Since the initial government-mandated closures in March, studies have revealed much about COVID-19’s impact on not just our physical health, but our equally important mental health. As the days of quarantine, isolation, and positive cases stretch on, so do feelings of depression, stress, and anxiety. While the general public has taken personal measures to protect ourselves and each other from the disease in the form of social distancing, mask-wearing, and hand-washing, it is equally as important to address and protect our mental health as well.
Anxiety, depression, fear, and worry are all normal responses to perceived and real threats, particularly in times of uncertainty. As the world has adjusted to the new normals of homeschooling, online learning, working from home, unemployment, social distancing, and lack of physical contact with friends and family, it is important to acknowledge the effect these adjustments have had and continue to have on our mental health. Anxiety and stress to make ends meet have plagued the millions of Americans who remain on unemployment due to the pandemic while burnout and depression rates are spiking for those who are still employed. While the bigger solution in the form of a vaccine is not expected to be widely available until Spring/Summer of 2021, there is one thing you can do right now to help stave off the feelings of anxiety and depression: dance.
In a study conducted by the Swedish Research Council, researchers studied more than 100 teenage girls who were struggling with issues of stress and depression. In the study, a random selection of 59 of the girls danced together two days per week while 53 girls as a control group did not change their activity levels. The results showed that the girls who participated in regular dance classes improved their mental health and reported a boost in their mood. These positive effects lasted up to eight months after the dance classes ended. The researchers concluded dance could improve or eliminate symptoms of depression and could potentially contribute to sustained healthy habits.
Dance has also been shown to improve the mental health of adults. In another study, a small group of senior adults in North Dakota, ages 65-91, engaged in 12 weeks of Zumba classes. The seniors reported improved moods and cognitive skills as well as demonstrated improved agility and muscular endurance. Dance also has a proven track record of treating individuals with Parkinson’s Disease as seen with programs such as Dance for PD created by the Mark Morris Dance Group (offered locally by Bowen McCauley Dance).
While not only positively impacting our mental health, other unintended side effects of enrolling in dance class include committing to a routine, interacting with peers that share your passion, and engaging in regular physical activity. Make dance an everyday part of your mental health self-care.
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