Did you ever wonder why dancing feels so good? There are many significant mental health benefits of dance? In this article, dancer and yoga expert Keisa Parrish discusses the many ways dancing helps mental health…
Dance has always been a sweet escape, even before I was a “dancer.”
That’s probably the case for most people before we all became self-conscious. We freely danced in inviting spaces. Weddings, family gatherings, random afternoons with friends, the mirror in the bathroom, or our bedroom with the door closed while belting our hearts out to Mariah Careys ‘Someday’.
That was just me?
Well you get the gist. Our dancing was carefree, passionate, and FULL OUT! Back then, dancing felt so good! But then we became self-conscious, and flailing about to the rhythm of our favorite songs was like a distant memory.
I challenge you to revisit that memory. Revisit a time when you didn’t even think about dancing as therapeutic. It was simple. It just felt good.
What I’ve learned through my experience in dance, especially during stormy seasons of life, is, you have to do things that bring you joy to help navigate all the negative corners of your mind. You need to have something, a go-to, that can lighten your crappiest of moods. Something that can help pull you out of the “eat crappy food and get swallowed up by the couch” funk. And that struggle is especially real in the Fall/Winter.
So why does dance feel so good?
Why Dancing Feels So Good
There’s a reason why dancing is one of the top hobbies for mental health.
Starting with the most obvious… “Dancing releases your endorphins, and endorphins make you happy. That’s probably the number one reason why dancing feels so good.
And of course, happy people don’t eat crappy food and get swallowed up by the couch!”
It’s widely known that dancing/moving your body to music helps to improve your mood. But I find that dancing also loosens my tight muscles. When I dance, I immediately feel my shoulders drop away from my ears by like 7 inches, my jaw loosens, and my hip flexors relax, just 5 minutes into a dance class.
As these muscles become more relaxed, others are getting a serious workout. Ankles are working with weight distribution, abs working for big torso movement, etc.
At the same time, my oxygen intake increases due to the physicality of the class and ten minutes in, my body is already feeling different. I feel relaxed but strong and supple. There’s more oxygen coursing through my body, my heart is pumping, and with my muscles being a bit more relaxed, blood is flowing more freely throughout. When my body feels good, my mind feels good.
Then there’s the mental health benefits of dancing with choreography.
Another reason why dancing feels so good is the choreography.
Learning choreography gives my mind a break from the incessant stream of Oscar-worthy situations, fearful outcomes, and dramatic proposed reactions to those Oscar-worthy situations.
It’s like meditating. Dance, and particularly choreographed dance, makes you focus on the present moment. Not the should of, could of, would ofs of emotional baggage. For that hour-long dance class, my attention is brought to focus on the present, I focus on what is my body doing, and what’s happening in the room. And the concentration it takes to watch a body move through space, while catching every detail of every limb along with the dynamic cues from the music, doesn’t leave room for much else in my brain.
Furthermore, there’s the hand-eye coordination of trying to compute what I see with my eyes, to being executed by my body in real-time. It’s is working on my processing and deduction kills. So I’m getting a brain workout as well as a body workout. I love a two-for-one deal!
And that break in worrying about life, a situation, a person, a place, or thing helps me come back to it later with “fresh eyes.”
And of course, the camaraderie of being in a group dance class is another mental health benefit of dancing. Everyone working towards the same goal- trying to figure out what the teacher just did with their body. That’s the icing on the cake.
There is no greater feeling than “struggle bussing” it and/or succeeding, as a group of people all learning the choreography for the first time. That inviting feeling you get from a dance class of ‘you belong here’ and ‘we (the teacher and other students) got you’… that’s what makes dancing good for the soul. Isn’t that what we are all looking for? Support in trying times. To not feel alone in this thing we call life.
So when days feel heavy, or you just find yourself in a funk, put on your favorite song and jam out. Or sign up to take a class. Zoomland has a plethora of options. And while I know it’s hard these days in Zoomland to feel a real connection, trust me it’s a start you won’t regret.”
And if you ever want to take your dance further, you can always try meditative dancing!
Keisa Parrish is a professional dancer, yoga expert, and creator of Kuudose.