Dancing our way to wellbeing

Dr Richard Mayes is known as Victoria’s “Dancing Doctor”. Image: ABC

7 December 2022

Dancing not only combines the positive benefits of music and physical exercise but also may include cognitive, emotional, spiritual and social benefits.

Castlemaine GP Dr Richard Mayes is known as Victoria’s “Dancing Doctor”. In addition to practicing as a local GP he helped establish Silver Tops dance therapy class in 2019, bringing joy and health benefits to dozens of members of the local community. After being invited to join an adult hip-hop/funk dance group, he participated in a flash mob performance in a local supermarket wearing ‘80s gear and a mullet wig. He reports that he believes that the flash mob dance was the most profound and effective health promotion he had ever done, noting that dancing helps reinvigorate people, connect them to others, aids mobility and helps people get their mojo back. In addition Dr Mayes has found that dancing has helped him with his own mental health and wellbeing, after experiencing burnout due to loving his work too much.

The physical movements of dance have been shown to reduce levels of stress, anxiety and depression by elevating dopamine and endorphins. Thus like any aerobic exercise, dance provides relief from stress and tension. Dancing also promotes the experience of “flow”, which is an almost meditative state that allows the dancer to focus solely on the movements, music, and rhythms instead of worries and stress.

The physical benefits of dance include improved balance and coordination, improved muscle strength and tone, weight loss through increased physical activity and being a weight bearing exercise dancing will strengthen bones. As with any physical activity undertaken regularly, dance can improve cardiovascular fitness and energy levels.

Dance as a group activity also provides an environment in which individuals can develop a sense of connection and togetherness with other dancers. This strengthening of social bonds helps to build social confidence and reduce social anxiety. Hence dancing can be beneficial in increasing self-esteem and boosting confidence.

Practicing dancing and learning a routine exercises the memory centres of our brain as well as strengthening concentration. Dance routines also teach pattern recognition skills. Building up these cognitive skills may contribute to a decrease in the risk of dementia. Also including dance as part of a therapeutic routine for people with Alzheimer’s can help improve quality of life.

Dancing also teaches expression through movement. Dancing helps us to deal with difficult feelings and release them through the steps and routines. Performance is a way of expressing emotions which we may not be able to verbalise, thus dance can help self-expression.

Dance may also be used to express our spirituality. Many cultures and spiritual traditions include dance as part of ceremonial observances or to tell stories. Dancing may be practiced as a means of coming closer to spirit, to encounter the divine, and as an expression of a relationship with a divine being.

Let’s all put our dance moves into practice and follow Pharrell Williams’ advice to clap along and feel happy https://youtu.be/y6Sxv-sUYtM

Kay Dunkley
AMA Victoria doctor wellbeing and mentoring

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