Quarantine restrictions have me missing quite a bit. One of the activities I miss the most is getting ready with my closest girlfriends to hit the clubs in New York City and dance our cares away until 4 am. Psychologically speaking when you gyrate to pulsing beats with your friends until an ungodly hour you do in fact “dance your cares away.” How is this possible?
Let’s take a look into the studies that outline the tremendous benefits busting a move has for folks dealing with mood disorders, stress, PTSD, and age-related conditions.
Dancing has anti-aging effects
I have some great news for the 60 and older crowd who still love to get down to some funky beats! A recent study taking a sample of 26 healthy seniors split these folks into 2 groups. One group learned dance routines from an experienced instructor. Conversely, the control group stuck to a basic endurance and flexibility regime.
“Both groups showed marked increases in the hippocampus portion of the brain, the same area where conditions like Alzheimer’s and depression typically originate. The hippocampus is known for its role in controlling memory, learning and spatial navigation, while it also helps us keep our balance — which is where the researchers noticed a difference between members in the dance group compared to those in the exercise group.”
This is an exciting new find as patients that suffer from memory loss due to Alzheimer’s also tend to respond better to music, triggering memories once believed to be lost forever.
One of the authors expressed this gleeful discovery in an absolutely groundbreaking find to aid patients suffering from the debilitating effects of this neurodegenerative affliction.“We want to combine the promising aspects of physical activity and active music-making in a feasibility study with dementia patients.”
Dancing aids people suffering from the fallout of PTSD
A study conducted by Western Connecticut State University psychology professor Robin Gustafson, and her team at Denenfeld and the University of Louisville biology professor Cynthia Corbitt looked into a program called ‘Dancing Well: The Soldier Project.’
This project enlisted veterans to participate in a 10-week long version of this Dancing Well project in Louisville back in 2014 recommended by a psychiatrist in residence at Fort Knox.
“It’s essentially a community barn dance, slowed down and adapted to the physical and emotional comfort levels of this particular group of veterans.”
Chronic anxiety and isolation consistently plague ex-military people once they come back to their communities to gain some semblance of normalcy after witnessing or experiencing first-hand traumatic events in combat.
The authors of this study found 17 veterans who participated in this dance class reported less suicidal ideation, decreased feelings of isolation, and they even noted increased optimism over time!
As a person who struggles with complex PTSD symptoms myself, I can tell you that taking a ten-minute dance break each day has helped me significantly in the healing process.
The book The Body Keeps the Score reminds people of the importance of residing within your own body through movement, sound, and collective dance helpful in war-torn communities that suffer from intergenerational trauma. This dance-based therapy could be helpful for protestors attempting to regain peace after the stressful events of this year. Here is an excerpt from this life-changing book by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.
“The healing power of community as expressed in music and rhythms was brought home for me in the spring of 1997 when I was following the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. In some places we visited, terrible violence continued. One day I attended a group for rape survivors in the courtyard of a clinic in a township outside Johannesburg. We could hear the sound of bullets being fired at a distance while smoke billowed over the walls of the compound and the smell of teargas hung in the air. Later we heard that forty people had been killed.
Yet, while the surroundings were foreign and terrifying, I recognized this group all too well: The women sat slumped over—sad and frozen—like so many rape therapy groups I had seen in Boston. I felt a familiar sense of helplessness, and, surrounded by collapsed people, I felt myself mentally collapse as well. Then one of the women started to hum, while gently swaying back and forth. Slowly a rhythm emerged; bit by bit other women joined in. Soon the whole group was singing, moving, and getting up to dance. It was an astounding transformation: people coming back to life, faces becoming attuned, vitality returning to bodies. I made a vow to apply what I was seeing there and to study how rhythm, chanting, and movement can help to heal trauma.”
This mode of mindful collective movement and rhythmic breath also instills a sense of community and togetherness helpful to relieve stress to those who experienced tremendous loss from the continued fallout of the Coronavirus pandemic and are trying their best to rebuild.
Dancing relieves stress and anxiety
This year has me engaging in any and all methods that promote self-care. Dancing is considered one of the best ways to access endorphins and open up our opioid receptors which also relieves pain and helps human beings create bonds.
A recent survey by OnePoll asked 2,000 adults how they feel after dancing to their favorite song for a few minutes and 80 percent reported they felt significantly happier.
“We feel less pain when we dance. We know dancing bonds people together – dancing in unison is good for us, because it encourages social bonding, stimulating the production of endorphins in the brain.”
Dance like nobody’s watching, why? You’d be doing yourself a disservice if you sit around all day lamenting the fact you can’t quite twerk like one of Time’s most influential people of the year Megan Thee Stallion but you don’t need to have internet-breaking moves to experience the host of benefits dancing daily promotes! Get up and dance to relieve the day to day stressors holding you back, go learn that TikTok dance and have some fun with it.