December 11, 2019 at 12:00AM by CWC

Nobody wants to be the first one on the dance floor, and this is doubly true if you’re feeling down or don’t know anyone. The anxiety and vulnerability of doing little kicks all over the place keeps us wallflowering and crying into our gin and tonics alone. (Just me?) But if you’re feeling sad, it’s more important than ever to embrace your inner Elaine Benes⁠—dance therapy is real, and it is powerful.

Let’s look to meta-analyses published in Frontiers in Psychology that examines the effects of Dance Movement Therapy for those who suffer from depression. Across the board it was shown that Dance Movement Therapy decreased levels of depression in those who got moving.

Now, it’s worth mentioning that Dance Movement Therapy is a legitimate form of psychotherapy, formally defined by the American Dance Therapy Association  as the “psychotherapeutic use of movement to promote emotional, social, cognitive, and physical integration of the individual, for the purpose of improving health and well-being.” You need certain credentials to become a dance therapist, usually a specialized master’s degree.

There are no hard and fast rules about which dances will improve your well-being. The methodology is that dance itself is therapeutic. Physical movement to promote mental wellness is what’s paramount to this concept, and you can bring that into every area of your life. You can use pole-dancing to get out of your funk,  or club-inspired dance workouts at 305 Fitness. I love SassClass for its empowering, choreographed, and very often Beyoncé-themed routines. Wellness event series Yia Mas holds workshops on Greek dance, which can help support psychological functions and keep you deeply entertained at a family wedding, not speaking from personal experience or anything. And just to cover a few bases, Well+Good director of creative development Ella Dove managed to squeeze in three dance cardio workouts in one day (including aforementioned club dancing!), so to wit, the options are endless.

If classes don’t fit in your calendar, the mental health benefit is a big vouch for why you should be bold and break out your best moves at an event. Consider how the holiday depression plagues so many people while they’re forced to power through Christmas parties. Or I think about how weddings are such an emotionally weighted event for everyone involved, and depending on what’s going on in your life (crushing singleness or a disintegrating marriage), you may be tanked. Sometimes we feel our loneliness the hardest in a crowd of people.

Uh, to that end, dancing will factually not fix all of those problems. However, for the four minutes and 52 seconds that the single version of “Rock Lobster” is playing, it can help give you a mood boost. Like it’s not “Love Shack,” but it’ll certainly do. If it all still overwhelms, I am forever in support of a solo kitchen dance party. Kick as hard as you want.

A dancer shares how exactly to stretch your hamstrings *before* you start dancing. And to start super small, try out this five minute dance cardio workout.

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Author Mary Grace Garis | Well and Good
Selected by CWC

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