Whether you sing badly in the shower, like me, who can’t “carry a tune even in a bucket”, or as part of a
choir, you likely already know that singing is fun and appealing to a lot of people. What you may not know, there are Benefits In Singing. We are all gifted at birth with certain talents. That’s what makes us unique as individuals. Some of us can sing, some can’t, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy the health benefits of singing, even if it’s only in the shower, or just singing along with your favorite artist on one of their songs. So, let’s all strive to learn how to sing and be happy!
Believe it or not, more than 32 million American adults sing regularly in some 270,000 different groups nationwide, according to Chorus America, an advocacy group for the singing field.
Choral singing calms the heart and boosts endorphin levels. the ‘feel-good chemical’. It improves lung function. It increases pain thresholds and reduces the need for pain medication,
said Chorus America. Experts are now saying singing should be offered in prescription form, as new findings reveal singing can benefit both our physical and mental health. A multitude of studies, such as this one from National Institutes of Health, “A mixed-method systematic review to investigate the effect of group singing on health related quality of life,” suggest singing can help us feel happier, have a better outlook, by boosting mood and self-esteem, and improve symptoms from health conditions ranging from fighting depression, to improving quality of life, to treating Parkinson’s Disease.
Better Quality Of Life
Professor Stephen Clift, Director Of the Sidney De Haan Research Centre completed a study on singing and good health and said,
Singing engages the body, the mind and feelings, and brings people together in a meaningful and joyful activity. Singing is good for everyone, particularly, for people with breathing issues, as it helps to exercise the lungs and can combat feeling of depression and anxiety, and also address social isolation. Our research clearly documents all of these benefits. More and more singing for breathing groups are starting across the country.
His findings match similar trials measuring the benefits of choral singing on health, including choirs to help those with Parkinson’s Disease, depression, and dementia. In an earlier study, Professor Clift explored the impact of group singing on mental health. The results were impressive. Some 60% of participants had less mental distress a year into the choir than at the start, with some people no longer fulfilling the diagnostic criteria for clinical depression.
A study published in the BMJ looked at music interventions for dementia and depression in 65 years and older individuals, receiving home care, and the benefits. Mary Mittelman, a research professor with the Center for Cognitive Neurology at New York University, started a choir called the Unforgettables Chorus in 2011 to study the effects of a choir on people with dementia and their family members.
The study, evaluated by the NIH, found that participants with early to middle-stage dementia had increased communication with their caregivers, as well as improved their overall quality of life. Their family members and caregivers reported a boost in feelings of social support, communication and self-esteem.
Studies done by the National Institutes Of Health show positive mood changes among choir singers, including feeling happier, less anxious, less depressed, and overall more excited about quality of life and what it has to offer: Study 1 found better lung function in cancer survivors and Study 2 found better quality of life in older adults.
In Sweden experts recently reported that singing not only increases oxygen levels in the blood but triggers the release of ‘happy’ hormones such as oxytocin and serotonin, thought to lower stress levels and lower blood pressure. The NIH reviewed this study and concluded that, although very promising, more closely held trials are needed. Another study by Sage Journals showed the psychological and physiological effects of singing in a choir, had a positive effect on reducing anxiety.
Still another Sage Journal study compared the mental and emotional benefits of group singing from different socieconomic backgrounds. The study results indicate that the emotional effects of participation in group singing are similar regardless of training or socioeconomic status, but the interpersonal and cognitive components of the choral experience have different meanings for the marginalized and middle-class singers.
Another area of growth is in improving your quality of life and increasing your social circle, which boost your confidence and self-esteem. Stage fright is a common feeling for new singers. However, performing well and receiving praise from your friends and family may be the key to eventually overcoming your fears and
boosting your self-confidence. Another NIH study found and we quote:
Data analyses suggested that the higher the normalized singing development rating, the more positive the child’s self-concept and sense of being socially included, irrespective of singer age, sex and ethnicity.
With time, you may even find it easier to present any type of material in front of a group with poise and good presentation skills.
The physiological effects of singing are fairly well-documented. For those who doubt its power, just look at songbirds. When male songbirds sing to female songbirds, it activates the pleasure center of the male’s brain. In fact, scientists have discovered that the effect of singing on the birds’ brains is similar to the effect of addictive drugs on human brains.
However, this euphoria doesn’t occur if the male is alone and singing without the female present. This also holds true for humans, thus the appeal of singing in a choir or a group, or to someone.
Singing Allows For Social Bonding
Theories as to why music makes us feel all the feels date way back to ancient time. From the beginning of time, humans have made music, but scientists are stumped as to why. One of the theories, is that shared emotional experiences are crucial for living together in a group, it keeps us socially connected like the pride of apes that we are.
One of the more recent studies following this line of thinking found members of newly formed singing groups felt closer to each other after just a month of practice than members of newly formed groups with other creative goals, like crafting or writing. The study authors call it the ice breaker effect.
Some of the most important ties between singing and happiness are social ones and bonding. The support system of being part of a group, and the commitment to that group that gets people out of the house and into the chorus every week, which are benefits that are specific to group singing. And they seem to be a big
component of why choral singers tend to be happier than the rest of us. The Benefits In Singing are many, such as the feelings of accomplishment of learning how to sing, of belonging to a group, of being needed by the other members of that group, go a long way toward combating the loneliness that often comes along with being human in modern times.
Another way of bonding and broadening communication skills, is with babies, by using singing, which helps prepare their brains for language. Music is just as important as teaching reading and writing at a young age to prevent language problems later in life.
