Go on, admit it. You love to belt out a song when you think no one can hear you. Whether it’s in the car or in the shower, we all love to sing, and a growing amount of research is helping to explain just why it feels so good.
We first start singing when we’re infants. John Lennon, retired Emeritus Professor Of Vocal Performance at Emporia State University, says, “Singing is an inborn response in those moments of absolute emotional tranquillity. Babies sing to themselves. Like the infant, we sing because we feel good and singing makes us feel even better, in fact, it may well be counterproductive to one’s wellbeing not to sing.”
Music is a defining part of human nature, and singing is a form of expression that is understood by everyone, regardless of language or race, which may explain why shows like The Voice and Australian Idol are always a huge hit with audiences. Whether we are actively participating or just watching, there are definitely good reasons to keep it up.
Studies show that when you sing you are benefiting from the practice on a physical, mental and emotional level. Some of the benefits documented are:
• Physical Relaxation
• Emotional Release
• Stress Reduction
• Increased Self-confidence and Self-esteem, and
• A sense of therapeutic benefit in relation to long-standing psychological and social problems (depression/anxiety, history of abuse, drug and alcohol issues).
Researchers have found that a little organ in the inner ear, called the sacculus, responds to frequencies found in music and is connected to the part of the brain responsible for registering pleasure. The sacculus only responds to certain frequencies, including singing, which it registers within seconds, so you get an instant pleasure hit when you sing, whether or not you sound like Beyoncé or Bruno Mars.
Singing has also been shown to strengthen the immune system. Scientists took blood samples from a professional choir before and after an hour-long rehearsal. They found that concentrations of immunoglobin A antibodies in the immune system had increased significantly, as had levels of hydrocortisone, an anti-stress hormone.
The benefits seem to be even greater when you sing in a group. Apart from all the great physical benefits gained, singing in a choir can help with feelings of hopelessness and isolation.
A great example of this is the group of disadvantaged/homeless people that came together to form the Choir of Hard Knocks. Brought together by singing teacher and choirmaster Jonathon Welch, the group’s lives changed for the better when they started singing and performing together. All of the choir members have now gone from being on welfare to being self-sufficient and in part- or full-time employment. They continue to meet every week to sing, as it has been such a positive influence on their lives.
So whether you decide to sing in the car or head out to join a choir, you’re doing yourself, and your health, a big favour!