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It’s important to be happy. A report from the American Psychological Association points a whole bevy of benefits that come from being happy. But what does “being happy” actually mean? And what does it have to do with square dancing?

You can probably guess our answer to that second question, so let’s concentrate on the first one for a moment.

For some strange reason, there is this unspoken assumption that happy people are somehow more likely to be lazy or ineffective. Research, however, shows the opposite is true. Why? Well, happiness helps you experience the best possible life overall. It isn’t just about making the most of the good times (which some would consider “goofing off”); it’s also heavily grounded in the ability to effectively cope with bad times, which are inevitable and typically more numerous.

Author and Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard put it concisely: “Happiness is a state of inner fulfillment, not the gratification of inexhaustible desires for outward things.”

Happiness can–and should–permeate every part of one’s life. The effects trickle from the inside out, not just affecting our conscious thoughts, but changing the way we act, think, and perceive the world. We’re taught, for example, that getting results from a Customer Service representative requires anger and frustration. But some experts claim that being convincing and friendly can be more effective. They suggest actually smiling when you’re on the phone–the person on the other end can feel the difference.

Steve Martin, early in his career, made the observation that a person can’t play a sad song on the banjo: no matter what you play, it comes out sounding cheerful. We kind of feel the same way about square dancing.

Square dancing has been called “friendship set to music,” and that seems like a perfect definition. Think about it: if anything can create happiness, a mix of good friends, great music, and fun dancing seems like the perfect recipe.

There are benefits beyond that, however: it’s no secret that exercise–endurance and flexibility training in particular–does wonders for our physical and mental well-being. And dancing is great exercise: It has long been known that exercise, in particular endurance and flexibility training, is great for our physical and mental well-being, especially as we move into our later years. Dancing requires ongoing learning in the form of recognizing changing routines, steps, speed and rhythm. Studies show that this leads to improved memory, balance, and movement.

In our opinion, it also leads to improved attitude. And that can be circular: being fit helps make you happy, which makes you want to dance, which makes you even happier, which makes you more fit … and on and on.

But you don’t need to be a ballerina, Fred Astaire, or a half-drunk Millennial to reap the benefits of dance. Square dancing provides all the physical and mental exercise you could ask for–as well as an emotional boost that you’ll feel the rest of the day. It’s a perfect opportunity to socialize, meet friends, and de-stress after a long week.

In other way, it’s a great way to get happy.

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