Belting out a tune in the shower might actually be doing you more good than you think according to the latest look at the health and wellbeing benefits of singing from Opera North. Here are their Top 10 reasons why it is well worth giving your vocal cords a regular workout during lockdown and beyond.

Singing makes you feel better

An increasing amount of evidence shows that singing releases endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. Those are the ‘happy’ chemicals that boost your mood and make you feel good about yourself. Scientists believe they are one of the reasons why people report being on a high during choir sessions and continue to feel positive, uplifted and motivated afterwards. Singing also introduces more oxygen into the blood leading to better circulation – and a better mood.

Singing enhances lung function

We often take our lungs for granted, but most of us rarely use them to their full capacity. The way singing requires you to breathe makes you do just that, increasing your lung capacity as well as engaging the muscles around the ribcage.

Jennifer Sterling, Choral Director for Opera North’s virtual choir, From Couch to Chorus, explains:

“The controlled nature of breathing in singing increases lung capacity and has been used to help rehabilitate people recovering from lung conditions and to increase lung health for ex-smokers. More recently, it has been shown to benefit people suffering from long Covid.”

 Singing helps you beat stress and relax

As well as benefitting your lungs, breathing properly and with more awareness is good for releasing anxiety creating a state of rest and relaxation. After a bad day at work or at home, singing’s stress-busting properties can help you forget your worries by simply being in the moment.

Singing helps improve memory

Singing can help improve mental alertness, memory and concentration as it involves focusing on multiple things at once, engaging many areas of the brain in the process. Music is increasingly become a feature of dementia care, in part because it has proved such a powerful tool in sparking memories, often long after other forms of communication have diminished.

Singing builds a sense of community

Even with choirs going virtual, singing is still a fantastic communal activity. Singing with other people, whether in the flesh or on screen, can help build connections and feelings of togetherness. Recent research has shown that the sense of self-other merging we experience by synchronizing our voices with others is a great way to fast-track social bonding.

Singing lets you express yourself

Singing is the perfect way to let go and express how you feel. For Opera North’s From Couch to Chorus: Sing into Spring, the repertoire has been chosen to tap into a range of emotions with three contrasting pieces offering a gentle plea to the gods for a safe voyage by Mozart, a wedding dance by Dvořák and a triumphal march by Verdi. Even better while you sing, you can enjoy watching other people expressing themselves too!

Singing can help with pain relief

By supporting wellbeing and giving participants a healthy dose of joy, singing can be beneficial for people living with persistent pain. Dr Frances Cole, who set up the 2021 Footsteps Festival, explains why they chose to include singing sessions as part of the year-long celebration:

“Singing brings joy to people’s faces and lives. It helps them shift from yet another day ‘enduring pain’ to having joyful, fun times and feeling connected to others. We also find it helps with confidence, reconnecting people with themselves in positive, fruitful and compassionate ways, enabling them to live well.”

Singing boosts your confidence

Many people get nervous at the thought of performing in public but singing in a group can actually help boost your confidence and fire up your self-esteem – and the good news is that the more you do it, the more confident, you will feel. Good posture is also a key factor in successfully hitting the high notes, so you will find you are naturally standing taller by the end.

Singing features in wellbeing studies

The University of Leeds is so convinced of the positive impact music can have that they offer a MA in Music and Wellbeing, exploring in more depth the relationship between engaging with music and the effect it has on health and happiness. Dr Freya Bailes, who leads the MA, explains why she believes this is such an important area of research:

“When we challenge our students to think critically about whether there is really anything special about music for wellbeing, the answer seems to be that music has it all! Singing with others contributes to positive mood, is engaging, promotes relationships with others, is experienced as meaningful, and can afford a strong sense of accomplishment.”

Singing is for everyone

It does not matter whether you think you can sing in tune or not: the health benefits will still be the same. Singing in the comfort of your own home over Zoom means no-one can hear the sound you are making anyway, so you can simply let go, have fun and experience for yourself the wellbeing singing brings. As Oliver Rundell, Chorus Master at Opera North, comments:

“Everybody has a voice and everybody can sing. It’s a brilliant way of just giving yourself some time. Simply tune out the rest of the world and enjoy the physical sensation of breathing in and creating a note with your body.”

If that all leaves you keen to give singing a go, there is still time to join Opera North’s pay-as-you-feel virtual choir, From Couch to Chorus: Sing into Spring, where you can pick up some singing tips and techniques from the experts. Find out more at operanorth.co.uk


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