Most of us enjoy singing, even if we can’t all sing well. Whether we’re belting out musical numbers at fancy black tie events or singing Taylor Swift into our showerheads, it’s a part of most of our everyday lives. Recently, it’s also been getting attention for its possible health effects.
In a How Stuff Works article, “Does singing make you happy?”, Julia Layton wrote that “the act of singing releases endorphins, the brain’s feel-good chemicals” and cited a 1998 study in which nursing home residents who took part in a month-long singing program showed noticeably lower levels of anxiety and depression.
“Singing can have some of the same effects as exercise, like the release of endorphins, which give the singer an overall lifted feeling and are associated with stress reduction,” Layton wrote. “It’s also an aerobic activity, meaning it gets more oxygen into the blood for better circulation, which tends to promote a good mood. And singing necessitates deep breathing, another anxiety reducer.”
Some start-up organizations are capitalizing on these benefits. In an article called “Why singing makes you happy” for the Telegraph, Serena Allott discusses her reaction to a class with vocal trainer Nikki Slade.
Slade works with an organization called Natural Voice that provides a “judgement-free environment” in which people can improve their singing. After speaking with her, Allott says singing is as effective a stress-reliever as yoga.
“By the end of [an hour-long class], during which I laughed and cried, it seemed perfectly natural to be moving to the music without inhibition,” Allott wrote. “I left glowing and feeling energized.”
There have also been books written about the benefits of singing, including this year’s Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness Singing with Others, a memoir by author Stacy Horn, who says her life drastically improved through her 30 years with the Choral Society of Grace Church in New York City.
The Huffington Post’s Brenda Peterson interviewed Horn about her memoir. Horn said that she lost her mother, her cat, and a relationship, all in one year. It was through singing Brahms’ “A German Requiem” that her grief began to fade. “It surged through me from head to toe, transforming my grief to the hope that bursts forth in those measures,” she said.
Personally, I can also attest to that effect. I used to be part of the UTM choir, and when I felt down, singing in the choir always made me feel better. It didn’t simply make my problems go away, but singing made me feel like I could deal with them.
Rachel Menezes, a fourth-year social sciences student, found the same thing. “Singing is therapy for me. […] It makes me happy because it makes me forget all the mundane, any pain and material things,” she says. “It’s meditative, aesthetic, and a form of worship for me.”
Considering all this, it seems like the best advice is to keep singing. Whether or not you feel you can do it well, it might serve as a means for you to relieve stress, to recover from traumatizing events, or simply to improve your health and provide a meditative space.