A couple months ago, I moved cross-country, and went from spending most of my time running around (literally) New York City to living on 50 very private acres in the foothills of the Oregon Coast Range. I love it, and I don't miss city living except occasionally — mostly when there's nothing good to eat and I can't just order up something delicious. In NYC, I was freelance, but worked at an office for one of my gigs two weeks a month; now I'm 100 percent on my own schedule. 

Having no frame other than the one you build yourself is one of the challenges of working independently, so with that in mind, I have been consciously making some changes to my workday and routine, experimenting with what works for me. This exploration has led me down the path that many modern workers are tasked with: How to get as much done in a day as possible without overworking and burning yourself out? Towards that end, I have explored the importance of taking breaks (it's better for your brain) and figured out the best times of day to get work done. I have established a morning routine so that I start my days off in a way that sets me up for success, and I always take two days a week off, preferably next to each other.

But while I exercise five days a week, the time when I'm not hiking, trail running, cycling or hitting the gym, I'm sitting. And while I usually enjoy my daily run, sometimes I just want to do something more ... fun. Combine that desire to move more with my love of what I'll call recreational dance (and no place to go dancing), and so, on Saturday, I held my first dance party. In the sunshine, with a great view of the mountains. By myself. 

Dancer silouetted by the sunshine

I felt a bit self-conscious at first. Then I realized that nobody could see me, which led to trying out crazier, sillier, or just plain riskier moves than I had ever tried on the dance floors of Madrid, San Francisco or New York City. I started in sneakers, and ended in bare feet. I started wearing layers, and ended up in a sweaty tank top with my leggings pulled up. I started at just past 3 o'clock, intending to force myself to move around in the sun for at least 20 minutes (I used my shadow, in the pictures here, to "see" how my moves were going), and headed inside at well past 4 p.m. because the sun was setting and it was getting cold.

Dancing this way was a revelation; it was a hard workout (I love to dance if I have the right music, and I did, more on that below) that's both aerobic and strength training for me, since I do moves that involve my legs and my core, as well as my upper body. It was tremendous fun too — I felt significantly lighter and happier when I walked back in the house. And most of the time, I was in the zone since when I dance I'm in the much coveted flow-state. I was practicing mindfulness by living completely in my body while moving to — and connecting with — great music. It all brought back a memory of when I was 7-8 years old, when I used to play Madonna and Janet Jackson in my backyard and dance until my grandmother called me in for dinner. 

Dancing in the sun

So I've decided to dance every day for the month of February — even if it's just one song (and one usually turns into two or three). And even if it's a quiet, slower song, for a quiet, slower day, I'm going to groove. I want to see how I feel at the beginning of March, but I'm pretty sure this is something I want to make a daily habit, and doing it every day for a month will get me there in the long term. And when I do hit the (public) dance floor again? I'll be better than ever. 

A note on music resources: The key to long dance sessions is great music, but personally, if I'm going to dance on a regular basis, I need to change up the tunes. Rather than try to piece a playlist together from stuff I've already heard 1,000 times, I turned to iTunes Radio — if you listen to it on your phone (I dance with my headphones on, whether indoors or out), there are no annoying commercials to interrupt your groove, which is important. I got a great mix by starting a new radio station with Daft Punk's "Robot Rock," which took me on an electronic music journey of super-danceable tunes. I also got a more urban/hip-hop mix that was fun by making a station around Pharrell's song, "Happy."

Dancing in the sun, part 2

Why not try dancing today? Or maybe you're brave enough to join me in my month of everyday dancing? Remember, dancing is fun, and free! No special equipment, clothing, instruction, or membership required — just pick your favorite music, and let your body move with it.  

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