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The Amazing Brain and Movement

Our brains are truly wonderful! In recent years, more attention has been given to the term “neuroplasticity.” This is a fancy way of saying that our brains never actually stop growing. Why is this both important and exciting to know? It directly pushes back on the old assumption that our brains stop developing in our mid to late 20s, as well as shows that we can use our own brains’ healing abilities to help recover from both emotional and physical stressors/injuries.

By knowing that our brains never lose the abilities to create new paths of communication, strengthen the ability to process information, and even recovery from injuries, we can then focus on discovering ways to enhance this process. Why is this important? We’re constantly going about our days and our brains are always working to make sense of and organize information from our environments. From infancy throughout our entire lives, our brains never stop working.

One particularly useful way of enhancing and increasing neuroplasticity is through psychotherapy. The good news is that no one form is the “right” or “wrong” way. Each person is unique and no one type of therapy is a one size fits all. Some of the benefits from different types include increased problem-solving abilities, great self-awareness, and improved emotional management. It's important to know that these changes are gradual and we don’t always see the improvements even though others around us do. Some common and effective forms of therapy are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Trauma-Focused CBT, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and Dance/Movement Therapy. Supplemental treatments for psychotherapy also include things like yoga, exercise, and massage therapy.

Dancing and moving to music are particularly powerful in helping the brain grow because of the double sources of stimulation. Music alone stimulates reward centers in our brain and can have powerful mood shifting effects. By adding movement, not only does a person get the stimulation from music, but also the benefits of moving/exercising. During exercise, endorphins are released, our sensory and motor centers in our brain are activated, and blood flow increases throughout the entire body. A systematic review done in 2019 in the Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews journal on how dance impacts brain development, and found that dance is associated with improved cognitive, brain development, and stimulation. Some of the specific benefits were increased connection between the left and right sides of the brain, insight into how our brains process sound and movement at the same time, increases in white and grey brain matter which enhances the communication between different parts of the brain, and other overall long-term positive effects both physically and mentally.

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