Choir singing improves health, happiness – and is the perfect icebreaker
Body and mind
The physiological benefits of singing, and music more generally, have long been explored. Music making exercises the brain as well as the body, but singing is particularly beneficial for improving breathing, posture and muscle tension. Listening to and participating in music has been shown to be effective in pain relief, too, probably due to the release of neurochemicals such as β-endorphin (a natural painkiller responsible for the “high” experienced after intense exercise).
There’s also some evidence to suggest that music can play a role in sustaining a healthy immune system, by reducing the stress hormone cortisol and boosting the Immunoglobin A antibody.
Music has been used in different cultures throughout history in many healing rituals, and is already used as a therapy in our own culture (for the relief of mental illness, breathing conditions and language impairment, for example). Everyone can sing – however much we might protest – meaning it is one of the most accessible forms of music making, too. Song is a powerful therapy indeed.
Regular choir members report that learning new songs is cognitively stimulating and helps their memory, and it has been shown that singing can help those suffering from dementia, too. The satisfaction of performing together, even without an audience, is likely to be associated with activation of the brain’s reward system, including the dopamine pathway, which keeps people coming back for more.
The psychology of singing
Singing has also been shown to improve our sense of happiness and wellbeing. Research has found, for example, that people feel more positive after actively singing than they do after passively listening to music or after chatting about positive life events. Improved mood probably in part comes directly from the release of positive neurochemicals such as β-endorphin, dopamine and serotonin. It is also likely to be influenced by changes in our sense of social closeness with others.