Whether singing in the shower, in a choir or with a small child, “sound therapy” is linked to health benefits for body and spirit. Since ancient times singing has been considered a healing tool especially chanting and we all know that countries have created national anthems to generate patriotism to motivate people to do things for their nation. Sounds can influence brain wave frequencies and promote well-being, specifically:
- Reduce stress and improve mood
- Lower blood pressure
- Boost the immune system
- Improve breathing
- Reduce perceived pain
- Improve a sense of rhythm
- Promote learning in children
- Forge comforting memories
- Promote communal bonding
- Provide comfort
- Motivate and empower
Ongoing research in alternative and complementary medicine is examining the healing role of singing regarding chronic pain management. Research published in the Journal of Music Therapy in 2004 claimed that group singing helped people to cope better with chronic pain. In many senior centers singing as a memory trigger is being studied, specifically for slowing down mental decline and emotionally, building self-esteem. For example, Alzheimer’s patients who can no longer carry on a conversation, are able to sing all the lyrics to songs from their past!
It all begins in infancy because singing to children presents a pathway in the brain for sensory stimulation. Not only does it set the stage for fun, but their brains open up to new sensations. And the best part is that you don’t have to have a good voice – they love the sound of your voice and interacting with you – what an ego booster! You can improvise and sing out your rules for good manners or instructions on how to get dressed.
Then of course you might be talented, take voice lessons and sing in a choir to earn professional kudos. In an impressive study, scientists from the University of Frankfurt in Germany tested the blood of people who sang in a professional choir before and after an hour-long rehearsal of Mozart's “Requiem.” Concentrations of immunoglobin A (antibodies) - and hydrocortisone (a stress-reducing hormone) increased during the rehearsal. In contrast, the following week when they asked members of the choir to listen to a recording of the “Requiem” without singing, they found the composition of their blood did not change significantly. The conclusion: singing boosts the immune system while it reduces stress.
The take home message: Listening to music is great, but singing makes you an active participant. We are so stressed with busyness that we hardly sing with friends or with our children. The next time you feel tense, worried or afraid, try singing a happy tune. You will note that your mood and performance will improve. Bonus: You don’t have to have a good voice.
Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life
, Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout
and Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul,
a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com