We know it's fun to dance. Here's the science behind why it not only feels good neurologically, but also the practical benefits of dance (aka boogie-ing down) on one's mood and self-esteem.
But first an exercise. This is an experiential post. So you've got to get up and move so you can enjoy the good feeling that comes from feeling the groove and shaking your booty
- Take the challenge;
- Listen to/watch the boogie songs;
- Learn about the fascinating science behind what you just experience.
I triple-dog dare you to NOT move some part of your body to these boogie songs! It's humanly impossible! And if you can't, I'm sorry, but you have no soul. ;-)
Earth, Wind & Fire
Let's start with THE gold standard of boogie and disco in general or musical quality and showmanship: Earth, Wind & Fire. I mean the song is not just in the music but in the video: Watch their obvious joy in their performance. And they have horns! Bands don't have horns anymore. AND for outfits... They go all out.
I'm Your Boogie Man
KC and The Sunshine Band
Be sure to check out the sweet patch on those amazing bell bottom jeans at the beginning of the video. They also had horns, and rocked them, too.
You may have good nights, but remember that "boogie nights are always the best in town."
Boogie Oogie Oogie
A Taste of Honey
First of all, they don't write lyrics like this anymore, "We're gonna boogie oogie oogie 'til we just can't boogie no more." A lyrical masterpiece! Ha! ;-) Of course, you can't pull off lyrics like that anymore. Plus, the singer is also the bass player, and she's pretty great at both.
Blame It On the Boogie
The Jackson Five
Need to blame it on something? Blame it on the boogie! Boogie's pretty multi-purpose: You can boogie down, boogie oogie oogie, and even blame it on the boogie.
Kool and the Gang
Not only do we get some Kool and the Gang we also get a Soul Train line dance! Whaaat?! Yeah.
KC & The Sunshine Band
You don't have boogie shoes? No worries: ANY shoes you're wearing while shaking your groove thang = boogie shoes.
The Therapy: The Science of Dancing's Effect on Mood
Dancing is fun. Duh. While you know that dancing feels good, did you know what's going on up in your noggin' to make it so fun? AND did you know that dancing is actually seriously effective therapy? Well, read on.
Physically exerting the body (i.e., exercise) for prolonged periods releases the mood-enhancing neurotransmitters norephinephrine and serotonin in the brain. Also, new neurons and new cell connections are grown from proteins produced during that exertion—this makes the mind more supple, flexible and adaptive. AND, endorphins are released, which is a naturally occurring narcotic that promotes euphoria, contentment and higher tolerance to pain.
Now that's physical exertion in general. However, the specific type of physical exertion called dance boosts mood more than exercise alone does. A study conducted at the University of London demonstrated that among patients diagnosed with anxiety disorders that taking a modern-dance class significantly reduced anxiety where an exercise class, music class and math class did not.
Also, an Italian study showed how cardiac-rehab patients who took waltzing classes had more elastic arteries and were happier than than study participants who did treadmill and bicycle training instead. Health and mood benefits.
So what is it about dancing, more than other physical movement, that accounts for the emotional high? Our brains like pattern, order and form and the combined auditory rhythm of music and the physical rhythm of dancing provides pleasurable patterning in a way like nothing else.
Another study in Sweden demonstrates the impact of dance on mood. 112 adolescent girls (Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine) with problems such as neck and back pain, stress, anxiety, and depression were divided in half: Half of the girls into weekly dance classes, and the other half (the control group) did nothing different than going about their usual lives. Outcome: The girls who took the dance classes had improved mental health scores and reported a positively enhanced mood that lasted up to eight months after the last class.
Further, there's the relational/social aspect benefit of dancing. We humans are wired for bonding and attachment. A study of MRI scans show that just watching someone dance triggers the same neurons that would activate if you were doing the moves yourself. So watching a dancer's movements that express sadness, romance or happiness, helps others experience the feeling as well: The researchers called this "kinesthetic empathy." And empathy connects people. And connections ease stress and increase positive feelings.
Another study at the University of Wolverhampton (UK) dance class participants experienced short-term mood enhancement similar to participating in psychotherapy. Further, the found that a sense of accomplishment and self-esteem comes from improving dance skill, control and confidence which feelings can translate outside of dance in other parts of the person's life.
So... get out and "put on your boogie shoes" and "boogie oogie oogie 'til you just can't boogie no more." Why? "Because boogie nights are always the best in town." And if that helps you feel better, don't blame me: "Blame it on the boogie."
Trivia: My introduction to boogie. Our local record shop where I grew up in Kalamazoo, MI was Boogie Records. They had all the cool rock posters, T-shirts, buttons and tapestries—and, of course, albums! They had incense and all kinds of "paraphenalia" that as a kid held no interest for me. I had no ideas what a "head shop" was nor did I care. It was a hippie-haven to be sure. It was always a cool place to go with my step-dad, bro and sis and browse as long as we liked through stacks and stacks of albums in a really cool setting. I grew up in the 70's and early 80's and disco and boogie and funk and rock and roll were all around me (especially all these great boogie songs above).