Dancing my way to happiness

It was nearly nine years ago when I first walked into a modern Jive class. “ I want to learn to dance,” I said, “You’ve come just to the right place” came the reply.

Little did I know then just how much dancing would change my life and the rewards it would bring. Over the last nine years, I have made countless friends, danced on three different continents and increased my happiness levels far higher than can ever be measured.


So what is it about dancing that makes you feel so good?

“Always look at your partner and dance with a smile on your face” my first dance teacher.

Smiling is good for us, and smiling while dancing just adds another dimension. I know when I’m dancing well because I have this big broad smile on my face, and when it’s reciprocated I just dance even better.

Smiling is the unwritten global language that connects us to one another. In her book Love 2.0, Barbara Fredrickson tells us that a smile shows that someone is paying attention to you. So during a dance, smiling at my partner and getting a smile back shows that we are both showing positive emotions that connect us.


The dancing connection

“It’s all about connection, to the music, the dance floor and your partner” My blues dance teacher

In order to thrive, we humans need to connect. We live in a society where many of us live alone or now work from home. Loneliness levels are growing as we become more isolated. Dancing is a great way to connect and engage with others. In order to dance we need to connect with our partner and the stronger the connection the better the dance experience.

You don’t have to be a particularly good dancer to have that connection, just the process of joining hands in a dance will automatically enhance your emotions. We respond to touch and have receptors in our skin that help us feel connected when we touch. What better way to do this than through dance.


A virtual love affair

“It’s like a series of 3-minute love affairs” a dancer

It doesn’t matter what our dancing level or to some degree who we are dancing with, for the 3 or so minutes the music is playing we have a relationship with the person we are dancing with. The more we both interact during the dance, the stronger that relationship is.

Barbara Fredrickson refers to this as ‘a micro-moment of love’. When we actively engage with someone (even a complete stranger) we produce levels of Oxytocin, the love hormone. There have been many times when, for whatever reason, I don’t feel up to dancing but go anyway. After 3 or so hours my mood has changed completely. I feel more relaxed and happy.


Dancing away the blues

“My life is pretty s**t, except when I’m dancing” a dancer

For many people dancing is pure escapism. I have met many people who are going through some tough times, but dancing gives them that lift that they need. For those few hours, they are dancing they can escape any of their troubles and just enjoy the dance. From my own perspective, I have got through some tough times by just taking an evening off to dance.

The great thing is, it doesn’t end when the evening ends. A lot of dancers talk about how they feel the “buzz” for hours or even days afterwards. Even though it may be quite late when I get home, I m am often feeling so high, it takes a couple of hours before I can wind down and sleep.


Authentic compliments

“All it takes is one person to say that was a wonderful dance” Steve Emery

It’s a great feeling when someone you have just danced with says “ thank you, I really enjoyed that”. We all respond to praise and there is a great feeling of gratitude and pride when you feel you have made someone happy. I don’t dance just to get compliments, but it does feel nice when someone offers a little praise.


New opportunities

Apart from the time we were locked down, dancing has been a big part of my life. I have made many friends, some of whom I see outside the dance halls. We don’t just dance, we go to pub quizzes, go walking and even go on holidays together.

Dancing also opens up opportunities when visiting a new place. I dance Modern jive and Blues and there are literally hundreds of dance venues across the world. I’ve danced all over the country, I’ve danced in the USA and Australia. In doing so I’ve made more friends and gotten to know the locals. Dance is a universal language and breaks down barriers. It increases well-being, gets you fit and helps to actively connect to others. Barbara Fredrickson refers to this effect as the ‘broaden and build theory’

So let’s turn up the music and dance!


Read more about Steve Emery and his other articles HERE


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