In the world that was, I would, more often than not, be out dancing. I love dancing, usually with a group of like-minded friends.
Seven weeks into this clamp-down, it’s something I really miss.
But it’s likely one of the very last activities that will reopen to us. <Jodi, can you insert a sad face here?>
Instead, I’m into the last chapter of a book I’ve been reading: When, by Daniel Pink. Soft music is playing in the background.
The book is about the science of timing, about the rhythms of life. Some of the book is simply a studied, scientific support of things that I already know intuitively.
Things like the rhythm of the day, where most of us do our best work in the morning, have a slump in the afternoon and then rise to a secondary peak in the evening. Like the importance of correct beginnings. And the lasting value of endings, and how to make the most of them. And what to do to salvage the middle. Stuff in there, though, even to improve my writing.
That last chapter, though, changes direction a bit. It’s all about the value of “synching time,” that is precise timing within groups. It’s about the exceptional value we derive individually and as a group from being a part of an experience where we are in lock-step with everyone else in the group.
Two primary examples he uses are: being a member of a rowing team, where the coxswain controls the rhythm and eight rowers are in perfect synch with each other; and a choir, where the choir master leads all in a perfectly timed contribution to the whole. Both of these experiences end up being larger than the sum of their parts.
The benefits are apparently widespread and stunning. Among the scientifically documented benefits of choral singing: it calms heart rates, boosts endorphin levels, improves lung function, alleviates symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, and on and on, and finally: “cancer patients who sing in choirs show an improved immune response after just one rehearsal.” Wow!
Then there are, of course, the psychological payoffs, which he says are even greater than the physical ones: positive mood boost, self-esteem boost, reduced stress and symptoms of depression, feelings of belonging, enhanced sense of purpose and meaning, and increased sensitivity to others. And the list goes on.
He emphasized strongly, though, that these benefits come not from the act of singing, but strictly from singing in groups. Synching with colleagues is the key.
In summary, doing group activities that require total synching among its members is incredibly beneficial to our physical, mental and social health.
But then he adds the coup de gras, for the benefit goes beyond even that. It gives us a transcendent experience, or “Syncher’s High,” as he coined it. Rowers are familiar with it; they call a “rowers’ high.”
I thought to myself, as I finished the chapter: Dancing fits perfectly into that framework, as well. It’s right for me on a Saturday night! It’s what I should be doing!
Just as I finished the last paragraph, an all-time favorite dance song of mine came on. I cranked up the volume, jumped off the couch and “danced like no one is watching” (which, of course, they weren’t, and there were no synchronistic effects). But it sure felt good!
After a short break, I came back to the book, because I wasn’t really finished. A “Time-hackers handbook,” a practical section to help us implement lessons learned, follows each chapter.
I dove into it. This chapter’s hacker handbook started with “Seven ways to find your own “Syncher’s High.” I list them here (in the same order he did):
- Sing in a chorus
- Run together
- Row crew
- Join a yoga class
- Flash mob
- Cook in tandem
I rest my case . . .