Why am I so happy?
It’s a big, bold call and frankly I’m making it.
Dance classes – in particular, cardio based dance-fitness classes, will make you happy. They will make you happy when you are sad. They will make you happy when the last thing you feel like doing is putting on Lycra. They will make you happy when you feel like you could scream your throat blood-red raw.
Sometimes all you want to do is scream!
Before you roll your eyes in click bait exasperation - hear me out.
Last Thursday I had a bad afternoon. The combination of kids with unfinished and imminently due homework, and an unfortunate and untimely accident with a jar of hundreds and thousands, had left me in a foul mood. I didn’t feel motivated to go anywhere far from a television, a couch and a vodka on ice – double, straight, no straw and make that two please.
They went everywhere. They are still EVERYWHERE.
Instead, I had a little chat with myself. The same chat I’ve had many, many times. On cold nights, on hot nights, at three months pregnant, at eight months pregnant, with a messy house, after an argument…you get the idea. The chat goes something like this (in a kind of sexy, yet soothing inner voice,)
‘It will make you feel better.
I know you don’t believe me now.
But it always does.’
So, I clad myself in Lycra and went to class.
Sure enough, one hour later, I was on a high, if not slightly delusional. Smiling away to myself on the drive home as I thought of the technicolor mess that would surely keep on giving for weeks as those tiny balls of sugar revealed themselves in the most unlikely places; and oh, those wacky, crazy kiddos of mine and the thrill of the last-minute rush.
Who is this woman? It’s me, after an hour of getting down on the dance floor.
It’s always the case.
And it’s not just me.
Everyone leaves dance class happy.
I was feeling really happy.
Last year a girlfriend, with no prior dance experience, accompanied me to a dance class. She said it was the only hour in the year her brain had quietened. The only hour she wasn’t focussed on her worries. She said she enjoyed it so much. That it made her happy.
And science agrees – dancing is beneficial to our overall well-being.
The combined characteristics of dance, such as: musicality, muscle memory, spacial awareness, social connection, artistic expression and physical exertion differentiate it from other forms of sport and exercise. Dance is a unique activity and has been researched extensively.
A 2016 study by Deakin University concluded that people who actively engage with music, by dancing with others, are happier than those who don’t. The findings indicated this was particularly true in the areas of personal relationships and community connectiveness. A key element of the results was the value of dancing with others. There was no differential in happiness between those who danced alone and those that didn't dance at all.
Dancing with others - scientifically proven to make you happy.
(Actual class footage, Satori Studios with Edward Jacob Carbury, 2017 - www.baila.com.au.)
A study undertaken by Orebro University in Sweden concluded that regular attendance at moderate to vigorous paced group dance classes, is an effective intervention for improving the mental health of teen girls. The results of the study found the group experienced an increase in overall happiness, a reduction in the use of medications and a decrease in psychosomatic symptoms.
Research also indicates regular group dancing results in improved brain activity, a reduction in the onset of dementia and lessens the impact of depression and anxiety - goodbye cortisol, hello endorphins and welcome happiness.
This article is not a paid promotion (unfortunately, but I’m totally open to all offers.) I guess you could call it a Pretty Strong 40 community service because I am so passionate about the positive effects of dance on the body and mind and so curious as to why more of us aren’t busting a move on a regular basis. Especially considering we are born to dance.
Babies and toddlers of both sexes naturally love to wiggle their little bottoms to music. Not yet burdened with the knowledge of judgement, they don’t care what they look like. My ten-year-old still moves with wild, uncoordinated, almost life-threatening abandon. However, I know in my heart the days of his uninhibited gyrations are likely numbered. You see, for some reason, many Aussie’s stop dancing.
Born to dance.
Whether it be for cultural reasons, embarrassment or perhaps fear of looking ridiculous – many of us, with the exception of the occasional wedding and 21st party – rarely dance. We know this isn’t the case in all countries. For example, in Latin America and Greece social dancing is a cultural norm.
Our reluctance to dance is a possible reason why dance-fitness classes are such a niche market in Australia. Before the Zumba phenomenon, gyms were often reluctant to add dance to the menu, for fear their members would never order a dish they hadn’t tried before. There appears to be a misconception that you need prior experience to join a dance class. However, many dance classes, especially in gyms, are designed for the absolute beginner. I’ve written previously about the joys of trying new dance classes - click here to read.
Whatever the reasons are, I think it is a real shame so many of us are missing out on this natural, low cost and hang-over free source of instant happiness.
A happy birthday is one where you dance with your friends.
I attended my niece’s seventh birthday last weekend. She had a party with all the girls in her class. At one point in the celebration I found myself front and centre leading an impromptu dance class. I gave the girls the best of my party repertoire. My moves covered at least three decades. They were loving it, I was loving it (perhaps a little too much) and I was totally thinking I’d nailed the cool aunty title. I watched my niece’s face as she followed along – it was so full of joy and artistic expression. I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. Her happiness in that moment resonated so strongly with me. I saw more of myself in her expression than I ever had.
Australia, Pretty Strong 40s – if you haven’t already part way through this post - it’s time to put your dance shoes on. Find your inner toddler and let loose. There’s a reason why no one puts baby in the corner and she was happy to carry a watermelon. She was dancing. DON’T MISS OUT - get on it today. I promise, you will thank me.
Baby had the time of her life - dancing!
Have you secretly always wanted to dance but haven’t? If yes, why? I’d love to know.