I’m no doctor. I’m not even a medical student. I’m going to school for forensic pathology and I know very little about health and the human body, except what my doctors and my friends on my nutritional program have told me. However, since I started this nutritional program that I’m on in my haste to lose weight and “get healthier”, I started thinking about whether losing weight would help me feel better. I’ve had depression for most of my life and in the past few years, I feel like I’m stuck in a plateau of “I might get better, I just have to wait it out.” In this journey to lose weight, obviously I have to exercise. And that is a step I’ve been afraid of since the morning I started this program.
As most with depression can tell you, getting up to exercise (or really do anything) during the day is hard enough. But starting a new (or in my case, long-lost) hobby as physical as dancing? Especially when you’re in your teens or early adulthood and have enough on your plate as it is? Whoo-boy! But let me tell you, since I got back on the dance floor, I found that dancing not only gets me moving, but it helps me feel better. My arms hurt from holding my frame, my feet hurt from staying for that extra lesson, and my legs hurt from practicing that turn over and over again. But I feel better. I smile when I leave the studio and I find myself not thinking about anything but the steps and how I feel gliding across the floor. When my instructor takes my hand, I forget all of my troubles and for those 45 minutes, I am laughing, I am light(er), and I am happy.
So it got me thinking about why dancing helps me feel better. Why does dancing help me forget my depression, help me forget my anxiety, and help me forget my sadness in general?
First of all, dancing is exercise. I never regret staying for that extra lesson or practicing my swing when I was supposed to work on my waltz. I drink more water when I dance, and wearing heels works muscles in my legs that I keep forgetting I have. My muscles are working, my heart beats harder, and I feel like I’ve gotten a full workout when all I did was practice my turns for 15 minutes.
Other than the exercise, dancing makes you feel confident, even when you’re beyond shy. I used to hate dancing in front of people and now, I remind myself that these other students are just like me; students! I use that to up my confidence and when I mess up, I worry less. I’m learning, just like they are. And, when you and your instructor have a good relationship, it makes it 1000x easier; my lesson last month was half spent laughing because we were having fun, and I found that I felt very confident when I left the studio that night!
Since I stepped back on the dance floor, I find myself feeling, well, better! Depression is a long journey, but at least I can say that I am trying and that, for 45 minutes, I am happy. Other ways to help ease my symptoms are important, of course; I try to remember to drink water, I bathe, I eat well (this nutritional program has improved that part a lot), and I spend time with my fiance, my cats, and my friends. Since I started dancing again, however, I find that these other methods have more of an impact than they did before. So I figured, maybe, if I shared my (poorly-written) experience and shared how much of an impact this has had for me, it would help others to find their cure-all method to feeling better. Even if it only lasts 45 minutes a week.
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