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Better Voice Blog

Taking the strain out of speaking and singing

Taking the strain out of speaking and singing

Six reasons why singing will improve your physical and mental health

Written by:

Jane Farrell

May 11, 2022

A young boy singing

Singing is a really fun way to improve your physical and mental health. Here are just six of the good things singing can do for you.

Singing can help your body to heal

Sound affects your body at both the emotional and physical level.

We’ve all experienced how sound affects our emotions: the way your favourite song makes you feel happy, the way the soundtrack of a scary film makes it even scarier. So singing music you enjoy will give you a shot of positive emotions.

But the effect of sound goes much deeper than that. All the cells of your body vibrate in response to sound, and - if the sounds are pleasing and harmonious - these cellular-level vibrations can be very healing. That’s why ‘sound baths’ are becoming popular, where a therapist plays Tibetan singing bowls and sound gongs around you.

Self-generated sounds such as singing work even better, because the sound is coming from inside your body. This has been known intuitively for thousands of years, and is why singing and chanting is part of many spiritual practices. You don’t even have to be singing a tune to get the effect, and if the sound has a ‘hummy’ quality, such as the yogic om or just humming a song in the car, that really gets the good vibrations going.

Singing will improve your breathing

Some singing methods and teachers go in for really complicated and offputting instructions on how to breathe when you’re singing. But your body knows how to breathe if you let it, and other than breathing in a bit deeper for a long phrase, you don’t need to worry about a special way of breathing when you’re singing any more than you do when you’re talking.

But singing automatically involves breath control. So if you sing regularly, you’ll find your breathing improves, just as it does with other cardiovascular exercise. You can help that process by encouraging natural breathing: when you breathe in allow your belly to expand, rather than the top of your chest. Babies breathe completely naturally: watch one asleep to see how it’s done.

Singing will improve your core muscles and posture

You’ll soon discover when you sing that for the best result your spine needs to be upright. Not only does an upright spine allow your lungs to work better, it makes you feel better: just as confident people stand tall, so standing tall makes you feel more confident. And the more you sing standing (or sitting) tall, supporting your spine and your breathing from your core, the more your core muscles and posture have a chance to improve.

Singing can banish worry for a while

Research has shown that two of life’s greatest stress factors are knowing about bad things that you have no control over, and being subjected to change that you didn’t choose. Unlike previous generations, both those stress factors are now part of daily life for all of us. We have to cope with a world that changes ever faster, and we live in the age of information overload, bombarded by instant media reports of dreadful global happenings. It’s all too easy to feel overwhelmed and despondent.

Singing can’t change the world, but it can give you a break from it. So can other leisure activities of course, but if they’re not completely engaging your mind as well as your body, there’s still the opportunity for your mind to nag away at things that are worrying you. 

There’s no opportunity for your mind to wander when you’re singing, because - if you’re doing it well - it requires your complete attention. There’s so much to think about: the notes, the words, the expression, the volume, your posture, whether you need an extra breath, and, if you’re in a group, how your own performance fits in with the rest of the group and what the conductor wants. At the end of the session you’ll realize your usual worries have never crossed your mind.

Singing encourages you to open up emotionally

No one gets through life without traumas of some kind. They’re not always the sort with a big ‘T’, but even the small ‘t’ kind can end up being harmful. Traumas generate negative emotions such as anger, resentment, sadness, guilt or shame, and if these are bottled up then over time they’ll have a negative effect on your body as well as on your mental health. 

Screaming, shouting and crying are all good ways to help release stored negative emotions and all involve opening your mouth wide. Children do them all naturally, but as we grow up we learn that it’s more socially acceptable to keep everything locked away inside. Some people hardly open their mouths even when they talk.

Singing is probably the only social situation where you’re actually encouraged to open your mouth wide and let out some loud sounds. It’s really freeing, and as you get used to doing that when you sing, you may find yourself at other times wanting to have a good scream, shout or cry (into a cushion if the neighbours are listening!). Just let it happen: it’s definitely a case of ‘better out than in’.

Singing provides opportunities for positive social interactions

If we didn’t already know, we’ve found out the hard way during lockdowns and restrictions during the covid pandemic that positive social interactions play a big part in supporting our mental health.

You don’t have to sing with other people to get the benefits of singing: singing along to the radio in the car or enjoying the acoustic in the shower are definitely beneficial. But if you sing in a group the benefits are multiplied many times over. 

And now there are groups for every level of ability. You don’t have to read music, know your way round the classical composers, or pass an audition to find some like-minded people to sing with. There are community choirs of all sorts, choirs for people with or recovering from specific physical health problems, choirs for the elderly, and choirs for people who can’t sing, as well as the traditional choral societies and church choirs. There’ll be a group you fit right into.

When you’re in a group, you get a ready-made singing family to have good times with and to help support you in difficult times. Singers are generally nice people - just like you - and welcome new members.

There’s also the physical and emotional experience of being part of the group sound, and knowing that you’re contributing to it. Be warned: it’s addictive!

Why not get Googling and find a choir near you?

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