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  • Writer's pictureSandra Zecevic

Cry out loud if you must...but you are better off singing it instead

In these times of heightened ‘personal responsibility’ for our wellbeing, the quest for health of body and mind, takes us down many interesting routes. While the GP can point us in certain directions, it seems many of us are taking health into our own hands. We hope to achieve a much coveted sense of wellbeing through nutrition, yoga, meditation, sport, therapy and/or the arts depending on our own personal interests, values and what we have available.


The reasons for this “personal responsibility” trend in health are quite complex and I may explore this topic in another blog post; however, in this one I would like to focus on the benefits of one of my favourite performing art forms: singing.


Physical health

The physical benefits of singing are well-documented:

  • A Swedish study suggests singing increases oxygenation and muscle mass in the upper body.

  • It’s good for your heart, lungs and exercising of the vocal cords has been shown to lengthen life expectancy claims Healthy Hearts foundation.

  • Improved posture and aerobic exercise were also possible contributors to some of these health benefits.

  • The release of endorphins (the feel good hormones) when you sing also contributes to both physical and psychological health: its positive effect in reducing stress levels and generally creating a sense of emotional well-being.

  • Various journal articles reporting research findings claim that singing is found to be effective as a stress buster, to strengthen your immune system and to manage chronic pain, Parkinsons, depression and blood pressure.

Community

Singing is good for your physical and emotional health, but it seems that singing with others is even better.

  • Many studies have found that singing in a choir had significant benefits to mental health: the sense of community and belonging to a group decreases social isolation and the sense of loneliness so common in modern times.

  • A joint study by Yale and Harvard Universities found that being part of a choir increased life expectancy

  • Another study published by the Frontiers of Neuroscience journal found that singing can enhance the spirit of cooperation in a group because it helps regulate activity in the vagus nerve which is linked to emotions and communication with others.

  • Research found that when choir members sing together their heartbeats become synchronised, beating faster and slower as they breathe in and out in unison. The researchers claim that choral singing is said to be good for your health, because reducing the variability of your heart rate is desired for optimum health.

Distraction

  • Keeping your mind occupied learning lyrics, tempo, harmonies is a great way to give yourself a break from worrying and rumination.

  • Carving out the time constructively to engage in such activities helps us to become better organised and not be tempted to veg out on the sofa.

  • Opportunities to problem solve, learn something new, achieve a particularly difficult piece (hitting that high C for example) can give us a sense of purpose, something to strive for, and confidence in ourselves when we finally achieve it.

In truth, many of the health benefits outlined above can be harnessed from any type of hobby: yoga, sports, creative writing or even DIY. Singing seems to encompass many of these benefits due to the strong physicality of the activity and the potential social and creative dimensions to it. To achieve most benefit, according to the research, is to sing in groups – choral societies, musical theatre companies. The more the merrier. Perhaps instead of anti-depressants, GPs can offer Choral Singing on Prescription?


More on this topic:

How Stuff Works: http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/inside-the-mind/emotions/singing-happy2.htm

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/10496056/Choir-singing-boosts-your-mental-health.html

Healthy Hearts: http://heartresearch.org.uk/fundraising/singing-good-you

NHS: http://www.nhs.uk/video/Pages/singing-and-mental-health.aspx


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