Sing out loud

Critics of the musical theater genre complain that all the spontaneous singing is uncomfortably unnatural. After all, who launches into a song and dance number (choreographed and in four-part harmony, no less) during the course of the day? My husband lodged this complaint early in our marriage, when I rented “Fiddler on the Roof” for a date night. But spontaneous crooning was normal in the house I grew up in, with any one of us likely to belt out a show tune, a bluegrass number or the latest pop song at any given minute. There was something therapeutic about blasting out a tune at the top of our lungs.

Are you a shower singer or a car crooner? Do you kill it in karaoke? Sing your favorite tune today in the venue of your choice. Research shows that singing is good for your health in a number of ways.

“Singing in the rain”

Even in the pouring rain, Gene Kelly dances and sings his exuberant way through soggy Hollywood streets. Singing actually improves mood and wellbeing, according to a number of studies. Endorphins (hormones associated with pleasure) and oxytocin (hormones that alleviate anxiety and stress) are both released when we sing. (1)

An experiment with homeless men who participated in a choir showed a decrease in depression and better emotional well-being among participants. Another study contrasted singers in disadvantaged versus wealthier areas, and found that both groups identified singing as having therapeutic value. A survey administered to 1,124 choir singers in three European countries had 67% of singers in agreement that singing contributed to well-being, with comments such as “When you sing, you cannot be sad for long. It really lifts your spirits.” (2)

“Do-re-mi”

In Sound of Music, Julie Andrews bounds about Vienna singing “Do-re-mi” like an aerobic dance instructor in a manic phase. If all singing involved this much calisthenics, opera singers might be a little more lithe. Even if you opt out of the dancing, singing is good for your physical health.

Considered an aerobic activity, singing increases oxygenation in blood and exercises major muscles groups in the upper body. (3) The presence of immune system proteins in the saliva increases after singing, an indication of enhanced immune capabilities, according to some studies. (2,3) Singing even improves breathing for those with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. (4)

“Don’t you remember”

British singer Adele did not perform “Don’t you remember” to remind us that singing improves memory, but studies do show that singing helps with the cognitive tasks of both memory and focus. It may also delay the onset of age-related cognitive issues. (4) Adele’s no-holds-barred style is a great example of singing with “all we’ve got.” Sing like Adele today, and experience improved mental, physical and cognitive health.  

 

References

  1. Horn S. Singing changes your brain. Time online. Aug 16, 2013. Accessed April 12, 2017.
  2. Clift S and Hancox G. The significance of choral singing for sustaining psychological wellbeing: Findings from a survey of choristers in England, Australia and Germany. Music Performance Research: Special issue of Music and Health. 2010;3(1):79-96
  3. Singing is good for you. Helping Hearts: Heart research UK website. Accessed April 12, 2017.
  4. Singing is good medicine. Berkeley wellness. December 18, 2015. Accessed April 12, 2017.
Dana Vaughan

About Dana Vaughan

Dana completed a Master of Public Health (MPH) and a Master of Social Work (MSW) at San Diego State University, and has worked in family planning education, prenatal counseling, and child development. She loves her mountain bike, her husband, her kids, and her faith—although possibly not in that order.

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