Singing Together, Imperfectly and Happily

How does singing together improve one’s life? Let us count the ways.

According to recent research and a report by Jacques Launay and Eiluned Pearce, the benefits of singing together are vast (Greater Good). They include the following:

  • improved breathing and posture
  • decreased muscle tension and pain
  • improved immunity
  • improved memory 
  • improved happiness and well-being
  • improved overall health

Just ask writer Stacy Horn, who, although by her own admission is not a great singer, has spent over 30 years in a choral group. In Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness in Singing With Others (2013) she strongly advocates the experience.

A related article in Time presents some of her reasons:

Group singing, for those who have done it, is the most exhilarating and transformative of all [types of singing]. It takes something incredibly intimate, a sound that begins inside you, shares it with a roomful of people and it comes back as something even more thrilling: harmony…

The elation may come from endorphins, a hormone released by singing, which is associated with feelings of pleasure. Or it might be from oxytocin, another hormone released during singing, which has been found to alleviate anxiety and stress. Oxytocin also enhances feelings of trust and bonding, which may explain why still more studies have found that singing lessens feelings of depression and loneliness. A very recent study even attempts to make the case that ‘music evolved as a tool of social living,’ and that the pleasure that comes from singing together is our evolutionary reward for coming together cooperatively, instead of hiding alone, every cave-dweller for him or herself.

One of her apt conclusions:

Group singing is cheaper than therapy, healthier than drinking, and certainly more fun than working out. It is the one thing in life where feeling better is pretty much guaranteed. Even if you walked into rehearsal exhausted and depressed, by the end of the night you’ll walk out high as a kite on endorphins and good will.

Another expert on this topic is psychology professor Daniel Levitin, who wrote This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession (2007). In a co-interview with Horn on NPR, he backed her up on the science and added this insight:

…(T)he joy of singing that Stacy discovered and the nonjudgmental aspect of it, the communal part of it, the part where differences are reconciled and we’re all just in it together, that’s the truly uplifting power of it. And I think that’s important to keep in mind. The history of music was always that it was that, it was communal.

If you’re seeking a glee club or chorus to join, there are plenty to choose from these days—young, old (the Young@Heart Chorus, for example, in western Massachusetts), men’s, women’s, mixed gender, transgender, and many more!

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