“Come on and Dance with Me!” How Two-Stepping Can Keep You Healthy and Happy

Imagine going to the doctor, complaining of depression and instead of giving you a prescription for Zoloft or Prozac, he hands you an Rx slip that says, “Take ten tango lessons and call me in two months.” As far-fetched as that might sound, it could very well be a better answer than medication for many people with low mood issues.

“We’ve become a nation of armchair dancers, mesmerized by Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance, “  says Lane Anderson, author of an article in Psychology Today,  “But research shows that getting your own groove on is more beneficial in improving social skills, lifting your spirits, even reversing depression.”

“In a recent study at the University of Derby,” Anderson wrote, “depressed patients given salsa-dancing lessons improved their moods significantly by the end of the nine-week, hip-swiveling therapy.” Researchers found that the combination of the endorphin boost from exercise, along with the social interaction and forced concentration lifted moods.  I think it is safe to assume that the emotional boost of music, which calms and energizes the brain also helped, along with the pride learning a new skill.

In a study from Germany, 22 tango dancers had lower levels of stress hormones and higher levels of testosterone.  They also reported feeling sexier and more relaxed.

Another study from  the University of New England showed that after six weeks of tango lesions, the participants showed significantly lower levels of depression than a control group who took no classes, and  had  similar results to a third group who took meditation lessons. Dance requires extreme focus or “mindfulness” and when the brain is deeply engaged at this level, negative thought patterns that lead to anxiety and depression are interrupted.

Using the body in physical, rhythmic movement also plays a part in opening people up on several levels.  “Depressed patients tend to have a curved back, which brings the head down so it’s facing the ground,” said Donna Newman-Bluestain, a dance therapist with the American Dance Therapy Association.  “Dancing lifts the body to an open, optimistic posture.”

So grab your partner and do a little waltz around the kitchen, or go ahead and turn on “Dancing Queen” full volume (nobody’s looking, right?) and get your groove on.  What have you got to lose but a bad mood and a few pounds?

Resource: Dance Yourself Happy Why swinging your body lifts your spirits

By Lane Anderson  http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201008/mind-your-body-dance-yourself-happy

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