During the past month while recovering from broken bones in my feet, I realized how much we need social connections. Prior to my accidents, I was very busy with work and hobbies. Although I would often be alone while my husband traveled on business, I never really felt alone as I was connected to people at work or after work while taking dance classes. When I broke my feet, I couldn’t do many activities, go to the office or socialize in the same manner. Despite my kind husband’s attempts to take me out, I still began feeling very lonely and isolated. I quickly realized, on so many levels, how fragile we are as human beings.
Today’s society has statistically lonelier people than ever before. Our individualistic culture is disconnecting us from face to face connections and interactions. Brighthub.com found research from the University of Chicago’s Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience, which finds that loneliness is an emotion that impacts 60 million people in the United States alone. “Impacts of the feeling cause many individuals to become isolated and unhappy, making coping with loneliness difficult.”
John Cacioppo’s book entitled, Loneliness, discusses social connections as a fundamental need in humans to the point that we can get ill, down to the cellular level and which can also shorten our lifespan. The University of Chicago Magazine reported on Cacioppo’s book and research. The article states, “no matter what social species you’re talking about, all the way down to fruit flies, if you isolate them they die earlier.” Additionally, the University of Chicago Magazine article, reported about the physical effects of loneliness, “Over time blood pressure climbs and gene expression falters. Cognition dulls; immune systems deteriorate. Aging accelerates under the constant, corrosive presence of stress hormones. Loneliness, Cacioppo argued, isn’t some personality defect or sign of weakness—it’s a survival impulse like hunger or thirst, a trigger pushing us toward the nourishment of human companionship.” Additionally, Cacioppo claimed that lonely people have not done anything wrong. All of us can experience feelings of isolation similar to experiencing feelings of hunger or physical pain.
However, the feelings of loneliness can often spiral into the vicious cycle of other negative patterns of over-eating and a sedentary lifestyle. Fortunately, dance can be a wonderful solution for those people desiring increased social connections. From burning calories to socializing with friends, dancing offers loads of health benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic “dancing can burn as many calories as walking, swimming or riding a bicycle. During a half hour of sustained dancing you can burn between 200 and 400 calories. One factor that determines how many calories you’ll expend is distance. In one study, researchers attached pedometers to square dancers and found each person covered nearly five miles in a single evening.”
Because dancing provides the opportunity for social interactions and forming friendships, it can help create the much needed social connects that you need to thrive emotionally. From waltz, swing, salsa to jazz, dancing just might open doors to fun, excitement and friendship that you never thought possible.
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