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3 Ways that dancing can boost your brain power

When we think of dance class more as a rite of passage for young girls than as movement therapy for any gender and any age. But, there are many benefits to engaging your body and your mind with some music and movement. Here are three ways that dancing can boost your brain!

1. Dancing strengthens neuroplasticity

Long term dance practice improves the brain’s ability to form new neural connections to change and adapt. Learning new steps, coordinating with music, moving hands and feet, repeating steps on the right and the left, all of this boosts the connectivity between both cerebral hemispheres.

Learning new choreography from week to week, and engaging in a social activity, keeps your neuropathways constantly changing and forging new connections. Proteins are produced within brain cells that spur the growth of new neurons and new cell connections, actually making the mind more supple.

2. Dancing boosts memory

Dancing works with spatial memory, a cognitive process that enables you to remember different locations as well as spatial relations between objects. It requires you to remember steps, combinations, and rhythms. Several studies have shown that dancing is linked to a reduced risk of dementia. In a study by researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, they found that dancing is associated with 76% reduced risk of dementia among the participants.

Dancing increases muscle memory, the ability to do something without being able to explain how to do it. Think of riding a bike. The processes that are important for learning and memory of new skills occur mainly in the brain, not in the muscles. The motor cortex, responsible for controlling movement, develops strong connections between neurons that serve as the representation for motions, and these connections make memory better and easier to access.

3. Dancing makes you happy

In general, physical activities from running to ballet, release endorphins, brain chemicals that increase feelings of euphoria and increase our pain tolerance. However, research at the University of London indicates that dance boosts your mood more than exercise alone. You can burn 300-800 calories per hour dancing, and dancing to music provides a rhythm and satisfactory patterning. Listening to music that we like is an enjoyable experience; moving to it is even better.

Dancing is a way to bond with others. When one dancer’s movement and music expresses joy or sadness, others experience that as well, boosting our emotional regulation and feelings of empathy. Dance is a form of expression and can help process feelings. People who dance together or watch a dance performance feel connected with a group.

Dancing has always been an important part of my physical and mental health. Since I can remember, going to the dance studio was a way to destress. It’s one of the few places where you can drop your baggage at the door and drop into your body, completely focused on the music and the movement.

Legendary psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi investigates the “optimal experience,” proving that what makes an experience genuinely satisfying is a state of consciousness called flow. Flow is a state of happiness we experience when we are in complete engagement in a creative or playful activity. Dance is my flow! And the friends I have made at the studio have been friends for life.

If you are in the Rhode Island area, and you want to dance with me, sign up for my upcoming workshop that kicks off in September at Distinctive Dance, Etc. North. Here are the details!

Sources

https://www.news-medical.net/health/Is-Dancing-Good-for-the-Brain.aspx

https://www.popsci.com/what-is-muscle-memory/

https://www.news-medical.net/news/20170308/Can-dancing-improve-your-mental-health.aspx

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-08-reverse-aging-brain.html?fbclid=IwAR195zhSrYvZgXrWIzGkpkuhXKDLaytvKzGnTIYNfij9jM5kntFZwOaVtRE

India

What’s all the hype about meditation?

Meditating is probably the number one thing I recommend to my clients. Meditation can be used for grounding, stress relief, for sleep, and for peace. An old zen saying goes, “everyone should meditate for ten minutes a day, unless you are too busy. Then you should meditate for an hour a day.” But lets get real here, sitting cross legged on the floor is not the best method for everyone. I hated the idea of meditating everyday, until I realized that there are hundreds of ways to meditate.

Anytime that you work to clear your mind, you are meditating. Focusing on the breath, relaxing the mind, quieting the voices – its all part of programming your own mindset. You can meditate while walking, while washing dishes, or listening to music. My favorite form of meditation is yoga and dance. Moving meditation can help you get in the zone mentally.

Movement was a big key to unlocking my own meditation practice. I spent a week in Vermont at a reclaiming Witch Camp last summer, and I took a workshop on meditation. We meditated in the forest for about three hours per day, learning different methods of meditation. My favorite is what I call, “mindful meandering.” Dropping into your belly, taking on a doe-eyed stare, and just wondering around the woods. Its amazing how much you can learn from nature. I was quite taken with the mushrooms, fungi and mitochondria at work in the forest; breaking down the old and fertilizing the new.

On a yoga retreat in India, I really ignited my love for movement as a part of meditation and spirituality, through my yoga practice. I’ve invested so much into my yoga practice this year, as my daily meditation break.

Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are a million ways to kneel and kiss the ground. ~Rumi

The Science of Meditation

One of the most interesting studies on meditation in the last few years, carried out at Yale University, found that mindfulness meditation decreases activity in the default mode network (DMN), the brain network responsible for mind-wandering and self-referential thoughts – a.k.a., “monkey mind.” The DMN is “on” or active when we’re not thinking about anything in particular, when our minds are just wandering from thought to thought. Since mind-wandering is typically associated with being less happy, ruminating, and worrying about the past and future, it’s the goal for many people to dial it down.

In 2011, a team at Harvard found that mindfulness meditation can actually change the structure of the brain. A program of yoga and meditation called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was found to increase cortical thickness in the hippocampus, which governs learning and memory, and in certain areas of the brain that play roles in emotion regulation and self-referential processing. There were also decreases in brain cell volume in the amygdala, which is responsible for fear, anxiety, and stress – and these changes matched the participants’ self-reports of their stress levels, indicating that meditation not only changes the brain, but it changes our subjective perception and feelings as well. 

Meditation is great for kids as well as adults! Children benefit in all the ways that adults do, if not more. A school in San Francisco introduced meditation to their students, and saw a lift in attendance and over all grade point average (source). Meditation has been proven to improve attention, focus, memory, and resilience to stress and other negative emotions.

Mindfulness Resources

Here are some of my favorite tools, whether you are starting a new meditation practice or diversifying your current routine. You can find free meditations on youtube and wherever you find your podcasts.

Focus Five cards from SERP Institute

A series of meditations that can be done in under five minutes. The cards can be downloaded for free. They are meant for kids to lead meditations in the classroom, but they are classic strateiges that work great for adults, too!

Insight Timer

A free app with guided meditations, music and a timer that will gently wake you from a meditative state with a gong or a bell sound.

Deepak Chopra

Offers a number of free guided meditations on his Youtube channel.

Yoga with Adrienne

She spins together yoga with soulful talks and meditations. You can choose videos based on mood or theme.

Do you want one-on-one coaching?

If you want to start a daily meditation practice, become more mindful and boost your happiness levels, consider signing up for my three month coaching program. We will use science to idenify your happiness areas that need improvement, and cultivate tools and resources around a mindfulness practice. I can incopororate tarot, astrology, reiki and guided meditation as part of your program.

The experince is individualized and focused on you and your unique path to your higher self. If you’re ready to level up in your vibrational awareness – contact me! I’m here to hold space for your growth and transformation.