Parents should sing to their children every day to avoid language problems developing in later life,
according to a consultant Sally Goddard Blythe, of the Neuro Developmental Education and Director Of Institute For Neuro Physiological Psychology.
Benefits the Immune System
Japanese researchers tested saliva samples from a group of cancer patients and found higher levels of certain immune system molecules called cytokines after an hour of choir singing, plus, lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. According to the NIH, who reviewed the findings, said while the study has promise, authors say more research is needed to determine what kind of lasting effects regular singing could have on patients’ health. The study is at the very least preliminary evidence that singing could actually change and strengthen the immune system.
According to research conducted at the University Of Frankfurt, reviewed by The National Institutes Of
Health, singing boosts the immune system, when they concluded the following:
These results suggest that choir singing positively influences both emotional affect and immune competence. The observation that subjective and physiological responses differed between listening and singing conditions invites further investigation of task factors.
The study included testing professional choir members’ blood before and after an hour-long rehearsal singing Mozart’s “Requiem”. The researchers noticed that in most cases, the amount of proteins in the immune system that function as antibodies, known as Immunoglobulin A, were significantly higher immediately after the rehearsal. Equal increases were not observed after the choir members passively listened to music.
Improves Mental Alertness and Fitness
For the elderly, disabled, and injured, singing can be an excellent form of exercise. For older people, who are often isolated, the benefits are particularly marked. In a US National Endowment for the Arts study that evaluated different forms of creative engagement in people aged 65 and older, those who attended a choral group reported a higher overall rate of physical health, fewer doctor visits, less medication use, fewer instances of falls, better morale and less loneliness.
Singing improved blood circulation, in which an oxygenated blood stream allow more oxygen to reach the brain. This improves mental alertness, concentration, and memory. The Alzheimer’s Society has even established a “Singing for the Brain” service to help people with dementia and Alzheimer’s maintain their memories. The NIH reviewed the “Singing For the Brain” program and concurred with the findings and added that it helped the participants accept and cope with dementia.
Famed English musician, composer, record producer and singer Brian Eno has weighed in on the topic
already. Having started a Capella group with friends and finding immeasurable benefit from it, Eno wrote in an essay for NPR.
I believe that singing is the key to long life, a good figure, a stable temperament, increased intelligence, new friends, super self-confidence, heightened sexual attractiveness and a better sense of humor.
Slower Heart Rate.
Singing demands some pretty specific patterns in your breathing. It’s not entirely unlike yoga or meditation. It’s also an aerobic activity, meaning it gets more oxygen into the blood for better circulation, which tends to promote more stamina and good mood. And singing necessitates deep breathing, another anxiety reducer. Deep breathing is a key to meditation and other relaxation techniques, and you can’t sing well without deep breathing. You take bigger, slower breaths, and in the process, your heart rate typically begins to slow.
Even if you’re healthy, your lungs will get a workout as you employ proper singing techniques and vocal
projections. Other related health benefits of singing include a stronger diaphragm and stimulated overall circulation. Both yoga and singing are thought to help improve what’s known as heart rate variability a measure of the amount of time between heartbeats, according to a Frontiers In Psychology Study.
The research, rather surprisingly, also found that as members of a choir sang together, their heart rates started to sync up too, perhaps further bolstering that social connection factor of group singing.
Reduces Chronic Snoring
In a NIH Study, comparing choir singers and non-singers in London, researchers found a significantly lower severity of snoring and sleep apnea, of all things, among singers, even after taking into consideration snore-provoking factors like age and BMI (body mass index). When the muscles of our airways are soft or weak, they vibrate, causing that disruptive nighttime noise.
Alise Ojay, a singing teacher, designed a program of singing exercises which targeted the throat and stopped both chronic snoring and sleep apnea, which causes people to stop breathing during deep sleep. Her finding prompted a major study at Exeter University and the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust.
By the end of the 3-month trial the 30 snorers had significantly decreased their snoring compared to 30 others who didn’t try the treatment.
The conclusion that we came to, was that the three-month program of daily singing exercises reduced the frequency and severity of snoring, and improved overall quality of sleep,
said Malcohm Hilton, consultant who led the research.
Strengthening and toning those muscles just like any other muscle is believed to prevent snoring, as this “Singing Therapy Helps Cure Snoring Problems” CD covers
Speaking of singing exercises, check this Eugene Speech Therapy video out which helps strengthen all the throat muscles involved in singing. There’s more to this whole theory that singing is a fancy way of breathing concept. Naturally, some scientists have wondered if that slower, more purposeful breath could help people with actual breathing problems. So far, the research is only in early stages but has promise. There’s some evidence that singing can slightly improve lung function and reduce symptoms in people with mild asthma, according to a National Institutes Of Health Study, which concluded
The paucity, heterogeneity, and significant methodological limitations of available studies allow for only a weak recommendation for music therapy in asthma. This study highlights the need for further research of mixed methodology.
Similar research is also being done on treating COPD with promising results too.
Putting It All Together
Yes, enjoying music, dancing, and singing and participating on a regular basis is a major part of a proven path to your overall health and well being. If you read my 2 previous articles “Music Is For Therapy” and “I Just Want To Dance“, which covered all the many health benefits in listening to music and dancing, you already know this is true. If you haven’t read those 2 articles, here is your opportunity to do so.
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Even if you’re not a gifted singer, to reap the Benefits In Singing, are you ready to sing anyway, or join a choir? After all, your health and well being could depend on it! We’ll leave you with one more video from Vocal Splendor Studiosfrom Valorie Wright-Williams, explaining why you should sing every single day, regardless of whether you think you can sing or not! Your comments are welcomed, and if you have questions, please leave them below, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
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