Advantages of Laughing, Singing, and Dancing

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Gifts of Imperfection" by Brené Brown. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What are the advantages of laughing, singing, and dancing? Can engaging in these playful activities actually impact your mental and physical health?

Brené Brown’s last step for living Wholeheartedly is to engage in laughter, singing, and dancing—and for a good reason. Studies show that there are many health benefits of engaging in this behavior including strengthening your immune system, reducing depression, increasing fitness, and more.

Keep reading to learn about the various advantages of laughing, singing, and dancing and how to overcome the problem of self-consciousness.

Laugh, Sing, and Dance

Brown’s final strategy for living Wholeheartedly and finding happiness is making the time to laugh, sing, and dance. Watch an episode of your favorite comedy show during your lunch break. Sing along to the radio as you drive to work. Even better, find a way to laugh, sing, and dance with other people. There are many advatages to laughing, singing, and dancing. Here’s what they are.

The Advantages of Laughing, Singing, and Dancing

According to Brown, there are many advantages of laughing, singing, and dancing. She argues that these practices can help you to manage difficult feelings due to the sense of emotional connection they provide. For example, finding a song that matches your sad mood and singing or dancing along will remind you that you’re not alone: Other people have experienced the emotions that you’re struggling with, not least the person who wrote the song. This sense of connection may give you the strength you need to work through your sadness.

Furthermore, Brown notes that laughing, singing, and dancing with another person creates a shared emotional experience that strengthens your connection. For example, if you and a friend are singing along to a sad song because you’ve both been through a breakup, you’ll share your heartbreak and feel closer because of it. You’ll also feel true compassion for each other because you’ll each understand exactly what the other person is going through. 

The Health Benefits of Laughing, Singing, and Dancing

On top of the positive effects that Brown highlights, the acts of laughing, singing, and dancing have many other benefits—not least to our mental and physical health. For instance, research has demonstrated that laughing reduces the number of stress hormones in our blood while also producing endorphins, which can boost mood and help us to fight depression. Laughter may also strengthen the immune system by boosting the activity levels of cells that fight illness. 

Meanwhile, research has shown that singing has physical health benefits such as improving posture, increasing breathing capacity, and having increased control over breathing. Furthermore, singing is a form of aerobic activity. Engaging in aerobic activity can promote stress reduction and increase the amount of oxygen in the blood (which makes you feel more awake). 

Singing may have emotional benefits, too—including group singing (for instance, in a choir). In a study that questioned choir members about their experiences of group singing, 75% of respondents stated that being in the choir had helped them emotionally in some way

Finally, dancing is regularly promoted as a form of exercise that can increase your general fitness and assist with weight loss. More specifically, dancing can improve everything from your bone strength, to the health of your lungs, to your balance. It may also improve mental health: One study of mildly depressed teenagers found that engaging in dance therapy improved the participants’ mental wellbeing and decreased their distress levels. 

The Problem of Self-Consciousness

According to Brown, there is one major barrier that can get in the way of laughing, singing, and dancing: self-consciousness, or the fear of others ridiculing, shaming, or judging you if you go against societal ideas of acceptable behavior. 

As Brown notes, society often expects us to act in a “cool” and controlled manner and not to draw attention to ourselves. Laughter, dance, and song go against these norms: Therefore, they’re often seen as socially unacceptable behaviors, and engaging in them can trigger self-consciousness.

Brown explains that a common response to self-consciousness is self-protection. You may refuse to laugh, sing, or dance so that you avoid shame, blame, and judgment. However, according to Brown, taking this path is an act of self-betrayal. You’re going to miss out on all of the benefits of laughter, dancing, and singing: all of the joy, emotional relief, and connection with others that they can bring. Ultimately, Brown recommends that you prioritize your happiness over the opinions of others, and laugh, sing, and dance with careless abandon.

Martha Beck and Overcoming Self-Consciousness

How can we stop feeling self-conscious? It may seem like a difficult task, especially if you’re shy or lack confidence. However, according to sociologist and life coach Martha Beck, fighting self-consciousness is possible if you follow certain strategies. 

Beck argues that asking yourself one simple question—“So?”—can help you to combat self-consciousness. For example, if you have the self-conscious thought of “People might laugh at me if I dance,” ask yourself, “So?” 
Asking yourself this question forces you to evaluate the apparent “bad consequences” of dancing. So what if people laugh at you? Do other people’s opinions really matter? Should they really stop you from doing something you love? Arguably not. Realizing this will reduce your self-consciousness and encourage you to dance freely. 
Beck also suggests “faking it until you make it”—in other words, acting as if you aren’t self-conscious, even when you are. This involves forcing yourself to do the things you’re self-conscious about—in our case, laughing, singing, or dancing—no matter how uncomfortable or terrifying this may feel at first. 

Beck argues that, when you force yourself to do these things, you’ll find that nothing that bad will actually happen. Not only will people probably not mock you for doing the thing you’re self-conscious about, they probably won’t pay attention to you at all. Therefore, there’s no need to ever feel self-conscious. You can dance like nobody’s watching, because in reality, they’re probably not watching at all. (According to Beck, studies have shown that people are only paying half as much attention to us as we think they are.)
Advantages of Laughing, Singing, and Dancing

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Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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