Dance Therapy — Dancing Away Anxiety

There are shortcuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them. — Vicki Baum

Anxiety, as I’m sure you know only too well, is a tricky beast to live with. It lurks in the dark corners of your mind, filling your head with worry and flooding your body with adrenalin. But it is exactly this mind/body connection that we can use to help bring our anxiety under control.

Our symptoms of anxiety are simply the way our bodies express the mental turmoil created in our brains. In other words, anxiety is created in the mind but felt through the body.

What we need, therefore is an outlet for that anxious energy in our bodies — and this is one of the reasons exercise is so often recommended as a way to treat anxiety. It allows us to feel in control of our body and its responses, which in turn helps calm the mind. Plus of course, it gives us a good old boost of endorphins! Hello, happiness hormones…:)

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But whilst exercise in general has been shown to have a beneficial effect on treating anxiety, I want to share with you the reasons I think dance (and dance therapy) is the most effective form of exercise for anxiety.

To begin with, some science to show that I am not alone in this way of thinking — although as a dancer, I am perhaps a little biased! In 1984, researchers Leste and Rust conducted a study comparing a number of different treatments for anxiety disorders. The clear conclusion was that dance decreased anxiety and improved overall mood more than any other activity — exercise class, music class or maths class (to me this is unsurprising, maths definitely increases my anxiety! :p).

So what is it about dance that makes it such a great form of therapy? For me, it can be broken down into three areas: exercise, mindfulness, creativity.

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