Mental Benefits of Dance

Medically Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on February 25, 2024
3 min read

Dance has existed for thousands of years. Moving your body creatively is a popular way to express yourself and exercise. Up to 10 million Americans have danced at a studio or have taken a class. Even more just dance for fun at home or with friends.

Beyond just movements and music, dancing offers many benefits for mental health and brain function.

Dancing offers plenty of benefits for your emotions, intelligence, and relationships. Learning and practicing dance can:

Improve self-esteem. The amount that you respect and value yourself is your self-esteem. Showing yourself that you can learn and master new moves and skills through dance can improve your self-esteem and confidence. 

Help you meet new people. Social interaction between groups of people is important to your mental well-being. Talking and spending time with others improves your mood. It also makes you feel like you belong and eases loneliness.

Dance classes, where you learn and move alongside others, are a great way to gain these mental health benefits.

Improve your mood and attitude. Dancing can improve your mood while you learn, move, and perform. In fact, many people take dance classes because they put them in a good mood. 

Ease depression and anxiety. Dance is an effective type of exercise that raises your heart rate and works your muscles. Exercise can help with symptoms of depression and anxiety by releasing certain chemicals in your brain. It also provides a way to escape repetitive negative thoughts and worries. These are thoughts that run through your mind over and over. 

Protect your memory. As we age, it gets harder to remember names, places, and other details. Learning new things, like different moves and styles of dance, sharpens your brain’s ability to remember these kinds of details.  This can help prevent dementia. 

The mental advantages of dancing depend on the type of dance you learn. Styles like ballroom dancing require a large degree of improvisation. These improve your decision-making skills more than completely memorized movements and routines. On the other hand, interpretive modern dance styles offer more benefits for creativity. 

Injury. Just like any other form of exercise, dance involves risks of injury. Some of the most common injuries dancers get are to their hips, feet, ankles, and knees. Don’t overwork your body. Call your doctor if you have pain or soreness that keeps you awake at night, doesn’t go away, or gets worse when you’re dancing.

Self-consciousness. Even professional dancers sometimes feel self-conscious and insecure when trying different styles or learning new techniques. If you feel uncomfortable while learning something unfamiliar, try to focus on the movements themselves instead of how you think you look.

You can dance almost anywhere! Try many different styles and settings to see what you like best. Whether you’re alone or with a group, making it up on the spot, or performing a routine, you can incorporate dance into your life. 

Take a dance class. If you want to interact with others while you dance, consider enrolling in a virtual or in-person class. Health clubs, community centers, schools, and other organizations often offer studio dance classes for all experience levels. A Google search for dance classes in your area will bring up your nearest options.

Dance with yourself. Dancing can be just as fun by yourself as it is with others. Turn on a catchy song and move your body to the beat and sounds. When no one is watching, it can be easier to enjoy the experience and not worry about how you look.

Learn a routine. If you want to challenge yourself, go beyond your improvised dance moves. Try teaching yourself a dance routine that someone else created. You can download apps or watch videos that explain a routine step-by-step. You can also learn movements and sequences from watching a dance performance over and over. 

Don’t be overly critical. Many people dance for the sense of meaning that it brings to their lives. Natural talent is not required! Dance because it feels good. Don’t let your worries about looking silly stop you from having fun. Even professional dancers make mistakes. They use them to learn and improve themselves, and so should you.