Rhythm and Wellness

Article written by: Kayla McCargo; Intentional Simplicity Intern

Kayla McCargo | Intentional Simplicity LLC Intern | Seton Hill University, Psychology and Dance, 22’

As a third-year college double major in psychology and dance, I have always viewed health differently from most of my peers. Most believe that health strictly revolves around eating right and lifting weights. However, this is not entirely the case. In my experience, I have found that health is more than just physical. It’s mental and emotional as well. One can have excellent physical health but lack cognitive and emotional health and still get sick. 

A vital factor that has helped me personally pay attention to my mental and emotional health is dance. Performing arts or arts, in general, can have an impact on our health. According to Sheppard and Broughton, “the performing arts have been vitally important not only to individuals in ill-health, but also an important contributor to the wellbeing and health maintenance of individuals without pre-existing health, behavioral, or social issues”(2020). Personally, dance has always been a way for me to express myself. I often find myself struggling to find the right words to say, but I can write a novel with my movements when it comes to dancing. 

Dance allows me to express my inner feelings —drastically reducing my stress. No matter what kind of day I am having, dance gives me a release from my mind. In addition to stress relief, dance allows me to come out of my shell. I tend to be shy around people, but dance gives me a conversation starter, a foot in the door to socializing with my peers. And a sense of belonging. Through dance, I have found a home away from home.

In my freshman year, I was terrified to even say hi to the other dance majors in the department. I was scared they would judge my dancing and think that I wasn’t good enough to talk to them. My main style has and always will be hip hop, but at the time, I wasn’t a strong ballet or jazz dancer. I was hesitant to speak to my peers because I wasn’t confident in various styles yet. As I dove deeper into my major, dance forced me to get to know people, drove me to collaborate with others, and encouraged me to step outside of the box I was putting myself in. 

When I started expressing myself and socializing with others, I learned to pay more attention to my body. I realized that I couldn’t just go all day without eating and that 1-2 cups of water a day weren’t enough. I would burn more nutrients than I was consuming, and that was taking a toll on my body. I needed to take care of my body; 

  • Keeping my energy up:
    • Eat enough fruits and vegetables
    • Monitor intake of nutrients
  • Preventing cramping:
    • Drink enough water
    • Stretch everyday
  • Preventing an injury:
    • Stretch before and after class
    • Ice/or heat pack when needed
    • Listen when my body is exhausted
    • Monitor all ailments
      • Muscle aches
      • Headaches
      • Exhaustion

“Dance had me looking at my body as something to nurture, not just a machine that runs every day”.

The article also talks about how people who participate in dance have found that it “provide(s) a safe context for social engagement and building communities, which crucially enables participants to construct and maintain their wellbeing and health in a range of ways: cognitive function, physical health, stress reduction, self-perception, and mental health” (2020). As the article says, dance allows me to construct and maintain my wellbeing and health. Dance allows for me to express how I feel; it forces me to listen to my body and enables me to engage with my peers socially. 

In addition to expression, social interaction, and paying more attention to what my body is asking of me, dance has helped me become more confident. According to the studies of Angela Pickard & Doug Risner, “health and wellbeing effects of recreational dance interventions with children and young people include opportunities for expression and creativity, enhanced self-concept, confidence, optimism, hope, a sense of urgency and capacity for resilience” (2020). As a college student, I can personally attest to the benefits of dance in my life. Dance allows me to express myself; it forces me to think outside of the box and get creative. 

When you’re dancing from the heart or given a prompt, you must express, you have to go full out and think of what to do next with your body. 

Think about how to explore your narrative and your body at the same time. Dance has enhanced my confidence significantly. It’s not every day someone can put themselves out there and be vulnerable in front of a mass of people. Being vulnerable isn’t an easy ‘feat’ in general. Being vulnerable to strangers or numerous people requires a lot of confidence and resilience to accomplish. Over time, I have been improving because, no matter what, dance forces you to grow. It pushes you to grow in strength, forces you to grow socially, and challenges you mentally and emotionally. You won’t even realize it until you start reaching new heights that you didn’t even know existed. 

Kayla McCargo | Intentional Simplicity LLC Intern | Seton Hill, Psychology and Dance, 22’


Sheppard, A., & Broughton, M. C. (2020). Promoting wellbeing and health through active participation in music and dance: A systematic review. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being, 15(1), 1732526. doi:10.1080/17482631.2020.1732526

Pickard, A., & Risner, D. (2020). Dance, health, and wellbeing special issues. Research in Dance Education, 21(2), 225-227. doi:10.1080/14647893.2020.1801010