Psychiatric Views on the Daily News - Episode 76

Dancing for Your Mental Health

Dancing may be under-recognized and under-appreciated in its potential health benefits.

PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS

In the continuing psychiatric coverage of this year’s Winter Olympics, there are a variety of ice-skating events. Figure skating usually gets the most attention, but there are also the less prominent ice dance events. Dance, both in the Olympics and in life, seem to be under-recognized and under-appreciated in its potential benefits for health and mental health.

Finally, however, the benefits of dancing are being scientifically researched. Benefits from a variety of studies involve our hearts, lungs, bones, and brains.

Humans surely discovered its benefits at least 50,000 to 70,000 years ago, as cave paintings around the world generally depicted the same topics: hunting, family, sex, and dancing. Rhythmic dance parallels our heart rhythms and blood flow. Although dance seems to rev people up, it actually reduces stress and cortisol levels.

The benefits can be obtained whether doing impromptu dancing alone in the kitchen, at a party, or at the highest competitions. It can also be done at any age if healthy enough, from babies to the elderly. In fact, an article in The Washington Post titled “This exuberant dance video is an inspiring showcase of living legends,”1 illustrates how elderly dance choreographers, dressed in Valentine’s red tops to convey their love for a producer of their work, did their own brief individual dances that took over from one another in an exuberant video change. Watch it, and I would be surprised if you do not want to do your own dance.

In a recent eulogy of Carl Hammerschlag,2 I described how he learned to become a healer by doing his own dance at the bequest of an elderly Native-American male patient. We and our patients can benefit from dancing, too.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues relate to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric TimesTM.

References

1. Kaufman SL. This exuberant dance video is an inspiring showcase of living legends. The Washington Post. February 9, 2022. Accessed February 18, 2022. https://www.washingtonpost.com/arts-entertainment/2022/02/09/dance-video-youtube-famous-choreographers-tiktok/

2. Moffic HS. The Death of our dancing healer, Carl Hammerschlag, MD. Psychiatric Times. January 25, 2022. https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/the-death-of-our-dancing-healer-carl-hammerschlag-md