Dance For Your Life!
I wrote last about finding your passion, and soon will add an entry about following that passion. Before I do so, however, I wanted to write about one of my own passions…dance. You may have heard the phrase, “Dance like no one is watching.” I like the adage, “Dance for your life.”
Why do I dance? Because, while I’m dancing there isn’t anything I’d rather be doing. I feel the same way while hiking or kayaking…I’m supremely happy in the moment and wish it could last forever. True passion. Thankfully, my passions are healthy and keep me young. More specifically, there are many reasons I love dancing and recommend it to everyone:
1~It’s good for your body. Dance helps develop good posture and balance–something that’s always beneficial, especially as we age. Movement helps the body remain mobile and flexible, especially during this technology age in which so many of us spend countless hours sitting idle in front of a screen.
2~It’s good for your brain. Dancing, especially ballroom, creates new neural pathways in the brain and improves cognitive functioning and memory. Research has shown that because of this, dancing decreases the risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, and helps to decrease Parkinson’s symptoms! The idea to ‘dance for your life’ has some validity.
3~It helps reduce stress. Dancing increases mindfulness. When you dance, generally all of your current stressors take a back seat as you focus on the class, your routine or your partner. You are in the now, focusing only on the music and what your body is doing, what your partner is doing. It helps you refill your cup so you’re ready to approach the rest of life from a calmer place.
4~It makes you happy. Ok, generally, no one and nothing can MAKE you happy, but dancing actually does affect the pleasure centers of the brain, increasing Serotonin…the ‘feel good’ hormone. This can help to counter conditions such as depression and creates an overall boost in happiness. It’s pretty rare to see someone dancing and looking like they’d rather be somewhere else. One of the things I love about dancing is being in a room full people, from all walks of life, who are all smiling and having a great time.
5~It’s social. As humans, we thrive on contact with other humans. Unless and when you only dance by yourself and don’t take classes or work with an instructor, dancing involves connecting. While participating in a class or dancing in a social setting you have contact with other dancers and are building a community. This is even more so for partner dances. For 2 or 3 minutes at a time you are connected closely with another person, listening and moving to the same song and creating a conversation. And social dances and classes can help those who are introverted or shy expand their social network in a supportive setting with like-minded people.
So you think you CAN’T dance…?
When I tell people that I’m a dancer, many respond with, “Oh, that sounds like so much fun, but I can’t dance.” Maybe you’ve even said the same about yourself in the past. Fortunately, there are two primary facts which dispel this myth held by many people:
1- No one begins practicing a new style of dance already knowing how to do it. That’s what lessons are for. If you’ve never danced at all, you may be surprised that it makes sense and is easier than you thought, but you do need to begin somewhere. Some good instruction goes a long way.
2- Almost anything can be learned, even rhythm. Listening to music in a focused way can help you learn to hear it in a way that helps you dance. The body naturally responds to music and those responses can be trained, with patience and commitment.
Accomplished, professional dancers spend countless hours listening to music and practicing their craft. When you’re starting out you can’t reasonably expect to dance like the pros or other long-time dancers, nor is it reasonable to discount yourself as a dancer just because you don’t have the same skills. Thankfully all of the practice time in dance is just fun!
If you’re searching for a new activity that’s good for your body and your mind and helps you connect with others, dance! It could be one of the best options for aging gracefully. If you’re already a dancer, it’s nice to know that you’re helping yourself stay young and healthy while having so much fun! I’m grateful every day for the gift of dance.