It’s the end of a tough day. Things are always busy – but right now, it feels as though I’m in the centre of a tornado. The team’s almost doubled in size over the past months; we’re launching new events, fine-tuning (OK, creating…) systems and building projects. And the rest of life doesn’t stop, right? Friends need support, kids need time with mum, partners have their own challenges to work through. My go-to remedy is a simple one. When there’s too much to do, dance.

When there’s too much to do, dance

If you’ve ever been to one of our live events, you know we like to start (and end… and break up the day…) with dance parties. It’s one of our secret weapons when it comes to creating the warm, relaxed, focused atmosphere we’re renowned for. But dancing isn’t something we only do when we’re together.

At the end of that tough day, I love to close the door of the office, turn the music up loud, and let loose. Often with the kids involved as well – they instinctively understand the freedom and joy that comes with letting go to music. And they’re the masters of unselfconsciousness!

If you find it hard to imagine letting go and shaking your thing – or if you’re like me, a devotee of the one-woman dance party – read on.
I want to share 5 serious benefits to shaking it out when things get tough.

5 reasons dancing is your secret leadership weapon

1. Dance gets you moving.

Moving your body, even slowly, is good for you. It:

  • Raises your cardiovascular activity
  • Stretches your muscles
  • Gets your blood pumping
  • Makes your parasympathetic system work to balance you

… and generally gets your energy flowing again.

On days you “don’t have time for” exercise, if it involved travelling to a class or getting changed to go for a run, dancing can give you the boost of a mini-workout in just a few minutes. And it makes a difference! Moving your body gets oxygen flowing to your brain and has a powerful impact on your performance, even if your job’s a sedentary one.

In a 2018 study, researchers found that dancing is a way to promote the connectivity between the brain’s two hemispheres. They concluded that long-term dance practice positively affects brain activity, and is linked to our “neuroplasticity” – our capacity to adapt and change by forming new neural connections. Pretty useful if your role’s a demanding one, no?

2. Dance shifts your emotional state.

At One of many we work with the Women’s PowerTypes; 5 distinct archetypes that help us access different kinds of female power. When it feels as though there’s too much to do, these become even more important.

At busy times it’s essential to be able to change the way you’re leading, to allow yourself to be most effective in the new context.

So if you need to shift out of decision-making “work mode” to connect with your partner; or you’ve been flat out getting things done and now need to show up for a really sensitive meeting with a staff member; or you’ve come out of a fast-paced creative brainstorm and need to look in close detail at a budget spreadsheet… how do you change your state?

There are lots of ways to tap into the different PowerTypes, but the fastest and most effective one I know is to have a quick dance.

Even in the office, it’s possible if you get creative. Plug in your headphones, find an empty meeting room, and dance it out. This really works at the end of the day, if you’ve been handling a lot. Give it a try next time you’ve not stopped since breakfast. 

And if you need some inspiration about working this practice into your day, come into the BeOne group where you’ll find a friendly community with great suggestions on integrating this tool into your life.

3. Dancing isn’t an achievement

OK, sometimes stepping away from the screen for 5 minutes feels like an achievement. (While you’re at it, Superwoman, have a glass of water and pop to the loo. Your body will thank you…)

But “dance really badly to an embarrassingly bad pop tune” probably isn’t on your list of quarterly priorities, your daily to-do list, or your life goals. It’s play, pure and simple — something you’re doing just for the joy of it. Because it feels good.

Sticking on a song and throwing some shapes isn’t something that will result in any income, kudos or approval from others. It’s not productive, there’s no value tied to it. And that’s why it’s important. It reminds us of our gift to the world simply by being – of the value of experiencing our lives.

The same goes for any creative activity. We can use it as a way to practice letting go of our competent, high achieving, successful selves and unlock that creative side. In the words of Glennon Doyle,

“If you feel something calling you to dance or write or paint or sing, please refuse to worry about whether you’re good enough. Just do it. Be generous. Offer a gift to the world that no one else can offer: yourself.”

4. Dance gets you out of your head

When we put on music and move our bodies at the same time, we gain distinct benefits that add up to more than the sum of both activities. John Krakauer, a neuroscientist at Columbia University, suggested why that might be:

“Maybe synchronizing music, which many studies have shown is pleasing to both the ear and brain, and movement—in essence, dance—may constitute a pleasure double play.

Music is known to stimulate pleasure and reward areas like the orbitofrontal cortex, located directly behind one’s eyes, as well as a midbrain region called the ventral striatum. In particular, the amount of activation in these areas matches up with how much we enjoy the tunes. In addition, music activates the cerebellum, at the base of the brain, which is involved in the coordination and timing of movement.”

In other words, when we “lose ourselves” in music we’re allowing different areas of our brain to take over, giving our thinking, strategizing, and let’s face it worrying brain a break. It’s one reason I think just a few minutes of dancing can feel like such a powerful break from routine – and really “reset” you for the next mountain you’ve got to tackle. If you have too much to do, giving your brain a chance to rest is a powerful way to find the extra energy you need.

5. It sets a powerful example.

As leaders, we don’t just need to be driving forward, creating results. If you’ve ever faced burnout personally, or led a team who were at the point of exhaustion, you’ll know how unsustainable the “keep going at all costs” philosophy is.

When things get busy, I’ve been known to start a virtual team meeting with some desk dancing. It lightens the mood, gets us connected and replaces those purposeful frowns with bright smiles. It keeps my mood up and replenishes my energy, ready to handle whatever throws at me. And it reminds us all that we exist beyond our targets and priorities, and can support and connect with each other beyond our usual communication.

How about you?

Do you love to dance, or does the thought make you squirm a little? Do you have any other practices that have similar effects, or ways to quickly shift your mood? I’d love to know – share your experience with others in the comments.