The brain is an incredibly complex machine. Unfortunately, like all machines, it is prone to malfunctions and needs repair often. As one gets older, these repairs become harder to make, and the natural damage the brain receives can spiral into dementia. Dementia has at once no known cause, and many causes. Its symptoms can be as diverse as Alzheimer’s or Huntington’s disease, or it can be a mysterious illness, appearing more and more as the brain ages.
To stave off this unpleasant process, which is as dangerous to the victim as it is emotionally damaging to their friends and relatives, many forms of therapy can be effective. One of the most effective therapy forms is dance therapy. A time-tested form of affirmation and physical therapy, dance therapy has been practiced in one way or another since the late 1940s. This long-standing therapy form has had plenty of time to be successfully tested, and the results are in: dance therapy can aid the brain. In addition to providing fitness, exercise and a variety of healthy side effects, dance therapy with its many moves and forms can promote brain repair and help to stave off dementia.
Let’s look at a few of the ways dance therapy has helped beat dementia over the years. To start with, dance therapy promotes exercise. While it may seem that exertion has little to do with brain activity, in truth the two are closely linked. Exercise or exertion can release chemicals called endorphins, which jog the brain and produce feelings of euphoria and contentment. This, in turn, leads to changes in brain chemistry. So dance exercise is worth it all on its own. However, when it comes to more fine-tuned aspects of brain repair, dance therapy can also be helpful in working out complex issues with the brain. The act of motor neuron firing jump-starts the brain into creating new pathways for development, sometimes building over old and ineffective pathways.
Essentially, the mental benefits of dance therapy hinge on the learning and movement process of the therapy. With these elements in play, the brain can tackle new challenges and surmount hurdles that would never have seemed possible in a rest home. Most therapists are hesitant to mention the word “spirituality” in conjunction with their practice. However, the spirituality of a dementia sufferer is very important. Loss of memory and acute brain dysfunction can result in a shattered sense of self, fractured confidence, and a feeling of helplessness or being “lost.”
While this is saddening, it can be helped. The act of dancing, especially dancing with others, creates a sense of self and a feeling of confidence and worth. Social bonds are also built during dancing, an important part of spirituality as it establishes a connection with and a feeling of empathy for others. Overall, the cognitive, behavioural and spiritual benefits of dance therapy are potent and moving. If your relative or someone you know is suffering from progressive dementia, why not help them to sign up for a dance therapy class? It can free them from the bounds of confusion and help them to start a new and fulfilling life.
Nisha represents a site called www.mhaauchlochan.org.uk. She enjoys writing about health and fitness and has had a few years’ experienceworking in the health sector.