A 2012 study by the University of New England, Australia discovered that participants who practiced tango reported experiencing lower levels of stress, anxiety and depression. It was also found that for the participants, dancing proved to be more effective than meditation in reducing anxiety.
Dance can significantly help you to improve your mental health by enhancing your physical health, believes mental health counselor Shainna Ali. She explains that dancing can “contribute to enhance self-perception and ultimately enhance mental health. Dance can also provide an outlet to soothe internal struggles… dance can provide a safe realm to reflect, connect, and release personal turmoil.”
But that’s not all.
Dance makes you happier
The healing power of dancing can also enable you to experience more happiness in life. A study conducted by the University of Derby, found that people suffering from depression reported feeling better, having fewer negative thoughts and experiencing higher levels of peace and tranquility after 4 weeks of “salsa” lessons.
One 2015 study showed that “Mood Enhancement was the strongest motivational factor for both males and females,” to engage in dancing. Another 2013 study by the University of Örebro found that teenagers suffering from stress, anxiety and depression felt happier after taking dance classes for 2 years. It was also observed that their psychosomatic symptoms showed considerable improvements.
Shainna adds “Dancers often remark on the pure joy attained from this healing art. Dance can help to improve sentiments of hope and happiness. Further, in addition to the perks of smiling and laughter, dance can be a powerful tool in combating depression and anxiety as well.”
Dance heals your soul
Various cultures across the globe recognize the spiritual healing power of dance.There are many different dance forms around the world like the Sufi Whirling Dervishes, Native American dances and Pan-Eu-Rhythmy, that are known for their intense healing powers.
Shainna Ali, mental health counselor, educator and member of the American Counseling Association (ACA), believes that dancing involves interpersonal and intrapersonal elements. Apart from having mental, social, and emotional benefits, “dance has the curative power to heal our mind, heart, and soul and ultimately enhance mental health overall,” she explains.
“There is a sense of embodying one’s own essence. Many women use dance as their spiritual practice,” explains author Johanna Leseho, Ph.D.
Dancing allows us to be a lot more mindful. Various dance forms, like ballet, require us to concentrate and be fully present in the moment. Dance forces us to live in the present moment as we take each step and make every precise move. As we become more present in the moment to improve our craft, we become increasingly mindful with each dance session.
“Dancing isn’t about escaping the stressors of daily life. Dancing offers us a way to embrace them. By being present while dancing, we can learn about ourselves and our bodies. You don’t need to be perfect as a dancer. Instead, we can come home to the present moment through the practice of mindful dancing.” explains Dr. Jamie Marich, founder of the Dancing Mindfulness community.
Dance as meditation
Dancing is even seen as a form of meditation, particularly by the Sufi Whirling Dervishes. Meditation practice allows us to pause, experience stillness and gain control over our mind. The true essence of meditation is awareness. You can experience the same spiritual experience with dance. When we dance, we are completely aware of our body and completely control our mind so that we can effectively execute the next steps.
Senior business strategist Jennifer Hahn Masterson explains “Meditation is the deliberate and practiced art of concentrating, thinking, sorting out thoughts, prayer, and contemplation. This is a mental activity.” However when we merge the practice of meditation with the physical movements of dance, “the mind and body reach a higher level of both. To many, it is an ecstatic experience,” she adds.