People love to sing. Whether or not they can carry a tune, people seem to understand that there’s something positive — something healthy — in the act of raising their voices in song.
In fact, there’s solid scientific evidence to prove that singing is, in fact, good for your body and your mind.
In this article we’ll take a closer look at how singing can benefit your physical and mental health, and how to use signing as a form of therapy
Decades of research has shown that singing individually and in groups is good for you on many levels.
Here, according to science, are 10 key benefits of raising your voice in song.
1. Relieves stress
Researchers in that study found that the amount of cortisol was lower after singing, an indication that people felt more relaxed after they’d belted out a tune.
They also found singing reduces stress levels whether the participants were singing in a group or by themselves.
There’s a small catch, though: Cortisol only goes down if you’re singing in a place that doesn’t make you anxious. A similar 2015 study tested salivary cortisol levels after a singing performance, finding that cortisol levels went up in this scenario.
2. Stimulates the immune response
There’s some evidence that singing may boost your immune system and help you fight off illnesses.
Those who sang showed higher levels of immunoglobulin A, an antibody your body secretes to help you fend off infections. Listening to music (without singing along) reduced stress hormones but didn’t stimulate the body’s immune system.
3. Increases pain threshold
When you sing in a group, whether it’s a large choir or a smaller group, the act of collective singing causes your body to release endorphins. This hormone can help promote positive feelings, and even change your perception of pain.
A 2012 study found that singing, drumming, and dancing in a group triggers the release of hormones that raise your pain tolerance in ways that just listening to music doesn’t.
Researchers note that the feelings of social connection, rather than the music itself, seems to be behind the boost in pain tolerance.
4. May improve snoring
Regular singing may change the way you breathe, even when you’re not singing. Researchers in a 2008 study interviewed the spouses of choir members, along with the spouses of people who don’t sing.
The researchers found that significantly fewer choir members snored. This led them to recommend regular singing as a potential treatment for snoring.
Studies have also shown that people who play wind instruments also snore less than the general population.
5. Improves lung function
Because singing involves deep breathing and the controlled use of muscles in the respiratory system, it may be beneficial for certain lung and breathing conditions.
Studies have shown that the breathing techniques used with singing may offer benefits for people with the following conditions:
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD)
- cystic fibrosis
- multiple sclerosis
While singing doesn’t treat or cure any of these conditions, you may benefit from gaining strength in your respiratory muscles.
Singing also increases the amount of oxygen in your blood, research shows. In addition to the pulmonary benefits, singers also experience improved mood and a greater sense of social connection.
6. Develops a sense of belonging and connection
When you sing together with others, you’re likely to feel the same kind of camaraderie and bonding that players on sports teams experience.
In a 2016 study involving 375 adult participants, researchers found that people who sang together in a group reported a higher sense of wellbeing and meaningful connection than people who sang solo.
One of the neurochemicals released when people feel bonded together is oxytocin, also known as the love hormone.
Spontaneous, improvised singing causes your body to release this feel-good hormone, which may help give you a heightened sense of connectedness and inclusion.
7. Enhances memory in people with dementia
People with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia experience a gradual loss of memory. Studies have shown that people with these conditions were able to recall song lyrics more easily than other words.
In one singing
However, the singers found they remembered more than just the lyrics. For some, singing familiar songs suddenly brought back life memories they’d forgotten, too.
Researchers found that singing songs learned at a younger age caused a spontaneous return of autobiographical details for many people.
8. Helps with grief
Singing in a group doesn’t just help you with physical pain; it may also help with the emotional pain you feel after you’ve lost someone you love.
In a 2019 study conducted among people dealing with grief, researchers found that for those who sang in a choir, depression symptoms didn’t get worse over time and their sense of wellbeing remained stable.
In fact, the choir singers felt a gradual improvement in their self-esteem during and after the 12-week study. Those in the control group who didn’t participate in the singing intervention didn’t report this benefit.
Researchers concluded that group singing may be a good option for people who need additional support during a time of grief.
9. Improves mental health and mood
A 2018 study done in the United Kingdom evaluated 20 people in a singing program known as The Sing Your Heart Out project. The participants included people with mental health conditions, as well as the general public.
Researchers found that the participants reported improvements in their mental health, mood, sense of well-being, and feeling of belonging as a result of these singing workshops.
10. Helps improve speaking abilities
Decades ago, scientists began researching the effects of singing among people who have a hard time with speech due to a neurological condition.
Singing stimulates multiple areas of the brain at the same time. This may enable people with an impairment in one part of the brain to communicate using other areas of their brain.
Singing can also prolong the sounds in each word, which may make it easier to pronounce them.
Singing also makes it easier to incorporate hand-tapping, a method that can help people maintain speaking rhythms that are otherwise challenging.
Can you sing safely in the era of COVID-19?
Because SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, is known to spread through respiratory particles, public health officials have cautioned against events where people sing collectively.
Using masks, outdoor venues, and physical distancing may help, but are not a guarantee that the virus causing COVID-19 won’t spread when people meet to sing in person.
Research on this relatively new phenomenon is being continually updated.
Since ancient times, philosophers, physicians, artists, and therapists have encouraged the use of music for its many health benefits.
Besides singing, other forms of music therapy can include:
These forms of music or sound therapy have all been shown to improve physical and mental health in a variety of ways. You don’t have to be good at singing, dancing, or playing music to reap the benefits, which include:
- lower stress levels
- decreased pain
- improved mood
- less fatigue
- greater social connectedness
Not sure how to start? Here are some ways to warm up:
- Take a meandering drive — just you, the road, and the radio.
- Jump in the shower, where the acoustics are superior, and sing all your favorite tunes.
- Sing with your kids. You’ll make memories you can all cherish.
- Try a music festival. Some offer group sing-alongs as part of the event schedule.
- Look for a local chorus, choir, or song circle and find out when you can join.
- If you want to sing more confidently before you join a group, book a lesson or two with a singing instructor.
- For free singing lessons, check out the many coaching sessions on YouTube.
- If you’re interested in music therapy to help you cope with a health condition or recover from trauma, seek out a certified music therapist near you.
Research has shown that singing can be good for you on many levels. It may help lower stress, boost immunity and lung function, enhance memory, improve mental health, and help you cope with physical and emotional pain.
One of the best things about singing is that you don’t have to be good at it to reap the rewards. You can sing on your own in the shower or to your favorite tunes on the radio. Or, you can join a choir or singing group for even more benefits such as connectedness and a sense of belonging.