January puts us in mind of new resolutions, hope for a better future and Alzheimer’s awareness month. The latter raises awareness and brings attention to those dealing with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
Over time, every culture has developed melodies, instruments and rhythms to express emotions. Music is ingrained in our daily lives and is often part of being human. A familiar song can evoke emotions and often memories associated with it.
Music pairs well with dancing. I think I have the rhythm of a young Fred Astaire, but I’m sure others would say I look more like Fred Flintstone. Regardless of your talent, dancing is good for your overall health as it strengthens the cardiovascular system and increases muscle tone and balance.
Many studies show that music helps those with progressive memory loss, happiness, and quality of life. Music therapy is often an integral part of care for those with dementia. A recent study found that music and dance can also improve memory and cognition.
Music affects nerves on both sides of the brain. It causes nerves to be strengthened. And these researchers believe it creates a lasting effect as we age. Music also changes some of the chemicals in our brain. It increases dopamine levels like a reward and encourages the listener or musician to continue listening or playing. Music also reduces cortisol. Cortisol is a chemical released when we get stressed; if you have ever been put on the spot to remember a fact or a name and can’t find the word, only to find it on your drive home, you have experienced the cortisol effect.
In addition to being a fun exercise, dancing strengthens these nerve pathways that can help with memory, which requires coordination and often complex cognition. Learning a new dance or simply going through your favourite moves can help to stimulate the brain and improve memory.
This year, sing and dance to your heart’s content; improve your mood; enjoy social interaction, and improve your memory!
Take care of yourselves and each other.