Reduce Stress by Dancing

Thinking about taking a dance lesson for the first time can be stressful.

Perhaps your spouse or significant other has been asking you to join them because they don’t want to go without a partner. A friend thinks it might be a great place to meet like-minded people while learning something new. Or your family member would like you to learn a few steps before their wedding.

You agree that all of these are good reasons to learn how to dance. But instead of thinking how much fun it may be, you start thinking about all of the potential negatives. What if I make mistakes? What if I can’t learn the steps? What if I embarrass my spouse, my friend, my family member or myself?

All of these are legitimate concerns if you feel dancing does not come naturally to you. The trauma of school dances, going out with friends to clubs or special events where your amateur dancer status was apparent are not the greatest confidence builders.

So, you talk yourself out of it and stay home watching “Dancing with the Stars” convinced that learning how to dance is for everyone else.

The irony is that dancing can help you reduce the stress caused by these negative thoughts. It can also help you deal with other stresses and struggles of daily life. It’s a wonderfully fun tool you can use on a regular basis to keep your hectic life in balance.

Many research studies conducted throughout the years support the idea that dancing is a great tool to have in your wellness toolbox. The majority of them focus on the physical aspects but more and more are showing how dancing can help you psychologically, socially, and emotionally.

As you may know, stressful situations or thoughts can cause a physical reaction in your body that releases the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine, also known as the ‘fight or flight’ response. It can be helpful if you are in real danger but not so helpful if the threat is only in your mind. If this happens on a regular basis, it can take quite a toll on your body with some very serious side effects.

Since stress is pretty much a part of everyone’s life these days, instead of numbing yourself with food, alcohol, or electronic devices, dancing is a natural alternative that cleverly uses other automatic physical reactions in your body to keep you healthy and happy.

An article published by the Mayo Clinic reported that physical movement reduces anxiety by causing the brain to release mood-lifting endorphins like serotonin and norepinephrine. They also noted that laughter – which frequently happens when dancing! – reduces cortisol and lowers blood pressure.

Additionally, ballroom dancing reduces adrenaline which makes it easier to learn and releases oxytocin which helps the body relax. Not bad for something that is fun too!

According to Rosa Pinniger, a researcher at the University of New England in Australia, “Tango is described as a ‘walking embrace.’ It is an absorbing activity that promotes attention by demanding a strong connection with a partner. Thus, an awareness of one’s own body and that of the partner is required.”

The increased awareness necessary to learn and perform dance helps people focus on the present moment. There is no room for thinking about your past or your fears for the future. You’re focused on your partner, your body and the rhythm of the music. So much so, stressful thoughts simply fade away.

An additional emotional bonus is that once you are comfortable with the basic movements, dancing will become a way of expressing who you are and the emotions you are feeling. If you have ever seen a couple dancing the Tango, you have felt the intensity of their emotional expression.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to channel all of the emotions of your day into your dancing so you can just let them go? That is likely why many people call dancing, ‘meditation in motion.’

But this is just the tip of the dancing benefits iceberg. We hope it has helped convince you that the combination of music, laughter, connection, and ‘being in the moment’ makes dancing a wonderful option if you want to reduce the level of stress in your life.

We look forward to seeing you at the Dance Scene soon!

References

Exercise and stress: Get moving to manage stress, Mayo Clinic, April 2015 – Click here to read full article

Argentine tango dance compared to mindfulness meditation and a waiting-list control: A randomized trial for treating depression, Rosa Pinniger, Rhonda F. Brown, Einar B. Thorsteinsson, Patricia McKinley, August 2012 – Click here to read full article

Why Should We Dance?, Christina Devereaux Ph.D., BC-DMT, May 2013 – Click here to read full article