Sing, sing a song,
Sing out loud, sing out strong,
Sing of good things not bad,
Sing of happy not sad.
Sing, sing a song,
Make it simple to last your whole life long.
Don’t worry that it’s not good enough
For anyone else to hear.
Just sing, sing a song.
– Joe Raposo
The latest research says singing is good for our health. Scientists have found that singing, especially singing in groups, decreases anxiety and stress and increases the production of oxytocin promoting a sense of trust and bonding, and endorphins stimulating a sense of well-being. The best thing is you don’t have to be ready for the Met or about to release your latest record. In fact, you can sound a lot more like the frogs that sneak in and croak in our son’s pond. It’s singing, not singing well, that keeps you healthy.
The first floor of the building in which I worked in Syracuse housed a Senior Center that provided a meal and activity program for healthy seniors, as well as a respite program serving Alzheimers patients. Observing the clients, I watched as some who had lost the ability to speak would join in with “The Boogie, Woogie, Bugle Boy” or “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree With Anyone Else But Me.” Ease and enjoyment would soften faces that minutes before were frozen.
I learned we sing from a different part of our brain than we speak.
Digging a little deeper, just music by itself has amazing benefits. I found an article summarizing several different studies that discovered: Two thirds of patients who had experienced post-traumatic stress disorder memory loss reduced their anxiety levels and enhanced their orientation if they listened to music twice a day.
Even better listening to music helps pain, even chronic pain, especially persistent back pain. The article I read explained that music works not only in the limbic system, making us relax, but also within the autonomic nervous system which controls blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate.
Like meditation, playing calming music slows down our breathing, thereby reducing our heart rate and lowering our blood pressure. All of that helps us unclench muscles in our neck and shoulders and back where most of us carry tension when we are stressed. Voila! Relaxation. Fewer headaches. Less back pain.
When I worked as a therapist and social work manager, people always asked me how I could work in the field I did. How did I keep from being horribly impacted by working with domestic violence, survivors of sexual abuse, and children who had been traumatized? I always responded: “I sing in a choir.” Sometimes, when it had been an especially difficult week, I would add, “…when I’m really stressed, I just sing louder”
Depending on the person asking and the depth I perceived in their question, I might add, “I also rely on my faith.” For me, both were needed, though I didn’t have the science then to show how helpful singing was physically or psychologically with or without faith. But for me, personally, music and prayer – body and soul integrated – best let me release any clenching of muscles or spirit. But faith or not, I now have read the studies that confirm the first part of my equation for health.
So, today, I pass on that simple life lesson that I stumbled upon before I knew the science. Are you tense, depressed, or worried? In pain? Listen to the radio or YouTube, play a CD, watch a music video – and sing, sing along. Especially stressed? Sing out loud, sing out strong. La la, la la la, la la la, la la la, la la la, la la la la