Dancing is a simple way to bring some happiness into these stressful times
When life gets tough, it can be difficult to get your groove on. Research suggests, however, that dancing actually makes you happier.
Dance can be healing. If your favourite upbeat song comes on when you’re by a dance floor, you may want to get up and dance. Afterwards, you notice the wave of peace in your head that has drowned the judgements, anxious thoughts, and worries in that very moment.
I took three different types of dance classes when I was younger: Irish, jazz, and hip hop. At that time, dance was just a fun way to get some exercise after school.
As a UVic student, I sit staring at a screen full of due dates, assignments, and expectations. I find myself becoming easily overwhelmed. Dance is one of the ways I try to cheer myself up whenever I feel irritated, sad, stressed, or anxious — busting a groove reminds me to fall in love with myself and the world again.
You’ve probably heard that exercise can benefit your physical and mental health, but there are also specific advantages to grooving to a good tune. Research by Schwender et al. found that dancing is different from other forms of sport or physical activity because the movements of self-expression and personality emphasize the cognitive and emotional aspects of self. This type of mood-boosting exercise not only can benefit physical health, but can improve the total well-being while “strengthen[ing] aspects of self” in all ages. The improved sense of self becomes the most apparent, distinct benefit of dancing.
Every time I decide to bust a groove, it immediately improves my mood. Expressing myself through moving my body freely gives me the ability to explore and share my authenticity, uniqueness, and personality with myself and the world. I find that having fun and releasing my limitless self results in a new appreciation and admiration for my own company. In these moments, I feel free — free from my constricted thoughts and the pressures of the world while reconnecting to my truest sense of self.
Everyone listens to music, but not everyone decides to let go of their bodies and minds to break into a groove. In a study, Bernardi and other researchers explored how listening to music and dancing spontaneously had different emotional and physical effects than listening to music without motor activity. By testing non-professional dancers with different styles of music, the study concluded in “dancing to groovy music results in substantially increased feelings of pleasure, compared to listening in the absence of motion, even in individuals without previous dance training.” Bernardi’s study found that the physical and physiological benefits of dancing “can enhance the associated emotion, thus offering a chance to upregulate the desired emotions”.
In an article dedicated to exploring the benefits of frequent dancing while using concepts of philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Aimie Purser describes dance as “healing and life-enhancing” and “humanising.” Purser sees as a “healing art” that can empower the awareness of our “well-being and self- (and other-) care.” Not only does dance have beneficial physical and mental effects, it can be tied to people’s sense of religion or culture.
There are many reasons we don’t break into spontaneous dance. Whether this is our own thoughts filling our heads with fear, or because we decide we simply “can’t dance,” dancing seems to be an underrated, underused potential aid. Dancing only requires music, a body, and a mind set in the present. Without any need for a future to transpire or worrying about the past, dancing gives humans the power to be present and creates embodied cognition. This feel-good movement creates a place to express oneself while being able to let go of life’s stressors. It seems that dancing could be the most beneficial drug to escape a downhearted, self-destructive mindset. By simply grooving you could achieve life’s most beautiful gifts: the ability to let go, express ourselves, and love life.
I am my happiest, healthiest, and most confident self when I dance. I feel the most infinite, free, and limitless when I release my negativity as I’m introduced to my most confident self. Boosting your mood can simply be accomplished by busting a groove.
So, get up and dance. By turning on groovy music and letting your body move, you might just feel happier in the process.