As someone who has struggled with mental illness from my early teenage years, I’ve always gravitated towards creative outlets as my form of therapy. For a long time, it was music. I loved creating magic with passionate creatives, the family-like community I was a part of, and the confidence and pride I felt after performing a piece I’d worked so hard on.

When I moved overseas for university, I struggled to figure out who I was without music. It had been something that formed such a crucial part of my identity that I felt lost without the community I grew up sharing it with. At this point, my mental health started to slip again, and I knew that I had to act quickly because I didn’t have the same support system as I did back home.

I used the prospect of a ‘fresh start’ to challenge myself into doing something I’d always wanted to get back into – dance. I knew that if I leapt into this journey with an open mind, I would find a new community of people that shared my love for the creative arts.

two men and two women talking to each other, mental health
Any exercise can improve your overall wellbeing. ©gradyreese/Getty Images

1. Dance is the perfect balance between sport and creativity.

When I toyed with the idea of going back to dancing, the biggest motivator for me was to finally find a sport I enjoyed. Being active is such a big part of my mental health plan, and although I was relatively good at maintaining this through my running and at-home workouts, I’d never really found a sport that I loved.

Dance is the perfect combination of physical exertion and creativity – and trust me, it’s a lot more tiring than it looks! Not only are you getting an amazing workout out of a dance class, the further you progress, the stronger and cleaner your moves will be, which is even more physically exhausting than when you started!

I find that because you’re concentrating on nailing the choreography, you tend to forget how tired you are until the end of the class. Even then, you probably won’t feel it until the next day because you’d be on such a high from the energy and fun!

2. Dance makes you confident - in and out of the studio.

three women in robes sitting next to each other with a glass of champagne, mental health
Feel comfortable in your own skin.

When I went into my first dance class, I couldn’t bear looking at how I danced in the mirror. I felt awkward, out of place, and like I was always half a beat behind. My mum is a big advocator of doing something consistently over 21 days for it to become a habit, so I took this mindset with me in that first month of dancing.

By the end of it, I felt confident enough to take videos of my dancing and to jump in to perform in smaller groups to the class. But not only did I gain confidence in the studio, I felt more confident in my personal and work life too. I got compliments from my family saying that I stood taller, which is a massive confidence-booster as I was notorious for my slouching. I also felt more confident and assertive when I presented to a group of people for work. Little things like this can really improve the way you see yourself and, in turn, your mental health.

3. Dance makes you body-aware.

Before dance, I never really listened to my body. I would move lazily and carry weight into my knees or lower back, very rarely switching on my core or glutes. I learnt that you simply cannot indulge in this if you’re a dancer because it is a vital step towards injury prevention.

two men and two women dancing, mental health
Give dancing a go. ©gradyreese/Getty Images

My main style of dance is hip-hop and reggaeton, which can be super taxing on the knees if the right muscle groups aren’t switched on. Incorporating this into your dancing makes you move and do every-day things in a safer and more mobile way. Similar to the last point about posture, it really does make a difference to your confidence and energy when you’re moving correctly.

4. Dance creates a community of like-minded people.

The Brisbane dance scene is an incredibly warm, welcoming and kind community that is so open to sharing and growing together. When I first stepped into my studio, I was so nervous to show up alone, only to find that so many people come by themselves and quickly make life-long friends with other like-minded creatives.

For the first time in years, I felt like I finally belonged again. It’s amazing to find a group of people from all parts of the world, at different stages in their lives, and from diverse careers come together for the simple love of creating.

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by Sina 17.02.2020
Thank you Clarissa for sharing your lessons! What I really could relate to was body awareness. It really gives you confidence and changes your overall energy when you have the right posture throughout the day! Loved it.
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