscious dance, but I expect there’s more to come. Here’s the studies I have found:
The conclusions of both studies are very favourable for wellbeing suggesting that conscious dance, or conscious clubbing, has all the benefits described above of regular dancing with some added ‘extras’ such as avoiding substance misuse pressures or harm.
In short, here’s my conclusion:
Lost and lonely? Dance
In pain? Dance
Stressed out? Dance
Too much weight? Dance
Getting Older? Dance
Bored, lack meaning? Dance
Too much alcohol? Dance
And here’s an invitation
Come and rev up your feel good… Flomotion is a fabulous and inclusive community of people who love to dance. You can be part of it…