When you ask someone what they miss the most about the “old normal” a common response is the following: “Going out, but to be able to dance». And the thing is, dancing is an activity that helps us “loosen up”: we release tension, sweat, shout singing and we could even say that it sets us free. This is what the doctor Peter Lovatt, also known as the «Dancing Doctor», a scientist who dedicates his life to researching how dance helps our mind. Perhaps, as he explains to ABC Bienestar, dance is the “medicine” we need sometimes.
Why does dancing not only help our body, but also our mind?
Dancing is a fantastic activity for both our body and our mind. It helps us on many different levels, and this happens because it activates four different areas of human beings: the social aspects, what has to do with thoughts, the social factor and the physical factor. Dancing helps these four areas at the same time, and thus dancing differs from other forms of exercise. When we dance we “activate” our social factor and it makes us like other people more; it makes us feel better about ourselves and activates our thinking capacity, which remains active. It also helps us “let go” of our emotions, which makes us feel great, and also reduces negative feelings and increases good ones. On a physical level, it helps our bones, our brain, our muscles … when we dance it affects all these fields, in a positive way.
In a time as rare as the present … can it be a good option to relieve stress?
It is vital, dancing improves our mood, and it also serves as exercise. Studies show that people feel less stressed when they dance. In this current panorama that is fostered by Covid-19, in which there are people who are confined, who are worried about money, or about the people they love, dancing is fantastic to improve those negative feelings. Dance also unites communities; Dancing can be done anywhere, it’s easy, and accessible to everyone. That is why it brings people together, something essential at a time like this. We can see from history that, in difficult periods of time, people return to dance, because it is a primary act that we all end up returning to.
He recently did a study with Zumba, in which he talked about these benefits …
In that study, we surveyed about 2,000 people about their dance habits. I am a scientist, and I have spent years studying the relationship between dance and science. For example, 77% of the Spanish surveyed say that dancing is one of the activities they carry out when they feel stressed. Another thing we know from this study is that about 70% of people think that it is possible to learn to dance to do it right. I know that humans are born with the ability to dance, and everyone can be a good dancer.
What type of dance has the most benefits for the brain?
We know that different types of dance have different effects on our mind. For example, if we want to feel better with our movements, more “whole”, we can opt for ballet, because it is rhythmic; For example, if we do tap dancing, it is an exercise that makes us stay focused, that connects us to the ground and makes our emotions flow … the best thing about dancing is that there are many different exercises that are adapted to many people, and they all contribute something to our mind.
Just playing music in our room and dancing, just following the rhythm of a song, is it beneficial?
Totally, when I say that we can all dance, I mean it from a neuroscientific perspective. Our brains are programmed to react to the music and sounds in our environment. These activate our brain, which stimulates movement. So just being at home and putting on music and feeling that rhythm and starting to dance, we get all those fantastic benefits that we talk about and are associated with dancing. It can help our confidence, our mood, we feel better about ourselves, strengthen our muscles, improve our coordination and balance … dancing for a while, for example in the kitchen while we cook, is a great option.
Is it better to dance in company or alone?
Different things happen when we dance alone or when we dance with someone. Some studies from the University of Oxford say that when you dance in sync with another person, two things happen: the first is that the social bond is reinforced, that is, the dance reinforces it, and the other thing that happens is that our brain increases the production of the chemical responsible for making us feel less pain, so when a person dances in company, it reduces their pain levels, something that can be great for older people. And dancing also influences our behavior with others. Darwin said that dancing is part of natural selection, because we communicate with others in this way.
Why does movement, in general, help our body?
The brain is specialized in all kinds of movement; we do it constantly. Therefore, we have a natural rhythm capacity: our heart beats at a rhythm, our brain works at a rhythm, we walk rhythmically … For this reason, the brain is not only specialized in movement, but also in rhythmic movement. Therefore, the movement of the general is important, but the dance is very important. Dancing unites everything, our emotional, social, physical plane … for this reason, dance, above other “movement activities” makes us feel so good.