Mood Mixology 101
You know a good sweat is good for you, but too depressed and/or stressed to fit it into your routine? Get moving!
Stress has been labeled as one of the primary causes of most illnesses. Chronic stress can kill brain cells (memory loss), deposit fat to the abdomen (visceral fat promotes plaque buildup in the arteries, and unravel chromosomes (increasing effects of aging). According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise releases “feel good” drugs and lowers symptoms related to anxiety and depression.
Many of us will imbibe in a cocktail (or two, or three) to take the edge off our stress levels. Did you know that one of the healthiest and most effective ways to “relax” your brain is a sweaty, slightly silly jam session?
While all exercise is recommended for a healthy mind and body. Not all exercise is created equal in regard to de-stressing and fighting depression. The act of dancing in particular, has been scientifically proven to release a healthy combination of happiness hormones that benefit us emotionally, physically, and socially.
While all exercise is good, when it comes to increasing “happiness chemicals”, not all exercise is created equal. According to Robert Thayer, Ph.D., a psychology professor at California State University, exercise creates either a tense or calm energy. Some types of exercise can add more stress to your day…
Studies show that some types of exercise we do create a “tense energy” – an effective state that allows us to get lots of work done but can quickly move into tense tiredness, a negative state often associated with depression (higher cortisol levels).
On the other hand, some exercise creates “calm energy”, a combination of high physical and mental energy, paired with low physical tension. The “calm state” offers more long-lasting energy (lower cortisol levels) and can be achieved with the right type of exercise (Mojo!).
A few of the yummy ingredients released into our brain during a Mojo workout:
Dopamine is released when we enjoy, remember, or anticipate pleasurable moments. It is a hormone that stimulates our motivation, and curiosity to explore. It’s also believed that routinely activating dopamine pathways through creative and fun activities can help people generally feel more joy and optimism in day-to-day life.
Oxytocin is released in the brain when we experience interpersonal connections with other people in close proximity. For example, friendly eye contact, amiable touch, or coordination of movement. Increased Oxytocin promotes feelings of trust and human connection, as well as diminishes the impact of anxiety. Dancing together with friends in close proximity, mirroring each other’s motions, and moving shoulder-to-shoulder, oxytocin is released, strengthening the interpersonal connection and amicable emotion between dance partners.
Serotonin is a chemical that promotes emotional contentment. A healthy and steady level of serotonin will act as a protector against depressive and anxious moods, as well as improve the quality of sleep. It is sometimes known as the ‘happy chemical’, for its contributions to positive temperament and general wellbeing. But how does dancing release serotonin? First, exercise stimulates the brain to increase serotonin production. Learning a new move or completing a Mojo session increases the circulation of serotonin around our neural pathways.
The endorphin system is the euphoric and exhilarating feeling that washes over us when doing cardio – for at least 20 consecutive minutes. Endorphins represent pleasure in the brain. Endorphins will inhibit any unpleasant feelings, allowing you to feel more optimistic. In addition, endorphins will limit feelings of fatigue and pain, creating a sense of lively energy.
Dance Party for One
While the GGSC’s (UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center) report recommends dancing in social situations as effectual for mental well-being, dancing on your own is just as beneficial. Dancing – regardless of whether it is in a social situation or isolation – will release these ‘happiness’ chemicals, creating positive benefits including contributions to improved self-esteem and healthy coping strategies. Just turn up your favorite tunes and let it GO!
For those who think dancing is an activity to do at weddings, how SAD.
Moving your body in rhythm to music is a liberating and energizing gift. The mental and physical dividends are undeniable. Get out of your own way and get the funk OUT with us this week!