Stress and how we manage and deal with it is one of the biggest determinants of our health. I experienced this first hand at the start of 2011 after a breakup with my girlfriend, whom I thought was the love of my life. Before we broke up it felt like I was starting to fully regain my health after years of struggling with anxiety, panic attacks and depression. The days following our split, felt like I was right back at square 1. It was a horrible place to be, experiencing mind numbing despair, sadness and panic in the same way I had years before.
I have no idea what gave me the idea, but I decided to start salsa dancing lessons right after we broke up. I can honestly say, with extreme conviction that this is one of the best things I ever did for my physical, emotional and spiritual health. In January and February I did lessons once a week. In March I started doing lessons twice a week. In April I started getting quite addicted and joined The Salsa Studio’s amateur dancing time, and since then have been dancing 2 to 4 times a week. Every aspect of my health has steadily improved since doing this and I have since overcome some of my biggest fears, such as performing on stage.
People who suffer from anxiety and depression often desperately need a way to let go of the nonstop negative chatter in their mind. They need a strong distraction, to help forget about all their worries. When you are dancing you don’t have time to listen to your inner monologue, since you are faced with a live human being in front of you, trying to have fun with them, while at the same time trying to move your feet and body in the correct way at the correct time. Dancing connects your physical body with your mind and trains focus, so that you forget about your worries for a while.
In the beginning I found salsa very mentally challenging, I had to think a lot about what moves were coming next and about how to move my body. As the months progressed these things became easier and easier and more natural, and the whole experience changed from one of distraction from negative thinking, to simply “Being” or expressing. Eventually you become one with your body, every body part just moves by itself in pure bliss to the dance of the music. This state of flow or oneness is the ultimate stress relieving state to be in, and I believe it’s the same as that experienced by meditators. It provides your mind a much needed break, so that it can reset and rejuvenate.
Dancing is also a way of moving your body and light (or hectic, depending on your level) exercise. Exercise helps your body learn to cope with stress and lets your body make various mood boosting chemicals that make you feel good and happy!
More about the health benefits of dancing tomorrow!