Backstory: Feel free to skip
Tuesday was a really shitty day.
They decided to do dog searches for bedbugs in my dorm at 8am. Knowing this, I spent the night at my boyfriend's place with my cat so we wouldn't have to wake up absurdly early to go sit outside in the cold and rainy weather.
Problem was, I got to my boyfriend's place and realized I forgot all of my medications in my dorm. It was 9 at night and I did not want to take the light rail back and forth to go get my stupid meds so I threw caution to the wind and said "f**k it, I'm not taking meds tonight."
This was a bad idea. Take your meds. Just do it.
I did not sleep a wink that night because I didn't have my sleeping meds. I woke up feeling weak and nauseous because I didn't have my anemia medication. I was crabby and upset because I didn't have my anti-depressants or anti-anxieties.
So when I got back to my dorm and found out dog searches were going on until 12 I pretty much lost it. I sat in the lounge of my dorm with a cat yelling at me for food I didn't have and my body craving drugs I couldn't get to.
Finally, the searches were over and I got my medications. But, alas, the damage was already done.
I was physically and emotionally a wreck. I almost passed out in class and had to go back to my dorm to lie down, but of course I was too nauseous and hot to sleep.
Instead I lay in bed feeling bad for myself. I thought about how hard college is and wondered why I was even bothering to try this? Who was I kidding? I wasn't going to succeed at life. I would end up pushing papers in a monotonous job day after day.
Needless to say I was feeling like s**t when I woke up.
I ate dinner alone. But as I walked back to my dorm a friend stopped me to talk. She could tell something was wrong and asked me about it. Of course this made me start crying and I explained to her all the depressed thoughts I was having and she gave me a hug and told me it would be okay.
So I went back to my dorm and cried for an hour because I felt bad for me!
Eventually I decided to talk to my mom, so I called her on FaceTime (do not underestimate the power of your mother) and she got me feeling a bit better.
It came up in conversation that I usually do Zumba on Tuesday nights, but I didn't feel like going that day because I was a puddle of emotions, but my mom told me, as moms will, that the best thing for me to do was to stop my pity party and go do something.
So with low expectations I stalked off to Zumba.
And here is the thing, I felt so much better! I went to bed happy that night. And I felt inspired to write this article.
TL;DR - I felt shitty and went to Zumba and it made me feel better.
The Real Article
I think there is a real power that Zumba can have for those with mental illness.
Zumba combines two things that are scientifically proven to help relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety. Those things are exercise and music.
Do not let anyone tell you Zumba is easy. Zumba is an intense cardio workout that gets your blood pumping, your muscles working and your armpits sweating. No matter how bad you are at the moves, I guarantee you will feel it the next day.
As stated by C.B. Taylor, J.F. Sallis, and R. Needle in their public health report, "The strongest evidence suggests that physical activity and exercise probably eliminate some symptoms associated with mild to moderate depression. The evidence also suggests that physical activity and exercise might provide a beneficial adjunct for alcoholism and substance abuse programs; improve self-image, social skills, and cognitive functioning; reduce the symptoms of anxiety; and alter aspects of coronary-prone (Type A) behavior and physiological response to stressors." That pretty much covers everyone. So we can all benefit psychologically from exercising. And, to quote the lovely Elle Woods, "Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don't shoot their husbands, they just don't." So, we can assume that a moderate workout (30 minutes or so) every day can help clear your name in a murder investigation as well as give you fantastic calves.
The other part of Zumba I love is the music. You cannot have a dance class without upbeat, happy music. That is simply illogical. Zumba has latin roots so frequently you will find yourself listing to the fun rhythms of salsa, samba, and reggae. These genres are characterized by upbeat, happy, fun sounds.
(I could not access any of the good scholarly articles on music therapy, so we are using Wikipedia on this one, my friends. Though it seems they got some of their info from the Mayo Clinic, which is a reliable source)
Music has been used in therapy for thousands of years. The first recorded case of music being used to treat mental illness was by Hippocrates who played music for mental patients in ancient Greece. 1300's Arab hospitals all contained a room specifically for patients to listen to music. In the first century, Persian psychologist al-Farabi (also known as Alpharabius) wrote a book all about music therapy. The treatise Meanings of the Intellect the therapeutic effects of music on the soul. Music has steadily been used in therapy since.
Many studies have shown that patients with severe depressive disorder (of which I am one) benefit more from music aided therapy than regular therapy. An EEG study even found that listening to 20 minutes of rock music shifted brain activity to the left frontal lobe, from the right, which is more active in people with depression.
So it is obvious to me now why Zumba would make me feel better. It combines two great treatments for depression and anxiety into one for an overall feel good atmosphere. I would recommend it to anyone dealing with lots of stress or mental illness.
Plus, you can't be sad when you are listening to Shakira.