After years of singing in church choirs it comes as no surprise that scientists have found that not only does singing in a choir makes you feel good, but it’s healthy for you too.
Physical Effects of Singing
Researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, found that choir member’s heartbeats synchronize when they sing together, bring a calming effect that is as beneficial as yoga. The scientist asked a group of teenagers to perform three choral exercises, humming, sing a hymn and chanting, while monitoring their heart rhythms during each exercise. They showed that singing has a dramatic effect on heart rate variability, which is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.
“Song is a form of regular, controlled breathing, since breathing out occurs on the song phrases and inhaling takes place between these,” says Dr. Vickhoff, who led the study. “It gives you pretty much the same effect as yoga breathing. It helps you relax, and there are indications that it does provide a heart benefit.”
Over the years, scientist have found that singing has a number of health benefits. Cardiff University in 2012 found that lung cancer patients who sang in a choir had a greater expiratory capacity than those who didn’t. Singing has also shown to boost the immune system, reduce stress levels. According to a report published in the Journal of Music Therapy in 2004, singing helped patients cope with chronic pain.
“Singing delivers a host of physical and emotional benefits, including increased aerobic exercise, improved breathing, posture, mindset, confidence and self-esteem,” says Jeremy Hywel Williams, who leads the LLaneli Choral Society in Wales.
Psychological Effects of Singing. Does Singing make you Happy?
In the United States, choral singing is the most popular of all arts related participatory activities. Across the country, 28.5 million people regularly sing in one of 250,000 chorus groups. Singing has some effects that other participatory activities don’t. Specifically choral singing, which is where the most recent and surprising research has been done.
Some of the greatest connections between singing and happiness are more mental than physical. They are harder to measure, but just as significant. All types of singing have a positive psychological effects. The act of singing releases endorphins, the “feel good” chemicals. But of all types of singing it’s choral singing that seems to have the most dramatic effects on people’s lives. Especially sacred choral groups, good old fashion church choirs.
A study published in Australia in 2008 revealed that on average, choir members rated their satisfaction with life higher than the public, even when the actual problems faced by those singers were more substantial than those faced by the general public. A 1998 study found that after nursing home residents took part in a singing program for a month, there were significant decreases in both anxiety and depression levels. `
Choral singers need to concentrate on their music and technique throughout the singing process, and it’s hard to worry about things like work or money or family problems when you’re actively concentrating on something else. So choral singer tend to have a built in ” stress free zone”. Learning is also part of the process, learning a new song, new harmonies, etc. helps keep the mind active and fends off depression.
The question remains, why choral singers specifically? Concentration and deep breathing can happen in a recording studio, or the privacy of your own home.
It’s because some of the most important ties between singing and happiness are social ones. The support system of being a part of a group, and the commitment to that group that gets people out of the house and into chorus every week- these are benefits that are specific to group singing. In addition singing anthems with uplifting messages help the choir members with problems that often come along with being human in modern times.
So if you want to have a more fulfilling and longer life, join a choir.
Many choirs are always looking for new members. Summer time is the perfect time to join one. The choir’s schedule is more relaxed, making it the perfect time to check it out.
The science doesn’t lie: singing really is better you health.
And, in the words of Ella Fitzgerald, ” the only thing better than singing – is more singing”.