You Don’t Have to be on Dancing with the Stars to Benefit from Dance

Dancing with the Stars Title Logo

Okay, I’ll admit it… I was glued to the television Tuesday night, along with my thirteen-year-old son, to make certain my gal Rumer Willis and her partner Val Chmerkovskiy won the coveted Mirrorball trophy on Dancing with the Stars — they did! I love the finals because you see how far these dancers have come. You hear them talk about how dance has benefitted them in so many ways.

While I may not dance like Rumer, I have dabbled in ballroom since the early ’90s — way before Dancing with the Stars brought ballroom rightfully front and center stage. Even as a social dancer, I can attest that you don’t have to be on Dancing with the Stars to reap lifelong benefits from dance. 

To prove my point, I’ve put together my Top 10 for how ballroom dance provides lifelong benefits!

Dance10. Great exercise. This is a no-brainer because dance requires repetition for “muscle memory” to form. It’s impossible for your brain to tell so many different body parts to move exactly this way or that without hours of practice — head here, shoulders there, hips in alignment, arms strong, legs extended — oh, and don’t forget to point those toes! Think about it, you are engaging your brain, heart, lungs, and muscle groups! Not only are you burning calories but, over time, you are toning muscles in your arms, legs, back, and core.

9.  Increases Self-Confidence. As you learn to better control how you move your body across the dance floor, especially in partnership with someone else, there is no way you could not feel better about yourself. Go on and brag on your bad self!

8.  Awesome way to meet fun friends. If you like to dance, you’ll want friends who are active, healthy, and engaging. Yep! You can find them on the nearest dance floor.

7. Keeps you young and energetic. The classic Newtonian Law that a body in motion stays in motion applies to humans, too. Plus, I’m almost positive it confirms that Newton loved to dance.

6. Allows you to appreciate different types of music. When you learn different dance styles you come to appreciate different musical rhythms and beats. Who would have thought I would come to love hip-hop as much as my 13-year-old son loves Fred Astaire? Yet, it’s true!

5. Great for social skills building. Whether asking a partner to dance with you, or declining politely because your feet are killing you, social interaction is a must on the dance floor. This is especially true for social dancing, where the relaxed atmosphere often invites conversation during the dance. Even introverts like me enjoy dancing, because you’re only dancing with only one person at a time. Whew, that’s a relief!

4.  Increases balance. This is huge, especially as you age. Dancing improves the communication between your brain and your muscles, as it isolates the movement of one muscle from another. Trust me, it’s harder than it looks.

dance3. You never stop learning. Aside from always having the opportunity to improve your style, dance is ever evolving. For example, there are 7 different tango styles with a combined syllabus of thousands of steps! That could take a few lifetimes…

2. Wards off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that the split-second decision making that dancing requires, forces the brain to regularly rewire its neural pathways, thus enhancing your cognitive ability. Check out this article for more on this topic.

1. Dancing makes you feel good! You don’t often see couples on the dance floor with frowns on their faces. That’s because dancing is fun! Engaging in activities that make you feel happy lessens the effects of stress and can aid in depression.

What’s the best way to start dancing? I always recommend looking for group classes in your area. Check out dance studios, clubs, and meet-up groups for offerings. Try several different types of dance and work with the one you enjoy most in the beginning. As you become more comfortable on the dance floor and working in partnership, you can always try new dances!

Dancing with the Stars logo: By ABC (ABC Website) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Stop Limiting Yourself: 5 Steps to Take Now

5 StepsEvery self-empowerment guru from Tony Robbins to Oprah Winfrey has made very clear the biggest obstacle to anyone’s personal happiness. Do you know what it is?

Fear? Yes
Insecurity? Yes
Uncertainty? Yes
Unworthiness? Yes

But what all of these things have in common is YOU. Yes, you are the biggest obstacle to your personal happiness and success. But how do you get past yourself to live the life you’ve always wanted? Release the limiting beliefs that hold you back!

Not sure where to start? Here are five steps to get you started.

Five Steps to Releasing Limiting Beliefs

1) Get to the root of your fear

When you take a moment to think about it, ask yourself, “What am I really afraid of?” After all, you are your first line of defense on your road to happiness. You are the gatekeeper to any future you choose. Every time you think of what you want to do or wish you could have, you are the one who ultimately decides the next step. You decide if you move forward with your dream or let it fall by the wayside.

Often when you choose not to pursue a dream, it’s important to determine what is holding you back. Consider the thoughts occupying your mind as you make the final decision. For example, if you wanted to record a piece of your music to share with the world, is your first thought, “There’s no way I can make that happen.” Or maybe you’re thinking, “No one will like it.” In the first example, what might be the root of your fear? Perhaps financial constraints? Technology challenges? Or in the second example, where the fear is all about possible failure.

