James Brown was onto something when he said, ‘The one thing that can solve most of our problems is dancing.’
Moving to a groove gets your heart pumping, improves your social life and keeps the grey matter in top condition – all these benefits make it the perfect catalyst for solving problems. So next time you are scratching your head for an answer, free your mind by putting on your dance shoes.
Let’s get physical
It is well-known that physical activity releases endorphins, biological chemicals which behave like an analgesic to calm and improve your mood. Because of its fun nature, dancing in particular produces a euphoria which has been coined a ‘natural high’. When your body is relaxed, your mind is free to explore options it wouldn’t normally consider. Some of the greatest inventions have been harnessed outside of the office or the lab, in a more jovial environment.
Keep the cogs turning
All muscles need oxygen to function properly, so a spin on the dance floor gets the blood pumping and helps you concentrate. The brain only rewires neural pathways to make new connections when it’s trying to process new information so, by learning new dance steps, you are stimulating the linkages that keep your brain firing on all cylinders. As dancing engages all parts of the brain, you are really exercising your mind as much as your body, which increases its ability to tackle problems.
Dancing is not just about learning steps, but it’s also about learning to read your partner’s body language, as well as expressing emotions through each move. By challenging your brain to pay attention to these softer skills, you will help stimulate your mind into thinking differently about everyday problems; you are literally training yourself to be more creative.
Whether you dance with one person regularly or swap partners for every dance, you very quickly learn that dancing is not a solo effort. You need to work in tandem with your partner and collaborate to thrive. Learning to pool resources together to succeed on the dance floor encourages the same technique and behaviour in other areas; two heads are always better than one at solving problems.
Focus on your feet
Concentrating on the constant co-ordination of your legs, arms, body and head, to make sure they are all moving in the right direction at the right time, leaves little room for other thoughts. Focussing on something other than the problem at hand, often frees up the mind to find the solution you have been struggling to see.
Don’t just take our word for it – try it
There are a number of studies showing a correlation between dancing and improved cognitive ability. Professor Alejandro Lleras from the University of Illinois, USA, has seen the effects of movement on the mind.
The way you think is affected by your body and, in fact, we can use our bodies to help us think,’ according to Dr Peter Lovatt of the University of Hertfordshire, UK.
‘Different styles of dancing can help us solve different types of problems … the cha-cha-chacan help us solve puzzles faster, and dancing freestyle on the funky disco floor can make us more creative.’