I'm first to admit that my singing voice leaves a lot to be desired (and that's putting it nicely) and yet, I make an effort to sing all the time. Especially since having kids, our house seems full of (out-of-tune) melodies.
Recent research supports the idea that singing has the power to change our moods, our emotional landscape and how we see the world. Moreover, group singing, whether in church, school or amateur choir can have some surprising physical and mental health benefits.
In Growing Up Happy, Dr Barnett and I have a whole chapter on how singing boosts happiness, but here are three recent studies to give you all the more reason to sing, at home or at school:
1. It can lessen symptoms of depression and anxiety. In a large study of over 1000 choral singers, researchers found that singing in a choir seemed to have a positive on psychological and physical well-being. The effect was bigger for women, it seems. Some of the reasons for the positive effects of singing that this study found for this change were improved mood, focused attention, deep breathing and social support.
2. It may boost your immune functions. It seems that singing in a choir can boost your mood... and your immune system. Scientists found that regular singing in a choir boosted secretory immunoglobulin A and decreased cortisol. Both of these factors may help you fight off infection. Mood boosting effects were also reported.
3. It can have the same effects as meditation. Meditation has been a buzzword for the last few years, seen as a solution to the stresses and pressures of modern life, and quite rightly so. A study from Sweden, which looked at heart rate variability and other physiological effects, found that the effects of singing can be very similar to that of meditation. It seems that singing can produce this optimal blend of calmness and alertness that is central to well-being. As singing tends to be more accessible than meditation to many, it could be used as an alternative.
4. And finally, this is one of my favourites, you don't have to be any good at it to reap the benefits: a 2005 study found that performance does not matter. To quote the researchers "[singing] can produce satisfying and therapeutic sensations even when the sound produced by the vocal instrument is of mediocre quality.” That would be me then...
Growing Up Happy: Ten proven ways to increase your child's happiness and well-being by Alexia Barrable and Dr Jenny Barnett is available from Amazon.