Once you identify the root of your fear, then you can begin examining alternatives. After all, you don’t want to throw away a dream because you haven’t taken the time to think about all the ways in which you could make it a reality.

2. Take the opposing argument (What if I could?)

So let’s say you’ve identified the fear of failure as the root factor in deciding not to record your music. Each time you allow fear to determine the next steps, you are sabotaging your dreams. What to do instead? Acknowledge your fear and insecurity and then turn the statement into an opportunity to explore. Given the music example, the inner dialog might go like this.

Okay, so I’m nervous about making this a reality. Not only that, I’m terrified no one will like my music. On the other hand, what if I find an easy and inexpensive way to produce my music. And what if people really love it? Wouldn’t that be great? That would be just the affirmation I’m looking for. I’ve got to do this for myself, or I will never know. I’ve decided my next step will be to look into buying a mic so I can record the music myself. I’ve listened to some great music on the Internet that was recording in home studios. If they can do it, I can too!

See how you can choose to talk yourself into doing what you really want to do all along? It’s really about choosing how you want to feel about yourself. If you want to love and respect your dreams, then you can lovingly and supportively explore making them a reality. But it all starts with that inner dialog!

3) Visualize the outcome you want

Take a few moments to close your eyes and visualize yourself doing what you want to do. Imagine yourself recording your music, uploading it to Youtube, and seeing the number of Likes increase every day. Imagine yourself reading the comments and feeling great about the feedback you are receiving.

In your mind, your brain is saying, “Hey! Being an indie musician feels pretty good!”

That’s exactly where you want your mind to be — in the “can do” side of things and not the “never gonna happen” side! Make it a practice to visualize the outcome you want, and allow yourself to truly feel the happiness and joy of the moment.

4) Look for ways to praise yourself and everyone else

If you are always looking for what’s right instead what’s wrong, you’re going to find a lot of opportunities for praise. So you’ve researched the best microphones for recording music, and found one at a great price. You’ve recorded your first song, uploaded it, and have received lots of positive comments. Take credit for doing this on your own! Blog about it! Share it on your social media venues. Let others know that, in spite of your fears, you chose to believe in yourself. Talk about what you are most proud of. Comment on the most creative aspect of making your dream a reality. No need to be obnoxious or brash, but praising yourself — especially when you’ve moved past your limiting beliefs — not only helps you, but encourages others to do the same.

Speaking of others, make it a habit to acknowledge your biggest supporters. The first person to give you a thumbs up or leave a glowing comment. Talk about the technical elements (software, hardware, YouTube videos) that helped you achieve your dream. When you can acknowledge the good in those around you, especially those who support you, then everyone wins.

5) Just do it

To borrow from the famous Nike tagline, at some point you’re just going to have to strap on your favorite sports shoes and jump in with both feet. You’re going to have to trust that, when you follow your passion, only good can come of it. That doesn’t mean there won’t be challenging moments. What it does mean is that, in hindsight, you will be glad that you didn’t allow your limiting beliefs to stand in your way.

Code of the Vestal Virgin: Burn, Baby, Burn!

Vestal Virgin

The Sacrifice of the Vestal by Alessandro Marchesini [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

From the Series: Life on Dog Hill

Hubby is convinced I was once a Vestal Virgin, one of the girls from Ancient Rome taken before age ten to train–and then tend–the sacred fire.

Vesta was the goddess of the hearth, and the Vestal Virgins were priestesses of the goddess. Their thirty-year service began with ten years of training, ten years of tending the sacred fire, and finally ten years of training of the younger Virgins. Afterwards they retired with sweet pensions, and were allowed to relinquish their vows of chastity to marry, if desired.

Hubby has come to believe I’m a Vestal Virgin reincarnate because of my love for tending fires over consecutive days. Ten days is my record.

It’s true that I love tending fires. In the winter, I keep our fireplace roaring. When the temperature drops really low (which in North Carolina means 30 degrees Fahrenheit), I have both fireplaces going. Throughout the year I burn brush in the back yard. Because we live on almost five wooded acres, there is always plenty to burn, which certainly appeases the Vestal in me.

I find tending the fire therapeutic. I haven’t spent a lot of time trying to understand why. It’s enough for me to recognize that when I’m mindfully tending a fire, no matter what time of year, I feel content.

In my latest Vestal effort that began five days ago, I burned the branches of several Vestal Virgintrees cut down last December for firewood. The branches were stacked throughout the yard and, now dried, easy to burn. I raked leaves and pinecones and tossed them onto the burning pile as well. Today all the remnants of the felled trees are gone, and the yard appears in order.

From my writing desk, I look through the window and see the circle of stones around a pile of gray ash where, on occasion, a faint spiral of smoke lifts itself upwards. 

I smile.