Not too long ago, I moved to a new apartment, and while exploring the objects that the owner left behind for me and my roomie, I saw it: an almost old-fashioned machine, obsolete, but beautiful. A radio.
As I turned it on, I rejoiced in the chance of listening to random songs, without it being me that chooses them. I could still choose the style of the music by tuning in different stations, but that was pretty much it. Filled with joy over the simplicity of the device and maybe taken back to my childhood memories, I started dancing. Like crazy. I could feel joy, silly as it was to be dancing to Girls just wanna have fun. And then, I started to wonder… Why don’t I do this more often?
After all, Nietzsche once said: “We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.” It seems to be true that when you dance, and even afterwards, you simply feel different -lighter, happier and a little bit freer. But is this the same for everybody? Science seems to confirm it is. And its benefits are more than you could imagine.
Dancing stops you being gloomy
According to an Australian study from 2012, people who dance tango report lower levels of stress and depression over time. The same study showed that dancing can actually be more effective than meditation to fight anxiety and stress.
It helps your creativity
Researchers at the Dance Psychology Lab at the University of Hertfordshire have found that improvising a dance helps your brain be more effective when it comes to problem-solving and creative thinking. By making moves on the go, you actually train your brain’s skills to do the same when it comes to other facets of your life, making you more adaptable and quicker at decision making.
Dancing helps self-esteem
A Swedish study shows that girls who dance regularly have a higher self-esteem that those who do not, and are better at handling life obstacles or unexpected problems.
It makes you happy
Dancing is the best activity to lift your mood, according to research conducted in Italy. Researchers asked cardiac rehab patients to either dance, go biking or exercise on the treadmill. Those who chose dancing reported a more drastic change in their mood than those who chose the other two activities. Not in vain, the emotional high that professional dancers generally experience is caused by the activation of pleasure circuits in their brain, which are activated as a response to listening to music and moving to it. This makes sense if we consider that dancing is actually a form of exercise, which is widely known to release endorphins that reduce pain. Dancing causes our brains to secrete the “bonding” hormone, oxytocin (also known as the “happy” or “love” neurohormone), too.
It communicates who you are
Researchers from Northumbria University and Göttingen University asked 53 women to associate the way a sample of men danced and their personal characteristics. Those who rated more positively were the ones who moved their heads, necks, trunk and knees. Most of the women felt they could know how men were personally by the way they danced, and those who were taking risks in the dance floor were more attractive to them. Professor Joel Wade agreed with the findings in a paper written in 2015, adding that dancing is a form of communication -it shows health, beauty, strength and attractiveness-. In addition, both men and women who dance are generally rated as more attractive than those who do not in studies conducted by Professor Wade.
In summary, and as poet Edwin Denby once said, “there is a bit of insanity in dancing that does everybody a great deal of good.” Now that classes are starting again, and routine is taking over, the only insane thing you can do is not to include a little bit of dancing in it.