The Benefits of Singing
, Activities and Lifestyle
, Alzheimer's and Dementia
By Steve Toll, care enhancement specialist
When I was a kid, my mother would play the piano, and both of my parents would sing together. They would smile, laugh and have a great time. My two brothers and I would listen, attempt to join in, smile and laugh. It provided a sense of home and safety. I didn’t know at the time how powerful music was and still is. Singing together can produce incredibly positive benefits.
Singing Is in All of Us
Our ancient ancestors may have had the ability to sing, and, over a very long time, that ability may have improved. In modern times, people across the globe sing. There is singing across all societies, religions and ethnic groups. It remains a significant feature of human behavior.
According to a recent study, “Music is ubiquitous in all known human cultures. The general capacity for human beings to perceive, produce and enjoy music even in the absence of formal music training suggests that music may be ‘hardwired’ in our genetic makeup.”
Physical Benefits of Singing
Singing increases the amount of oxygen a person takes in as they inhale deeply. According to recent studies, “The practice of singing involves strong and fast inhalations, followed by extended, regulated exhalations. This produces a feeling of alertness as more oxygen gets to the brain.”
Singing also promotes the use of facial expressions and articulation. This works to improve muscle tone in the face, throat, neck and jaw, thereby promoting a youthful appearance.
This form of exercise works both organs and muscles for a complete workout.
Mental Benefits of Singing
Singing makes a person feel good both physically and mentally. The process of singing, especially in a group, is highly motivational. It’s proven to help calm negative mental “chatter.” Everyone has distracting, unhelpful thoughts at times. Focusing on singing takes focus away from such thoughts.
According to a story on the conditions in a London hospital, recounted in a recent article from the BBC, “[The] surgical floor had been converted into a department for coronavirus patients, and spirits were low. Nurse Lori Marie Key was asked if she would sing ‘Amazing Grace’ for her colleagues during the morning briefing. There was something about the solidarity and togetherness of that moment that personifies a lot about the power of song. But it wasn’t just something abstract and ethereal happening, there are scientific reasons for why singing feels good.”
When we sing, large parts of our brain “light up” with activity, said Sarah Wilson, a clinical neuropsychologist and head of the School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Melbourne.
Additionally, singing beautiful lyrics helps to expand one’s imagination and appreciation of the world around them. It connects people in a very real way and shines a light on how others see and experience life.
Increased Positive Feelings
Singing is often a joyful and uplifting experience. Research carried out at the Department of Psychology of McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada found that singing increases the body’s levels of immunoglobulin A (IgA). This is an antibody made by the immune system to fight bacteria, viruses and toxins. IgA is found in high concentrations in the body's mucous membranes, particularly the respiratory passages and gastrointestinal tract, as well as in saliva and tears.
Furthermore, researchers involved in this study found that listening to music stimulates the body to release dopamine, the body’s own reward and pleasure neurochemical. Another benefit of being a singer is increased levels of the hormone oxytocin which lead to improved social integration and affiliation. Positive feelings can make a huge difference in the life of an older adult who may be living alone or suffering from a chronic medical condition.
Singing can make a huge difference in all of our lives. At the end of the day, it’s also great fun. That is exactly the intention of “Tune in Tuesdays,” my weekday program of music and conversation. It’s available Monday through Friday at 1:00 p.m. ET. Please join me on the ComForCare home office Facebook page, and let’s enjoy the benefits of singing.