Life can become very overwhelming at times, especially as you get older and take on more responsibilities. We over stress ourselves about things like money, love, and our health. I’ve fallen victim to this stress at many points in my life, but there has always been one thing that helped me maintain my sanity and happiness: DANCING!
In the words of Bob Marley, “forget your troubles and dance!” During high school, when I felt overwhelmed by the amount of homework my teachers assigned or I wanted to cry because my crush didn’t call me back, I would go to my hip hop dance class and all would be forgotten. My brain would shake itself of any stress that plagued it and focus solely on the beat of the music and the choreography of my dance teacher. In that two hour dance class, I’d clear my head and engage deeply with the present moment as I swayed my hips, bobbed my head, and tapped my feet. Dancing became my medicine; my relief.
Throughout college, I discovered that the best cure for a broken heart was a night out dancing with my girlfriends. They’d drag me off the couch away from my crumpled up tissues and sappy movies, force me to change out of my pjs, and bring me to a party or club to dance. Within the first few minutes, I’d release all the tension in my heart and embrace the music that hugged me like an old friend. We’d laugh, grin widely, and shake off our stress on the dance floor. Nothing in the world can compare to the happiness that overcomes me when I’m dancing.
The stress of Graduate school was still no match for the happy feet I experienced every Tuesday night at my Salsa class. After ten hours of thesis writing, the only cure was a night in the arms of my dance partners spinning on the dance floor. There’s no room for negative thoughts when you are tuning into the rhythm and beat of a song blasting overhead. Your brain forces out all thoughts, while your body responds to the music: shaking, swaying, tapping, snapping, spinning.
Not everyone loves dancing, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t find this same euphoric happiness doing other physical activities. Research has shown that physical activity releases serotonin in the brain, which is directly correlated with happiness. So if you enjoy running, working out at the gym, biking, or playing sports, make time for those activities in your life. No matter how busy I get, I make time for dancing. If I don’t dance for a few weeks, I start feeling down. Then I finally go dancing and immediately feel that jolt of happiness and am reminded why I love it so much.
Life is too short to stress all the time and only dedicate ourselves to working. We need to do more things that make us happy. Taking a half hour each day to do some sort of physical activity, can greatly improve our happiness. For me, turning on Pandora and dancing around my house or office can give me that much needed boost of endorphins and happiness. So take the time each day to go for a run, a bike ride, work out, or dance alone like no one is watching, because your happiness depends on it!
By: Melissa Gittelman, author of “Sisters, Sunsets, and Self Discovery”