Monday, January 16, 2012
Conquering Stress With Dance Movement Therapy
Dance and dance therapy can be extremely effective in terms of stress management; the benefits are wide ranging and the results can be profound. Therapy may be used in conjunction with many other approaches to stress reduction, such as herbal medicine, aromatherapy, counselling and hypnotherapy.
How Dance Can Reduce Stress
The fact that dance is a form of exercise is of great significance, in that regular physical activity is highly effective in terms of defending against the harmful effects of stress and building general resilience. Exercise offers benefits by means of...
Releasing opiate beta-endorphins into the system, which induce feelings of calm, satisfaction and euphoria (though some researchers will argue with this, saying that the endorphin molecules are too large to cross the blood-brain barriers and exert an influence on mood)
Strengthening defences against physiological stress responses. Over time, aerobic exercise leads to gains in stamina, endurance and cardiovascular health and the individual adapts to increases in heart rate, blood pressure and stress hormones during exertion. When these same physiological changes occur during times of psychological strain the body's reaction is conditioned to react more calmly.
Focusing the mind and offering distraction from external and internal stressors. People with anxiety or depression are often more likely to ruminate on negative thoughts, so this type of distraction is excellent.
Raising the body temperature, increasing blood flow to the brain, relaxing the nervous and muscular systems and altering electrical patterns in the brain.
Providing an environment in which trusting and open relationships may be built.
These effects can help to:
Alter mood and improve general mental health
Relieve mild pain
Improve self-confidence and self-esteem, as both fitness and skill levels develop.
Maintaining a healthy level of physical activity is by far one of the best ways of coping with stress and preventing its onset in the first place. One study by the Johnson and Johnson Company demonstrated how the morale-boosting and productivity-enhancing effects of dance when they implemented a wellness programme involving regular participation in classes. As a consequence there was a marked reduction in employee hospitalization costs and a 13% decrease in sick days taken.
Basic Principles of Dance Therapy
Dance Therapy, or Dance Movement Therapy (DMT) as it is sometimes called, is a diverse and complex subject. It enables the individual to make contact with their physical, spiritual and emotional self, allows catharsis and offers relief from tension and anxiety. The following excerpt is taken from a definition used by The Association for Dance Movement Therapy and the Standing Committe for Arts Therapies Professions: DMT "is the use of expressive movement and dance as a vehicle through which an individual can engage in the process of personal integration and growth."
It goes on to introduce the existing relationship between motions and emotion and explains that the exploration of a more varied range of movement vocabulary enables the transition to a place of greater stability and liberation. "Through movement and dance each person's inner world becomes tangible, individuals share much of their personal symbolism and in dancing together relationships become visible". The dance movement therapist's role in this, it summarises, is to create a therapeutic environment, which is conducive of the safe expression, acknowledgement and communication of feelings.
DMT uses dance as an alternative method of communication to talking. Movement activity motivates both spontaneous conscious and unconscious expression and as the individual undergoes transformation unformed feelings are clarified and cognitive insight gained. The use of imagery, metaphor and visualisation techniques aid the therapeutic process and helps to bring about positive change.
Everybody Can Dance
It is a Jungian concept that within the self or body lies a healing function. Through dance it is possible to access this resource. One of the wonderful things about dancine for healing is that it is a therapeutic option for so many people from all walks of life. It is certainly not a prerequisite that someone has previous experience in dance or creative expression, or that he/she has a natural talent for rhythm or movement. Anyone can benefit from and should consider this creative ways of managing their stress.