We could all do with a pick-me-up right now. A little me time. Whatever your age, the link between the performing arts and feeling better physically and mentally is well documented.
For example. Until becoming a dad, I didn’t know children learn quicker between birth and the age of eight than at any other point of their life. When young, we learn best through play which is why it’s better to start little ones’ creative journey sooner rather than later.
As adults, music, dance and drama can make our physical and psychological health better, battle inequality and boost our social engagement – something we’ve all got to readjust to as lockdown restrictions are eased and life returns to something resembling normal.
With our classes now back in our studios, here are five ways participating in the performing arts can help young people and five ways it can help adults.
Benefits for children and young people
1: Play-based learning – whether it’s dancing, singing, storytime or drama – is a great way to nurture their cognitive and social skills and their physical health and emotional wellbeing. It also helps them make sense of the world and builds their imagination and creativity.
2: Research shows play-based learning strengthens later learning. It also introduces the life skills they will need at school and later in life like observing, copying, listening for and responding to instructions and sharing.
3: It also helps with youngsters’ socio-emotional development like working and sharing with others, independent thought, confidence building, empathy and compassion. Engaging in music, dance and drama from different communities also helps better their cultural awareness and appreciation.
4: There are many practical benefits like helping youngsters hone their physical and spatial awareness, motor skills, co-ordination, timing and how to control their movement.
5: Taking part in a creative activity can help young people manage major life challenges like exam stress, bereavement, changes in their home situation…
Benefits for adults
1: Modern life is stressful. Creative activities help maintain our general wellbeing. Focusing on dancing, drama, singing or playing a musical instrument is a great distraction, helping to relieve existing mental stress too.
A study led by the University of Glasgow found lockdowns have had a major impact on our mental health with suicidal thoughts increasing and people feeling hopeless and experiencing depressive symptoms. Understandable given the social and economic uncertainty and our everyday routines being broken.
2: There’s evidence that creative activities like singing, playing an instrument, etc. can lessen your chances of developing dementia later in life. There’s also evidence it stimulates cognitive function in those who have dementia or related disorders.
Marta C González, who had Alzheimer’s, was a New York City Ballet prima ballerina. When she was played Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, she instantly remembered her routine from more than 50 years ago. It’s also been theorised that it helps reduce depression in people with Parkinson’s.
3: There are obvious physical benefits too. Dancing, for example, is a great way to boost general fitness or rebuild it after illness. Reports suggest creative activities better the psychosocial treatment of cancer – reducing symptoms of distress, fatigue, pain perception and negative body image.
4: It’s never too late to learn. The performing arts are a great way to pick up a new skill or rekindle a past passion. Learning an instrument also improves hand-eye coordination while dance can better cognition and motor skills.
5: The performing arts encourages social connection, something we all really need right now. Even before Covid pushed our lives online, we were spending more time on our phones or social media. Lockdowns have left us feeling socially isolated.
Then there are the usual everyday challenges life throws at us – loss of loved ones, moving to a new area, children starting school or moving out, etc. The arts are a great way to meet and engage with new people which can better our mental health, self-esteem, confidence…
Hannah Bullent is our Participation Programme Manager and a tutor. She said: “Performing arts can give a young person the tools to be creative, confident and collaborative, all transferable skills they can take away and put to use in other settings.
“For all ages, participating in any or all disciplines – dance, drama and music – can give a creative outlet for the mind and is an opportunity for self-expression. There are elements that can provide a physical challenge for the body, give you control of your body, increase fitness levels and co-ordination.
“Performing arts gives a great balance of learning, development, feeling free and having fun and I hope everyone can relate when they come to a class at The Garage.”