Science Says: Dancing Makes You Happy

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Photo: Arthur Murray Dance Centers

(Editor’s note: This article is reprinted with permission from Arthur Murray Dance Centers website.)

Another day, another scientific announcement. This thing is bad for you; that other item is great for you. In some cases, one behavior or product may be associated with both risks and rewards. But there aren’t a whole lot of negatives associated with physical movement. In fact, science shows that dancing makes you happy. Although we may feel joyful when we do the electric slide or dance the cha-cha, the evidence is not merely anecdotal. It’s biological and physiological. You can’t ignore it.

Well, you can. But you shouldn’t. And here’s why.

Since the beginning of time, dance has been a central part of culture. Depictions from prehistoric civilizations show that humans have always loved to dance. Dance was a tool to bond with others, to share stories, to celebrate, to worship, and even to heal. Regardless of where you’re from, your ethnicity, or your religion, there are dances your people have been doing forever. Why? Because, according to anthropologists (as explained in this article), “Dancing with other people is connected to emotional competence, self-esteem, and healthy levels of trust.”

Rhythm and movement connect us to other people and to the world around us. It’s able to express emotions and situations that we might not otherwise be able to communicate in words. Whether you’re dancing in a solo routine, with a partner, or as part of a group, this art form is truly transformative for both participants and onlookers.

The simple concept of movement makes people healthier and, therefore, happier. It can boost our physical health, to be sure. But it can also have a profound effect on our mental and emotional well-being. Consider the ways that moving to the beat can make you feel great:

Dancing makes you feel better about your body.

Studies reveal that dancing does, in fact, help you get in shape and even lose weight. It’s an incredible workout, encompassing the five pillars of fitness: cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, flexibility, muscular strength, and body composition. One hour of moderately intensive dance can allow you to burn 400 calories or more. Right off the bat, it’s understandable that people would automatically improve their self-image when they dance on a regular basis. Furthermore, there are researchers who have studied the body-mind-spirit concepts associated with dancing. The result? “Dance can help people of all shapes and sizes cultivate a more positive body image.” Learning how your body moves and appreciating it for all it can do, regardless of your weight or physical appearance, is possible through participation in dance. Even if you never lose a pound, you’ll likely gain both muscular strength and self-confidence.

Dancing spurs new relationships.

It may be an art form, but it’s also a great opportunity for socialization. Since the very beginning, dance has been used as a social activity that connects us with others. You’ll make lasting bonds with your instructor or choreographer, with your partner or other dancers, and even with audience members. You don’t even have to speak out loud to create those connections with other people. Simply doing those steps in sync with other people can be a shared euphoric experience that you won’t soon forget. When you get social, you feel happy. Perhaps it’s the endorphins that are being produced when you interact with like-minded people — laughing, chatting, enjoying time together. But it also may be something even deeper.

Having the opportunity to partake in an emotional catharsis with everyone else in the room is a unique experience that can help you bond with a complete stranger or deepen the connection to your loved one. As humans, we constantly seek out those meaningful connections with others. Dance provides a way for us to relate to others on both a physical and emotional level in a way that other situations may not.

Dancing keeps us young.

No one wants to think about getting older. The physical and cognitive decline associated with age can make us feel rather helpless and hopeless. Logically, we all know that our minds will become less sharp and our muscles will lose their tone. But the idea of having to take medications or become a burden to our loved ones is enough for us to feel rather depressed. But dancing can act as a fountain of youth. According to one study conducted by Queens University in Belfast, dancing “may stave off illness and counteract decline in aging” in mental, social, and physical aspects.

The benefits of ballroom dance can be experienced by individuals both young and old. But participating in dance may allow you to keep feeling young for decades to come, as you may experience:

  • Decreased feelings of isolation
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Improved memory
  • Stronger muscle tone
  • Increased endurance
  • Reduction or maintenance of weight
  • Reduced osteoporosis risk
  • Improved balance, flexibility, and coordination
  • Increased confidence and self-esteem
  • Additional opportunities to socialize and make friends
  • Feelings of excitement and joy

These mental and physical benefits can help us to hold onto our vitality and stave off the signs off the signs of aging. Your participation in dance can allow you to become the very picture of good health, no matter how many birthdays you’ve had.

Dancing can help us heal.
Those who struggle with diagnoses of depression or anxiety may feel that therapy or medication will provide the only solutions. While those techniques certainly have their value, they can often be supplemented by lifestyle changes. The fact that dance provides both a physical and emotional outlet means that it’s an ideal activity for those who experience the adverse symptoms of these issues. It’s also a fantastic activity for those who experience high levels of stress, as dance comes with both a physical and a chemical release.

One study involving teenagers with depression, anxiety, and stress found that those who attended dance classes two days per week showed significant improvement in their psychosomatic symptoms and self-reported that they felt happier as a result of this activity. Other studies have found that when those who suffered from depression engaged in salsa dancing, they had fewer negative thoughts, better concentration, and an improved sense of tranquility. Even children who were exposed to dance said they felt happier afterwards.

Historically, dance was sometimes used as a form of medicine (with questionable success). But now, we know that dancing produces neurochemical releases that make us feel less stressed and a lot happier. In general, exercise can help in this regard. But when you combine physical exercise with the healing power of music and a shared emotional experience, you suddenly have the power to heal in life changing ways.

What are you waiting for? Contact us today and you could be dancing tonight! Arthur Murray Dance Center of the Greater Boston Region welcome you to schedule a free first dance lesson. Take a chance and learn to dance!! You’ll love it mind, body and soul!

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