There are many benefits to dancing! Dancing can improve both mental health and physical health. According to a UCLA Health study published in August 2021, conscious, free-flowing dance produced positive mental health benefits among participants. The study was based on a survey of 1,000 dancers who had depression, anxiety, or a history of trauma. 98% of dancers said that dancing improved their mood, and many also reported that conscious dance gave them more confidence and compassion.
I love to dance. Personally, dancing has helped me become more present. It allows me to get connected to my body. It gives me the opportunity to meet new people, especially if I am attending a dance class at a local studio. It also allows me to “let loose” after a day at work. Sometimes I play music on my airpods and just let myself dance in my living room. It is a good way to get in some exercise even without having to go to a dance studio.
As a therapist, I see both mental health and physical health benefits of dancing. Whether it’s free form or choreographed, dancing can be a great addition to your self-care regimen. If a client is struggling with depression, anxiety, or even trying to increase socialization; I tend to advocate for them to engage in physical activities to combat low moods, stress, and increase connection to others. Dancing is a great way to engage in an activity. Just like yoga or meditation, dancing is a great way to become more present. Any kind of physical activity can help our brains release endorphins which can create good feelings within and dancing is one of those ways to do so.
Mental Health Benefits of Dance
- Improves your mood – Dancing is a great way to cope with difficult emotions. In dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), therapists encourage folks to engage in activities as a way to cope with stress, anxiety and depression. Dancing can help your brain release endorphins which can increase positive emotions within.
- Dancing forces you to be present. When I dance, I am focused on my movement, focused on the music that is being played, and focused on my breath. Like meditation, it helps you connect to your mind and body.
Physical Benefits of Dance
- Increases physical activity – Dancing is a great way to increase cardio exercise into your self-care regimen. Not only is dancing fun but it is a good way to increase physical activity into your life.
- Increases strength – Dancing allows you to move muscles which in turn can improve your strength.
- Raises heart rate – Just like any cardio activity, dancing can keep your heart healthy.
Social Benefits of Dance
- You can meet people – Meeting people can be scary. You might feel anxious when going into new spaces. Luckily, going into a dance studio to take a dance class can help increase the chances of meeting new people.
- You get involved in a community – Increasing a sense of community can help increase positive emotions within. Feeling like you are a part of something can increase a meaningful existence. When you surround yourself with folks in a dance class, you are getting involved within your community. This can help boost your sense of belonging which can increase positive mental health.
Dance/Movement Therapy (DMT)
In addition to utilizing dance as a way to promote positive mental health, some people choose to actively incorporate dance into their therapy practice. Dance/Movement therapy (DMT) is a psychotherapeutic use of movement to promote emotional, social, cognitive, and physical integration of an individual. DMT therapists are certified therapists who provide Dance/Movement therapy interventions to help their clients improve their mental health. A person does not necessarily need to work with a DMT therapist to engage in dance as a therapeutic intervention, but they can search for certified DMT therapists in their community if they prefer.
There are many benefits of dancing. You can get involved in a community of folks who have similar interests. Getting involved in dance can improve your mood. Engaging in any kind of physical activity is a great way to combat anxiety, stress, and depression. Not only can dancing improve your mood, it can also improve your physical health. It can force you out of your comfort zone. And maybe, just maybe, you can meet new friends along the way.
This blog is authored by Dondee Gujilde, MA, LCPC. IntraSpectrum Counseling is Chicago’s leading psychotherapy practice dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community, and we strive to provide the highest quality mental health care for multicultural, identity, kink, polyamorous, and intersectional issues. For anyone needing affirming and validating support, please click here or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.