Are You an Outside the Box Thinker? Social Benefits of Dance and Soft Skills

They say that you teach what you most need to learn. I can vouch for that, my brain seems to run at the speed of light sometimes, processing, analysin

They say that you teach what you most need to learn. I can vouch for that, my brain seems to run at the speed of light sometimes, processing, analysing, deliberating…makes me tired to even think about it.

However, if we are truely caught up in our thoughts, invariably of the worries and fears kind, we can find ourselves immobilised. We sit in a corner slumped, fretting with our brows furrowed. Some issues need to be resolved with mathematical precision, in which case a good old pen and paper solution, using mind maps, tables or diagrams may be just the ticket. But how often do we sit with thoughts that whizz around inside the endless maze of our skulls unable to find the exit, until we finally collapse from exhaustion?

Enter salvation. Stick on some music, coax the weary body upright and allow it to surrender to the music’s hypnotic beats, inviting its rhythms and sounds to seep into your weary soul. When I drop into free movement and lose myself to a rhythm, letting those sound waves wash over me, then yes I can almost imagine they are the warm ocean waves of the Mediterranean as I sun myself on vacation

Of course the choice of music will influence the feelings that may arise, and its frequencies could potentially incite or dissipate certain emotions; old school head bangers beware. However beginning to move the body engages new and different parts of the brain. When we start to move, especially if it becomes high intensity, blood is directed away from our prefrontal cortex which is responsible for our executive function processing. (I 'discovered' this one time when trying to write a complicated thesis, and suffered the most strapping pain across my forehead after, sounds familiar?)

However, when we stop moving the blood flow shifts back almost immediately. Our brains become sharper, more able to produce a steady flow of creative thoughts and answers. This increased brain flow also kick starts our cellular recovery process.

The nature of dance, with its irregularity of movement and rhythm helps to improve our brain plasticity.[1] Whilst aerobic exercise will increase our neurotransmitters, create new blood vessels and cells, the complexity of dance increases the complexity of our synaptic connections, strengthening and expanding them. Our thoughts start to take different directions, just like a river that meanders into different tributaries.

We have new ideas and fresh perspectives. Not only that but the boost in neurotransmitters and endorphins we receive gives us a more optimistic outlook.

So next time you have a difficult issue or problem to resolve and have reached a cognitive stalemate or impasse, you can thoroughly give yourself permission to put on some music and dance. Rather than being frivolous, it is forward thinking and fruitful.

So there you have it, start saving your favourite playlists...


1 Dr Ratey, J and Hagerman, E (2009:56), ‘Spark, How exercise will improve the performance of your brain’, Quercus, London.

Categories: dance, mental health, science