I don’t know about you, but for me there’s nothing better than blasting some Michael Jackson and dancing around my room like a maniac for five minutes. I bust out the moves like no one is watching (and often no one is).
I love acting like an idiot and letting the moves flow, and it has a wonderful effect on my mood. Here’s an example.
I love to do it in the middle of a workday. While taking a break transitioning from one activity to the next. A quick dance pause to lift my mood and brighten my day.
I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember. It makes days more entertaining. More fun. Gets me smiling and laughing. Gets the heart pumping sometimes too!
I’ve long believed that this was good for my health. I didn’t have any evidence (or reason) to prove it, it just made me feel great.
But recently I was curious – is this actually good for my health? Is there a physical or cognitive benefit to taking dance breaks throughout the day?
Turns out, there is.
In a study by Dance Psychologist Dr. Lovatt, researchers put people in a lab and played music for five minutes. Then they gave people three options 1) sit and listen quietly to the music 2) cycle on an exercise bike while they listened or 3) get up and dance.
All were given cognitive tasks to perform before and after. Dr Lovatt says: “All those who chose to dance displayed improved problem-solving skills afterwards.”
This same study also found that the mood levels of the dancers went up. It shows that dancing along to music even for five minutes can boost happiness and improve creative-thinking patterns.
So let’s get this straight – Dr. Lovatt found that dancing improved problem solving skills and improved the moods of the dancers.
Sounds like some decent benefits to me!
But is there other research out there that can support the claim that dancing can make you happier and healthier?
Yes, turns out there’s a lot of it – For example, researchers at the University of Derby conducted a study in which patients suffering from depression were given Salsa dancing lessons for 9 weeks. By the end of the 9 week therapy, the patients had significantly improved their day to day mood and reported a boost in self-confidence and concentration.
Or how about a 2013 study done at the University of Örebro, in which a group of teenagers who suffered from anxiety, depression and stress, in addition to presenting psychosomatic symptoms such as neck and back pain were asked to attend two dance classes a week. After two years, those who continued to attend the dance classes not only showed a significant improvement in psychosomatic symptoms, but also reported to feel happier.
Or this study, which compared competitive to recreational dancers – and found that the recreational dancers reported higher energy, less tension, and a better, more creative mood than before.
Or lastly, (and probably the most powerful of all), this study that took place in Greece, that found that women who recently had been diagnosed and treated for breast cancer experienced an increase in life satisfaction and a decrease in depressive symptoms when they participated in dance therapy, compared to a control group.
The research is pretty conclusive – across all these studies we consistently see that people who dance have improved MOOD. They feel better, they are happier, and are more relaxed.
We know that this is because dancing (like all exercise) lowers cortisol (stress hormone) and boosts the production of mood enhancing endorphins, but this also happens purely because ITS FUN!!!
Dancing is fun, it’s good for your physical and mental health, and is great to do with other people or by yourself. If you’re in a funk, get the fuck up and dance!!!!
Can’t dance? Try anyway! Dance like you’re alone in your room with no one to judge. Let it fly in whatever way feels best to you.
It’s a skill that can be learned if you want to. I don’t believe that there’s such a thing as “I can’t dance” – if you can move, you can dance.
Not willing to try and feeling too uptight to dance? The least you can do is put on some tunes that will put a smile on your face. Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, and Disney songs like Hakuna Matata always seem to do it for me. Create a “happy playlist” that works magic for you.
Now get out there and go dance the silliest moves you can think of because it’s GOOD FOR YOU 🙂
Bonus — Here’s a TEDx talk by the same Dr. Peter Lovatt from the study above.