Sing a Song – A Lesson on Music and Health

Neon music sign

Neon music sign (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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.

Saint Lucy's Day (Lucia). Singing. Sweden, 2007.

Saint Lucy’s Day (Lucia). Singing. Sweden, 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

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About joanneeddy

Writer living in North Carolina. Originally from upstate New York. I love my family, my community, and my friends, and embrace 'living deliberately' in the world, trying to make a difference. I have written an as yet unpublished book, The Call, an epic fantasy with historical fiction and folklore elements. My blog is for other writers, for those who love a good read, and for all who, like me, are looking to find and live their call.
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8 Responses to Sing a Song – A Lesson on Music and Health

  1. Bernadette says:

    Joanne, Well first of all again you have hit several chords with me (no pun intended). The opening song is the one I always sing to my grandchildren. And then Kermit’s song is my favorite for them when things get a little tough. When my son Andrew was in his coma we played his music for him 24 hours a day. We are a family of music lovers and he has an extensive and eclectic collection of music. He sustained in his brain injury in October 2002 and in February 2003 I was sure I was seeing him lip synching to the music. He couldn’t use his voice because of the trache. Finally on Valentine’s Day as he lay in his bed, Louis Armstrong came on singing It is a Wonderful World and a Doctor and Nurse observed the same thing and I was able to get further neurological help for Andrew. I have read extensively about music and the brain and it is your first section of memory to develop and last portion to lose. It is also my opinion that really comforting and familiar music should also be played in the hospice setting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • joanneeddy says:

      What a powerful and touching story, Bernadette! How wonderful that you knew to use music to help reach out to him and help him reach you. I also think your hospice idea is so right. (Have I told you my husband is a minister?) His mentor, Art, was especially fond of chamber music. He died of cancer a few years after Doug worked with him and his children told Doug that his last words were “The strings are so lovely.” To them it was as if he was welcomed into heaven with music.


    • ellenbest24 says:

      This made my eyes leak and i’m on my way out. you are so bad * sniff* Louis Armstrong’s wonderful world is one of my favourites I have him singing on one of my posts about the power of voice.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. ellenbest24 says:

    Joanne I believe everything you say, I am one of the happiest people and although I apparently sound terrible… no I really do. I sing or listen to music every day in fact I have been known to burst into a song from nowhere, because a statement made, or a word said, reminded me of a song. I know thousands of bits of songs but I am not sure I know a whole one. Thank you for sharing. I came via Bernadette’s salon today. ,

    Liked by 1 person

    • joanneeddy says:

      Thanks, Ellen. I am like that as well. I don’t sing terribly, only barely well enough to sing in our church choir…but like you, I am always walking around singing…often songs my mother used to play (like Louis Armstrong), or a bit of pop music (Hello by Adele lately – first few words only, of course) or snatches of hymns. Thanks, for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. joanneeddy says:

    …also an important task, lol!


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