At one time people sang; people sang a lot, in church or chapel, in school, in choirs, around camp fires with friends or around the piano with family and as a result, we sang throughout our days whilst getting on with everyday tasks. These days most of us don’t sing very much at all.
Do you know how good singing, especially in groups, is for us?
The act of singing causes the body to release endorphins, which are the body’s feel good chemicals and associated with pleasure. The deep breaths taken during singing equates to that of aerobic exercise, which increases blood flow and releases endorphins. Singing makes us take deep breaths, which in turn increases blood flow around the body and helps increase the endorphins’ effect. It’s been found that we get a similar endorphin rush when we laugh, eat chocolate, or hold a baby.
Endorphins interact with the opiate receptors in the brain to reduce our perception of pain and act similarly to drugs such as morphine and codeine.
Cortisol, the stress hormone, drops more quickly when we sing. We therefore start to feel calmer and less anxious.
Singing also releases Dopamine, the Shiver down the spine feeling. This neurotransmitter is linked to basic human biological needs like food and sex.
Singing in a group encourages feelings of bonding & trust, increasing the feeling of togetherness. This is caused by the release of Oxytocin, the love hormone.
Immunoglobin A, antibodies, have been found to increase after singing. The University of Fankfurt found that after singing for One hour, there was a measured increase in Immunoglobin.
The Royal Academy of Music has done some research on the affect singing had on cancer patients. Before and after singing, visual analogue mood scales, stress scales and saliva samples testing for cortisol, beta-endorphin, oxytocin and ten cytokines were taken. Across all five centres and in all four participant groups, singing was associated with significant reductions in negative affect and increases in positive affect alongside significant increases in cytokines. In addition, singing was associated with reductions in cortisol, beta-endorphin and oxytocin levels. This study provides preliminary evidence that singing improves mood state and modulates components of the immune system.
An American study goes further and shows that participating has a different affect to just listening. Results indicate several significant effects. In particular, singing leads to increases in positive affect and S-IgA, while negative affect is reduced. Listening to choral music leads to an increase in negative affect. These results suggest that choir singing positively influences both emotional affect and immune competence. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15669447
Gottenburg University did an interesting study on the effect of heart rates during singing. They found that after a period of singing together, participants heart beats were synchronised and the pulses of choir members tended to increase and decrease in unison. https://sahlgrenska.gu.se/english/research/news-events/news-article//melody-modulates-choir-members-heart-rate-.cid1176267
There is even research to show that singing is good for snorers! https://www.singingforsnorers.com/refs.htm
Have a look at this great BBC documentary. If you don’t like running, sing instead!
Finally, this Ted Talk is inspiring and lifts the soul.