Our first soother of 2021 is dancing, which we loosely define as any movement of any body parts to real or imagined music. We humans have been dancing since before recorded history—9000-year-old cave paintings in India are the first real evidence we have, but dance is thought to have been a significant part of all cultures and religions up to the present time. In other words, dancing is part of the human spirit.
There is quite a bit of research showing the ability of dancing to reduce anxiety and depression. One study done in Sweden split 112 teenaged women who suffered from anxiety and depression into two groups. The first group was tasked with attending a dance class twice per week while the second group did not participate. The dancers (more than 90% of them) reported significant improvements in anxiety and depression symptoms, and these positive effects persisted for 8 months after the dance classes ended. In addition, a meta-analysis of 23 studies on the effects of dancing revealed that it not only works in the treatment of anxiety, but also in its prevention.
There are lots of reasons why dancing can be such a good soother for anxiety:
• Like most physical activity, dancing causes the release of the body’s feel-good chemicals, e.g., dopamine and serotonin, which provide a calming response.
• Moving the body distracts the mind—and this is especially true with dancing. It really brings you into the present moment and keeps you there, which is what meditation aims to do.
• Dancing increases neuroplasticity, which allows new neural pathways to be created. In other words, dancing can help you change the way you think!
• Dancing in groups or with another being promotes connection, a known antidote to anxiety and depression.
• Dancing is good for your muscles and bones and can help alleviate chronic pain.
• Dancing inspires creativity, which is also a proven anxiety reducer.
• Dancing boosts your immune system.
• You can do it in the privacy of your own living room and it’s free!
And here’s the best part: you don’t have to dance well to reap these benefits. So, even if you have 2 left feet and lack any discernible rhythm (our people!), get up and start swaying, gyrating, bouncing, and tripping your way to less anxiety.
Try this activity: create a set list for your own personal dance party on your phone. It can be as short as one song or as long as you want. This way, you always have at least a few minutes of anxiety-reduction ready to go when you need it.