Singing for your Wellbeing

Introduction

Singing in a choir is beneficial in a number of different ways. It not only helps forge social bonds, it also does so particularly quickly, acting as an excellent icebreaker. Group singing can also improve physical and mental health.

Body and Mind

Researchers from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden found that singing in a group leads to the synchronisation of heart rates, and increased the variability of heart rate, which is potentially beneficial as low variability is linked to high blood pressure. All that standing up straight helps to improve posture and deepens breathing. Professor Graham Welch of the University of London, says: "Singing is an aerobic activity that increases oxygenation in the bloodstream and exercises major muscle groups in the upper body, even when sitting."

Studies from the Goethe University and from the Royal College of Music found that amateur group singing can also help improve the immune system and, in particular, in the defence against respiratory infections and even cancer. Listening to and participating in music has also been shown to be effective in pain relief, too, probably due to the release of neurochemicals such as β-endorphin (a natural painkiller responsible for the "high" experienced after intense exercise).

Regular choir members report that learning new songs is cognitively stimulating and helps their memory, and it has been shown that singing can help those suffering from dementia, too. The satisfaction of performing together, even without an audience, is likely to be associated with activation of the brain's reward system, including the dopamine pathway, which keeps people coming back for more.

The Psychology of Singing

Singing has also been shown to improve our sense of happiness and wellbeing. Research has found, for example, that people feel more positive after actively singing than they do after passively listening to music or after chatting about positive life events. Improved mood probably in part comes directly from the release of positive neurochemicals such as β-endorphin, dopamine and serotonin. It is also likely to be influenced by changes in our sense of social closeness with others. Increasing evidence suggests that our social connections can play a vital role in maintaining our health - a good social network, for example, can have more health benefits than giving up smoking. So it's possible that singing can improve health by expanding our social group. Indeed, the rapid social bonding that choirs encourage could therefore be even more beneficial. Even if we don't necessarily talk to everyone in our choir, we might experience a general feeling of being connected with the group, leading to our sense of increased community and belonging.