Why Alan Bersten Wants to Stay Nervous“I'm in my era of learning new things.”
After eight seasons of getting celebrities into ballroom form on Dancing With the Stars—and securing the Mirrorball Trophy in Season 28—professional dancer Alan Bersten knows a thing or two about motivation and setting goals. While his time this season was short lived (he was partnered with Jamie Lynn Spears), Bersten is keeping busy preparing for the DWTS 2024 tour, recreating memorable dance scenes from movie history, and rolling out his new Berst10 Fitness program that’s aimed at helping people tap into mental health benefits with 10 minutes of physical activity.
“I’m such a firm believer of physical activity, not only for fixing your mood with all the endorphins, but I also think it is good for [long-term] mental health. At least, it has been for me, and I can see the direct correlation of going and working out and feeling better,” he tells Wondermind.
Here, Bersten sits down for a quick mental health check-in to share how else he takes care of his mental well-being and how he embraces DWTS nerves.
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WM: What’s invigorating you right now?
Alan Bersten: I'm currently reading The Four Agreements, and I feel like that is quite invigorating. I like learning new things about myself. I'm in my era of learning new things.
WM: What's that book about? What are you learning through it?
AB: I recently started therapy and it's been really helpful to dig deep down and fix some issues that I feel like I have with myself. So The Four Agreements also deals with allowing yourself to do certain things that you might've thought were wrong in the past. It's kind of rebuilding your fundamentals, I suppose.
WM: What has your experience with therapy been like?
AB: Honestly, it's been amazing. It's so good to be able to talk to somebody, especially somebody that I don't really know and somebody that doesn't know me. It is almost like an unbiased conversation and very freeing.
WM: What else is in your mental health toolkit?
AB: I really like coffee shops, so I'll start the morning and just go to a coffee shop and kind of just explore. I've lived in LA for I want to say nine years now, and I still find new coffee shops every day. I just really enjoy having time for myself.
Luckily, when I'm part of Dancing With the Stars, it's my dream come true. I love dancing. And when we get some time off, it's like, What do I do now? I feel like staying active and just listening to what I need is what keeps me happy and keeps me going.
So sitting at a coffee shop and either reading a book or just sitting there for 30 minutes and letting my mind wander, I've really learned to love that.
WM: When you reflect on your mental health journey, what stands out?
AB: First of all, I'm 29 years old. I feel like a child sometimes. I'm quite immature in certain things, and I feel like I've been trying to break certain patterns that I've had. It hasn't been something that was so specific where I was like, Oh, I need this. It's been more of a journey of: I really love this part of myself. I really want to fix this part about myself. I want to just keep growing. And I think, for me at least, growing is the answer. I love being either pushed to do something new or to try to learn something new. I feel so good about myself when I accomplish something and set a goal and achieve that goal.
So I think with therapy, with working out and everything, it's just setting these little goals and learning something new about yourself or proving to yourself that you can do this or just growing day by day.
WM: What mental health goals are you working on this year?
AB: If I'm being honest, I think a goal of mine is to be more accepting. People are just so quick to judge. And I feel like the more you are able to accept everyone for who they are, the better life is for everyone.
WM: I think that also helps you accept yourself in a lot of ways too.
AB: Absolutely. Mental health isn't just for others, it's for myself as well. I want to be more accepting of myself, and I want to continue to grow for myself, not [just] for others.
WM: On Dancing With the Stars, you help celebrities perform new skills on a national stage. When you go out there, do you ever get nervous? And what helps you keep your cool before performances?
AB: When I'm dancing with a celebrity, I get very nervous because I want to make sure I gave them enough. The journey isn't about me—it's all about my partner. I want to make sure I've prepared them enough and that they feel confident in themselves because they're putting so much trust in me.
So when I get nervous, it's more like, I hope I did a good job. I believe in this person so much. I hope they can see how much I believe in them, and hopefully they can believe in themselves as well. But also, when I go on tour with Dancing With the Stars, I get nervous performing without celebrities. It’s because I love dancing so much. I love performing so much.
I feel like the second those nerves leave, I feel like I wouldn't care as much, and that scares me. I really love feeling nervous and feeling excited, and I don't take it for granted ever because it makes me feel like myself when I'm dancing. I enjoy the nerves.
In the past with my partners, we'd do something like pray right before we danced or we’d do a little scream. It's different with everyone. It's whatever allows me to connect with my partner best. Once we're both in that mindset, the nerves are still there, but we trust each other and trust the process. Those nerves never leave.
WM: What's the best piece of mental health advice you've received?
AB: You have to be able to forgive yourself for things. No matter if other people forgive you, if you don't forgive yourself, you won't be able to grow and move on. It's allowing yourself to realize that people make mistakes—that you can make mistakes—and just accept that and grow from that. As long as you keep pushing forward, everything's going to be OK.
WM: If you could give yourself a pep talk right now, what would you say?
AB: Just enjoy every moment. You can always find good in everything. You can always find bad in everything. If you make the choice to find the good, I think it will just invigorate your life. I actually read a book, it's called The Magic. It is by the same person that did The Secret, and it's like a workbook. Every morning I wake up and write 10 things that I'm grateful for, and you're supposed to do it for 28 days. I did Day 190 today.
I don't think I would've done that a year ago. I think it's because I'm going through all this growth that I'm like, You know what? I want to do this. I want to do this for myself. And there's so much to be grateful for.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
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