Singing is good for you!

 

…or should it be SINGING IS GOOD FOR EWE!

Something that everyone is becoming increasingly aware of is that singing is good for you and the reasons are many-fold as we shall see! Here is a guest blog written by the Assistant Musical Director of Black Sheep Harmony Choir about the benefits of singing.

Singing boosts the immune system.

When blood samples from people singing in a professional choir were analysed before and after a sixty-minute rehearsal of Mozart’s Requiem it was found that concentrations of immunoglobin A (proteins in the immune system which function as antibodies) and hydrocortisone (an anti-stress hormone) increased significantly during the rehearsal. A week later, when they asked members of the choir to listen to a recording of the Requiem without singing, they found the composition of their blood did not change significantly. The researchers concluded that the physical act of singing not only strengthened the immune system but also notably improved the performer’s mood.

Canterbury Studies

Two Canterbury studies provided results of interviews with members of the university’s choral society: Of the respondents:

  • 49% said they received spiritual benefit from their singing (and not necessarily through ‘spiritual’ music)
  • 58% benefited physically
  • 75% benefited emotionally
  • 87% benefited socially

The Benefits of Singing

Many studies carried out over a number of years have focused on the numerous benefits to health and well-being of singing, and these include:

  • Releasing endorphins into your system and making you feel energized and uplifted. Pain-relieving endorphins could even help you to forget that painful tooth/knee/whatever. It releases the same feel-good chemicals in the brain as sex and chocolate!
  • Boosting your immune system helping to fight disease and prolong life expectancy; people who sing are healthier than people who don’t.
  • Developing lung capacity and clearing sinuses and respiratory airways.
  • Toning facial, abdominal and intercostal muscles as well as the diaphragm, benefits the heart and circulation and promotes superior posture.
  • It makes us breathe more deeply than many forms of strenuous exercise, so we take in more oxygen, improve aerobic capacity and experience a release of muscle tension as well.
  • Singing is very effective as a stress reliever, improving relaxation and sleep.
  • It increases poise, confidence, self-esteem and presentation skills.
  • It also adds a rich, more pleasant quality to speech.
  • Singing animates the body, mind and spirit and improves your mental alertness, concentration and memory.
  • Through singing the performer is able to delve into characterization/acting, broaden expressive communication, stimulate insight into prose and poetry and pique interests in the inner meaning of words.
  • It enables one to appreciate the art of great singers

Singing is an ageless enjoyment and can provide some harmless aerobic exercise for the elderly or disabled. It is therapeutic both emotionally and physically.

It’s no wonder that choral singers appear to be on a “high” when leaving rehearsal! Many of us have times when we are tired, don’t feel ourselves or just can’t be bothered, but an evening of singing together always sends us home glad that we made the effort and feeling better than when we arrived.

Singers suffer less depression, make fewer visits to their GP, take fewer medications and are more likely to be involved in other activities.

 

Music as therapy

Music as therapy has been demonstrated to be useful in pain management, in facilitating the resolution of grief, as a means of finding a personal identity, to improve the lives of people with communications problems related to cognitive impairment, and to enhance the quality of life for Alzheimer’s patients. Many of these effects are things which we have had direct experience of, e.g. on occasions when we have sung in care homes, the residents have been delighted, involved (some singing along, some dancing) and uplifted. Those same feelings of joy and well-being are also experienced by us, the singers, so everyone benefits!

It’s not news to health professionals that mental & physical health are intimately linked. The advantages of singing are both physical and psychological, and have been recommended both prophylactically for well persons and therapeutically for ill persons for many years.

Good vocal technique has its advantages too!

Good vocal technique goes beyond the basics to include both physical and vocal warm-ups, proper nutrition, adequate rest and emotional commitment. An experienced vocal teacher will explore all aspects of posture, abdominal and chest development, tone production and breath control. What health club can promise these benefits?

When we sing with others in a choir, we get back as much as we give, if not more. We work hard at home to learn our part, but when we sing with others, the songs come alive. As we tune in to each other to harmonise we become connected by more than just the notes.  By watching and listening, we become more attentive to each other whilst at the same time forgetting the troubles of the day. It is a very special thing to be a part of!

We are all, in principle, capable of developing sufficient vocal skills to participate in a choir. Active group singing may be a risk-free, economic, easily accessible, and yet powerful way of enhancing physiological and psychological well-being.

Why children love music

Singing starts in infancy when babies sing to themselves.  The fact that we can’t recognise any identifiable tune does not mean that it is not singing. It has sustained emission, rhythm, pitch variation and emotional expression. Teachers have known for a long time that young children learn best through songs. Like the infant, we sing because we feel good and singing makes us feel even better. This is positive feedback – the better we feel, the more we sing therefore the better we feel! In fact, it may well be counterproductive to one’s well-being NOT to sing, even if only to ourselves.

Is the logic that if one ‘sounds better’, one ‘enjoys‘ it more? Do we sing primarily to sound better? It is a useful “fringe benefit” which helps if you are performing, but it is hardly the primary reason why we sing.

The sacculus, a little organ in the inner ear has been found to respond to frequencies commonly found in music. It is connected to the part of the brain responsible for registering pleasure. The sacculus is ONLY responsive to low frequency, high intensity sounds, which include singing, and it responds within a few seconds of hearing that kind of sound. So, you get immediate pleasure when you sing, regardless of what it sounds like to anyone else. You’ll find the experience enjoyable and get release of those good old pleasure-giving endorphins as well. Singing provides catharsis across the full emotional spectrum. It can give an immediate sense of happiness being a mood lifter and anti-depressant with no side effects. 

Sing away your woes!

You can even “sing away your woes.” Simply choose a familiar song, and then set your troubles to music. For example, to the tune of “The Grand Old Duke of York” try singing something else.

 “Oh, I’ve got some brand-new jeans, but I just keep eating snacks, my waist is feeling twice as big and I can’t get in my slacks!”

Sing your own version of the worry song, preferably out loud, for a few minutes until you feel less anxious. It works because the singing makes you feel ridiculous and may even make you smile. It’s very hard to maintain your distress when you’re doing something silly. You can take a step back from the worry and that helps to put it in perspective.

Add a social twist …

There are social benefits too: singing widens your circle of friends, it certainly has mine. Some of us have even been known to go to the pub afterwards!  Not only have I made lifelong friends in Black Sheep Harmony and become part of The SongSmiths quartet, but it has led to my joining in other ventures such as mixed choruses and “extreme quartetting”. This involves people from around the world, but that’s another story! Whether or not you become a world-class singer is not important. Sharing the joy of singing will enrich your life far beyond the notes and music. Add a healthy, new dimension to your life – sing!

 

‘There is delight in singing, tho’ none hear beside the singer’. 

Sue Davis, Assistant MD,

Black Sheep Harmony.

 

To find out more, look for Black Sheep Harmony on Facebook or Instagram, or visit their  website

Here is Black Sheep Harmony Choir in action with a lovely Christmas song!

 

(All pictures are from last year )

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About The Author

Sharon Critchlow

Sharon Critchlow is a Wellbeing Advocate, speaker and facilitator at Discover Your Bounce for Business. Passionate about people being the best they can be she is a Time To Change Champion for mental health and holds a Masters level qualification in strategic coaching for performance. Sharon is a qualified accountant and has 20 years experience in senior leadership roles in the financial services sector. www.discoveryourbounce.com www.time-to-change.org.uk