Dance and Brain Function

Monday, October 10th was Mental Health Day, so it seems only fitting to speak on a topic about dance, mental health and brain function.

Researchers are finding that as they study humans not just in modern times, but even dating back millions of years ago, our brains and bodies may have evolved to need exercise to function at our greatest capacity on many levels. This discovery is connected to days when humans were hunters and gatherers.

We all know the adage: “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it” and now more than ever, we are realizing just how true it is when it comes to not just our cardiovascular and skeletal systems, but for mental exercise as well. Dance requires a person to use their brain in multiple ways from processing the mind and body connection, memorization of movement, how we connect movement and music, and how we move along with others.

The studies are many pointing to better brain function when dancing and may even reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. One study in 2021 from a UCLA health study showed “conscious, or ecstatic, dance helps those struggling with depression and anxiety”.

Some Mental Health improvements from Dance, include:

  • Improving self-esteem and self-confidence, keeping the mind sharp and improving one’s mood by increasing endorphins.
  • Easing depression by getting in connection with your emotions through music and movement.
  • Helping social skills and the ability to bond with others as a person shares in the experience of a dance class.

As we celebrate Mental Health Day and we are looking for a way to get some physical exercise, we should also keep in mind the importance of our mental exercise too. Dance connects the mind and the body in a unique way that other less thought-provoking exercise programs offer us. Dance helps us to relax, de-stress, lift our mood, and keep us using our bodies and minds to help insure we “don’t lose it”.