Everyone wants to feel happy but it doesn’t always seem that easy, does it? Our daily routines can often be draining. The alarm rings, we get up, go to work, go home, watch our soaps, go to bed and repeat. Each day can easily turn into the next and sometimes we don’t even remember what day it is as there is nothing different or exciting to lift our spirits and entertain. It is a common conundrum in life. We get told in magazines, books, on the television, that we need a PMA (positive mental attitude). We should practise mindful eating, driving, talking, sleeping…but we don’t really understand how. Plus, do we really have the time to learn? We want to stay fit but the gym is so expensive and far away. It’s cold outside, we have been working all day and the last thing we want to do is get our Lycra on and pump some iron for an hour. Or, God forbid, get up 2 hours earlier and join the early birds at the gym before working a full day! However, we also know that keeping fit and healthy is extremely important. Not only for a, hopefully, long life but also to enable us to achieve the positive mental attitude that we are told (and actually realise) will help us to enjoy our lives to the full. So, what can we do? What can we incorporate into our daily routines without too much change and effort? Amongst other things, singing and dancing are two exercises that we can all do any time of the day or evening. We don’t have to go outside to do them. We can stay in our own homes in the warmth. We don’t need to buy new clothes, spend money on memberships that we know we won’t honour. We can just turn on the radio and go! Benefits of Singing and Dancing
You may ask what the benefits really are of singing and dancing. For a start, we know listening to music is an instant mood changer - putting on a bit of Coldplay is probably less likely to make us jump around a room, laughing and smiling, compared to, say, Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’.
Music in itself, as crudely shown here, can promote a positive mental attitude. It has a fundamental effect on our brains, conjuring memories and feelings that we may otherwise have forgotten about. The power that music has, is quite extensive and has been the centre of a lot of research. As stated in the book ‘The Power of Music’, “Scientists have found that music stimulates more parts of the brain than any other human function.” Studies have shown music to calm physical pain by releasing opioids (the body’s natural pain reliever), reducing stress and anxiety by lowering cortisol (stress hormone) levels and increasing memory activity. This is extremely prevalent in patients with Dementia, where music produces a positive effect on brain activity. In addition to listening to music, studies have shown singing also actually enhances short-term and working memory in Dementia patients. In addition, don’t forget that lower stress and positivity strengthens the immune system. That can never be a bad thing to promote! A good, upbeat song will make you want to dance and sing along like there is no-one in the room with you. How does it make you feel? Pretty good, no doubt. Maybe even the thought of doing it now is creating a little spark of positivity inside. Singing and Dancing Release ‘Happy Hormones’
‘Happy hormones,’ or ‘feel good chemicals’. We hear about them all the time. Endorphins are one of the four main hormones that promote pleasure, pain relief and wellbeing (the others being serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin). They are released into the body from the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, usually as a response to physical activity. Dancing to your favourite tune will trigger the release of endorphins into the blood stream, automatically lightening your mood and enhancing a positive mental attitude. If you happen to sing along to the song too, not only will you also release oxytocin (the bonding hormone), creating feelings of trust, in addition, singing actually reduces cortisol levels, thus helping to reduce the feelings of stress and anxiety. These two activities that we often take for granted as a little frivolous are actually great providers of a calmer, happier, positive mental attitude. In addition to the happy hormones, singing and dancing are such great forms of self-expression. All those beautiful songs that have been written, all come from within someone’s soul. It is a physical and mental way of letting out ones thoughts, feelings - anything really - that might be bottled up inside. We all know the best way to feel better is to let out how you feel and for those of us who may find talking a little difficult at times, it’s almost a given that there will be a song that gives you the right words. Sometimes singing those lyrics or dancing along to the music might be just what you need to do.
Dance Increases Energy Levels, Strength and Agility.
We watch dancers in music videos, as we sit on our sofas, munching on a bar of chocolate. Their bodies are finely sculpted, with defined muscle tone and we cannot imagine how to achieve anything close to that without spending hours in the gym every single day. Whilst it may be true that we cannot easily achieve a defined body without some dedication, dancing to form a bit of a sweat can certainly increase our fitness levels. The more we move, the more our energy increases and eventually we notice how much longer we can exercise before beginning to feel ‘the burn’. Dancing itself is a great full body work-out. It strengthens leg and arm muscles and builds core strength too. The more we exercise, the stronger we become. Since dancing creates endorphins, we actually don’t often realise that we are giving our bodies the work-out it needs to become fit and healthy, because we are enjoying ourselves. Dancing hardly ever feels like hard work, unlike lifting weights at the gym or doing a HIIT class. It is often low impact (unless you are following the ‘Fame’ kids’ choreography), low stress but high in cardio and agility. So go on, get those leg warmers on and have a little jig - you’ll feel much better for it!
Singing is Good for the Respiratory System.
Singing is actually good for the heart - not just emotionally (although that goes without says). It helps to physically keep your heart and lungs healthy. Singing promotes good posture and breathing technique. Did you know that most of us have never learnt to breathe properly? It sounds crazy but it is something that most of us have never actually been taught. When you have a singing lesson - or even take a look on YouTube, the first thing a singer will teach you is how to stand and breathe correctly. Breathing from your diaphragm means a few things.
Firstly, you are getting enough oxygen into your lungs so that it can be passed around your body without having to be sparse! Always useful.
Secondly, it relaxes our brain and emotions. The more oxygen we take in, the less we need to breathe effectively . The less we breathe and the longer our inhalation lasts, the calmer we feel. Just think about meditation for a moment. Relaxation technique always involves, long, slow, deep breathing. We should really be breathing like this all the time. Just imagine releasing stress all the time!
So when breathing and standing correctly, we are reducing the strain on our bodies. Our circulation works better and lung capacity increases, as well as increased brain function. What’s not to love about that?
So, there you have it. Just a few examples of the benefits that singing and dancing will bring you. You don’t even need to spend hours performing - although I guarantee that once you get into it, you might not realise just how long you have been doing it for. It’s easy to get lost in the moment, sometimes!
There really are so many reasons that haven’t even been covered in this short piece as to why it is good for you to sing and dance. Here is a synopsis of a few of them:
Music controls our mood - positive music makes us happy. It’s a great instant cure to the blues.
It helps you to express yourself. Any form of self-expression is so important for your wellbeing.
Exercise releases endorphins. Dancing to a song we love in a club or our kitchen makes us feel good.
Songs can evoke memories, taking us to places we had forgotten about.
Choirs and other ensembles and doing exercise classes together - We feed off others’ drive, ambition, emotions, and try harder. It is also such a great social event where we can meet like-minded people.
Research says that singing can improve the immune system by improving our general health and happiness - great during the winter months.
Dance is great for creating energy - exercise increases energy levels and agility.
Dancing and singing is great for our memory - remembering moves/words.
Singing helps the respiratory system. It strengthens lung capacity, circulation and develops the ability to breath correctly, which allows more oxygen into the system. That is certainly good for our overall being.
Have you been convinced yet? Go on, put the radio on, find your favourite tune, sing the words and get dancing. You will feel 10 times better in minutes. Guaranteed!