The past decade or so has made a major case for mindfulness, and we absolutely back that. We’re No. 1 fans, seriously. Peep our journal selection. But when it comes to anxiety, it’s a complicated animal. It can live deep within our bodies and can take months or even years to access through a meditation practice, especially if we’re just setting out. So how do we tap into our bodies down to the core?
Allow us to introduce the age-old method known as shaking your ass. Or your legs. Your arms. Just wiggling around to some music that your neuropathways find enjoyable. Movement is the single most effective way to tap into your body on a somatic level and shake those feelings loose so they can move about, and out, freely.
We understand that when we’re feeling anxious, stressed, or blue, dancing isn’t at the top of the list. It’s hard to feel motivated to engage in a joyful activity when we are less than joyful. However, that may be the best time to do it. At first, it won’t feel right. Our advice? Straight up fake it.
Get a handful—three to five—of your favorite tunes to wiggle around to and practice dancing and freely moving until it feels less faux and more fun. Give yourself a little time and space and allow the transformation to take hold. If you’re open to it and have the resources and access, sign up for a dance class and absorb the positive energy of a community while learning a new cultural rhythm. Or just simply hop, jiggle, and shake. It’s not a performance, it’s a practice, and a powerful tool.
Studies show that because dance is such an embodied activity, it has profound effects on our brains and mental health, both in the short term and the long term. It’s been shown to decrease depression and anxiety while improving quality of life, intrapersonal and cognitive skills, and in some trials, even psychomotor skills such as writing, driving a car, drawing, etc. In this particular trial, the follow-up data showed that these effects remained the same or even increased 22 weeks after the study.
Another study compared Argentine tango dance to mindfulness meditation. While both methods decreased depression, stress levels were only reduced in the tango group. Also worth mentioning is that the dance group showed improvement in mindfulness, meaning that it’s a great way to help yourself improve in mindfulness meditation if that’s something you struggle with.
Dancing is also a way to build confidence and ease within our physical body. While we loosen up those calcified bits of harbored, sticky emotional stress and pressure, we also find ease in the shape and fluidity of our physical form while we move it through space. Dancing is free and takes no skill to reap the benefits. We prescribe at least one bust-a-move per day.
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