by Jerry Rich, Director of Music
HOW CAN SINGING MAKE US FEEL BETTER? 1) Music provides singers with neurochemical rewards called endorphins; this “singer’s high” can also alleviate pain. 2) When we hear voices of the singers surrounding us, we receive dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain associated with feelings of pleasure and alertness. 3) Music lowers cortisol, a chemical that signals stress levels.
WHAT ARE SOME ADDITIONAL BENEFITS OF SINGING? 1) Studies have found that people who listen to music before surgery are often more relaxed and may need less anesthesia; afterward, they may find they can get by with smaller amounts of pain medication. 2) Music also releases serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of euphoria and contentment. 3) Singing may generate prolactin (released in nursing women and in tears of sorrow), whose tranquilizing, consoling effect makes us feel better. 4) Researchers discovered that a choir singing “sad” music like Mozart’s Requiem showed an increase in s-IgA, an immunoglobulin that enhances our immune defense.
WILL ALL SINGERS RESPOND? In a 2005 study, investigators found that group singers experienced the same benefits even when “the sound produced by the vocal instrument is of mediocre quality.”
WHY SING WITH OTHERS? Studies have found that group singing releases oxytocin, a chemical that manages anxiety and stress and enhances feelings of trust and bonding. That bond helps us cope with life’s difficult situations and is experienced when we harmonize with others. As science tries to explain what singers already know, consider giving group singing a try! It’s a rewarding, affordable and accessible activity that has been shown to regulate moods, lower rates of anxiety, depression and loneliness, and amplify happiness and joy.
[adapted from Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness While Singing with Others by Stacy Horn, published in 2013 by Algonquin Books]