Everybody enjoys dancing. Whether it’s alone in your room or out with friends; rocking out to an upbeat tune, or rolling your hips to an R&B jam. Moving our bodies to the rhythm of music makes us feel energized, liberated, and can be great for stress relief. Not that you need any more of a reason to dance, but there is empirical scientific evidence to prove that dancing is good for the mind and body. A special combination of ‘happiness chemicals’ react together to improve physical and emotional health.
Getting Your DOSE of Happiness
There have been many studies that show the positive effects of dancing on human health. In particular, there are unique benefits to dancing together with other people as we synchronize our bodies to the sound of music. UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) released a report that highlights the effects of four brain chemicals – dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphin – that make up the shorthand ‘DOSE’. A special combination of these DOSE chemicals are released during dancing, each of which have a unique and positive impact on the health of both mind and body.
Dopamine is released when we enjoy, remember, or anticipate pleasurable moments. It is a hormone that stimulates our motivation, and curiosity to explore. It’s also believed that routinely activating dopamine pathways through daily activities can help people to generally feel more joy and optimism in day-to-day life. In terms of dancing, dopamine secretion is increased when we listen to enjoyable, rhythmic music, which is imperative for a good dance party. This means that playing your favorite song and singing at the top of your lungs is scientifically proven to make you happier!
Oxytocin is released in the brain when we experience interpersonal connections with other people in close proximity. For example, friendly eye contact, amiable touch, or coordination of movement. Increased Oxytocin promotes feelings of trust and human connection, as well as diminish the impact of anxiety. Dancing together with friends in close proximity, mirroring each other’s motions and moving shoulder-to-shoulder, oxytocin is released, strengthening the interpersonal connection and amicable emotion between dance partners.
Serotonin is a chemical that promotes emotional contentment and ease of heart. A healthy and steady level of serotonin will act as a protector against depressive and anxious moods, as well as improve quality of sleep. It is sometimes known as the ‘happy chemical’, for its contributions to positive temperament and general wellbeing. Exercise stimulates the brain to release serotonin, and the physically enduring act of dancing will increase the circulation of serotonin around your neural pathways.
The endorphin system, similar to serotonin, is activated during exercise. Endorphins are the secret behind what is described as ‘runner’s high’; the euphoric and exhilirating feeling that washes over us when running long distance. In terms of effects, endorphins act similar to dopamine, in that they represent pleasure in the brain. Endorphins will inhibit any unpleasant feelings, allowing you to feel more positive and optimistic. On top of that, endorphins will limit feelings of fatigue and pain, creating a sense of lively energy. Dancing will release these endorphins, getting you in the zone of feeling tireless and energized!
The Science of Sustainable Happiness
Interestingly enough, none of the DOSE chemicals act individually – they combine and influence one another to create the cycle of happy and positive emotions in the brain. Exercise is typically recommended for the maintenance of a healthy mind and body, but the act of dancing in particular releases a healthy combination of these chemicals that benefit you emotionally, physically, and socially.
Dance Party for One
While the GGSC’s report recommends dancing in social situations as effectual for mental wellbeing, dancing on your own is just as beneficial. Dancing – regardless of whether it is in a social situation or in isolation – will release these ‘happiness’ chemicals, creating positive benefits inluding contributions to improved self-esteem and healthy coping strategies.
Sometimes, the thought of exercise can be a drag – but now you know, all you need to do it just turn up your favorite song and jam out!
Simon-Thomas, E. (2019, September 21). Dancing and Sustainable Happiness Go Hand in Hand. Retrieved June 25, 2020, from https://lgexperiencehappiness.com/resources/dancing-and-sustainable-happiness-go-hand-in-hand/
Kosik, A. (2019, October 11). Here’s why dancing is good for your brain. Retrieved June 25, 2020, from https://www.theladders.com/career-advice/heres-why-dancing-is-good-for-your-brain
Murcia, C. Q., Kreutz, G., Clift, S., & Bongard, S. (2010). Shall we dance? An exploration of the perceived benefits of dancing on well-being. Arts & Health, 2(2), 149-163. doi:10.1080/17533010903488582