Just Dance: A Prescription for Mental Wellbeing

How dance can improve your mental health.

By Google Arts & Culture

Johns Hopkins International Arts + Mind Lab

Dance with Third Grandmother (2015) by WEN HUIPeople’s Republic of China - Biennale Arte 2015

“When the music starts, my mind goes empty"

In a village on the east coast of China, a farming couple and their “rural-style shuffle dance” has gone viral. Their dancing is joyful and upbeat and it has been therapeutic, helping the husband to cope with a depression that followed a severe car accident. 

Their videos are a testament to the power of dancing to heal and improve mental health regardless of style or setting. 

View of dancefloor from balcony (2000s) by NakiMuseum of Youth Culture

Feeling Good on the Dance Floor

Dancing—and its requisite movement and aerobic activity—is obviously good for your physical health, but it’s good for your mental health, too. 

The science shows that dance helps alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.

In one survey of non-professional dancers, mood improvement was their main motivation for dancing, followed by socializing and escapism.

PERUVIAN FEMALE ARMS IN THE AIR CHEERING by Dean BelcherMuseum of Youth Culture

The Democracy of Dance

One of the more appealing aspects of dance is that its mood-lifting properties apply to many different demographics, including more vulnerable populations that are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.


For patients with psychiatric disorders like anxiety or depression, dancing helps reduce their clinical symptoms like feelings of distress, anxiety, or the blues.

ROUNDUP (2012-05-16/2012-05-19) by Naomi Goldberg HaasTimes Square Arts

And for the elderly, senior dancers had superior sensory, movement, and cognitive capabilities compared with non-dancers, suggesting that regular dancing could slow the declines that come with aging.

Live Ideas: Baldwin Through Dance (2014-04-26) by Charles O. AndersonNew York Live Arts

Moving the Body Moves the Mind

Dancing is a non-verbal artform, which helps us uniquely express our emotions through our bodies. By forming this link between the body and mind, dancing may help us become more embodied—increasing awareness of our body’s sensations and how emotions relate to those sensations.

Untitled (2016/2016) by Cecilia BengoleaArt Night

Double the Pleasure, Double the Fun

The power of dance also lies in its synergistic combination of aerobic exercise and music, both of which are known to activate different brain circuits involved in emotion, reward and memory.

Lockdown Moments (2020-05-06) by CoralieArts Council England

How to Get Started with Dancing at Home

Dancing feels good and is good for you regardless of your skill level and whether you do it by yourself or with loved ones. 


Learn more about how you can take advantage of the health benefits of dance here.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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