By: Melanie Ashe
Whether you are a trained vocalist or someone who considers themselves a professional shower singer, singing gives you some sort of release. Perhaps it’s endorphins, adrenaline, a relief of stress, or an overwhelming wave of emotion that you feel when you open up your body to music and use your very own instrument. Being a performer, I have found an urge to sing when I am feeling stressed, sad, extremely happy, or angry. I often write music and sing when I am propelled to by my mental state, (which isn’t the best policy for becoming a song writer) but it helps me connect to whatever I am working on in a much deeper way. The same goes for the people I teach or come in contact within my field of work. Most of the students I meet feel a sense of relief or passion in a lesson because it is a place of trust, expression, and vulnerability. Singing alone or with a teacher can scare you and motivate you at the same time.
I have always been curious as to why I wanted to sing. What led me to this path I am currently on? And why am I so driven by emotions when it comes to this specific art form? So I did some research and discovered that singing is very much connected to your physical and emotional being.
Unlike other musical instruments, singing (and yes, we, humans, are a musical instrument) can affect the body in many different ways, resulting in various emotional states. Physically, singing can boost the immune system. At the University of Frankfurt, a study was done to test the blood of a professional choir “before and after an hour-long rehearsal singing Mozart’s “’Requiem,'” where proteins in the immune system were significantly higher after the rehearsal. Interestingly enough, there was no significant increase after the choir only listened to music but only when they were singing (Foot 1).
For anyone who has been singing for a significant period of time, you know that it is an aerobic exercise. You are burning calories as well as strengthening your diaphragm and your circulation. Exercise is known to release endorphins, which explains why most people feel “better” after they sing (Foot 1).
One physical benefit that truly surprised me was improvement in your sleeping habits…. Apparently, strengthening your palette and throat muscles can prevent or decrease snoring and sleep apnea. A study in 2008, “published in the journal Sleep Breath found that the prevalence and severity of snoring among semiprofessional singers and non singers indicated that singers scored lower on the snoring scale” (“The health benefits of singing a tune”). So for any of you who are quite the loud sleepers, it’s time to start whistling while you work.
As for psychological benefits, singing can lower stress, improve mental alertness, and functions as a natural anti-depressant, “When you sing, musical vibrations move through you, altering your physical and emotional landscape. Group singing, for those who have done it, is the most exhilarating and transformative of all. It takes something incredibly intimate, a sound that begins inside you, and shares it with a roomful of people and it comes back as something even more thrilling: harmony” (Horn 1). Along with endorphins, oxytocin, sometimes referred to as the love hormone, “has been found to alleviate anxiety and stress” is released while you sing. Furthermore, oxytocin also enhances feelings of bonding and trust, which explains the decrease in depression and loneliness (Horn 1).
When it comes to the physical and psychological benefits of singing, there is a lot it can do to improve your health in major ways. Some other health benefits besides improving your immune system, boosting of endorphins and oxytocin, a decrease in sleep apnea, and stress relief, are guided meditation, improvement with posture and concentration resulting in better memory recollection (“The health benefits of singing a tune”).
Besides the fact that you are healing yourself by creating music, you can open yourself up to a sense of newfound confidence, communication, and a passion for something beautiful whether or not you pursue music as your career or it is simply a hobby. Nothing fulfills me more than when I have an adult walk into my studio who used to sing in high school or college but later pursued other things, or started a family and is now deciding to pick it back up. Music will always be there for you. It is a language just as much as it is an art form. And whether or not it is a serious career, devotion, or hobby for you, it can be a part of your life in various mediums. For me, singing is my medium because I love creating music from my very own being. It feels like the most powerful and and motivating force in my life.