From chanting ‘we are the champions’ along with your fellow supporters at a sports game to singing ‘happy birthday to you’ with your family and friends around a cake, we all know that we feel good after a proper sing-song.
But what you might not know is that singing can benefit you in many other physical, mental, emotional, and social ways – some of which may surprise you! Here are our top 10 singing benefits:
What are the physical benefits of singing?
Before we go deep into the mental health and emotional benefits, let’s start with the physical aspect. At its root, singing is a physical activity that uses multiple muscles throughout the body. Just like going to the gym, this has numerous implications for your physical well-being.
1: Singing boosts your immune system
Various studies have shown that singing for an extended period of time – especially in a group, such as a choir – affects our bodies on a chemical level. So get yourself down to your local church or community centre and sign up for group singing!
After each choir practice, your body will experience a rise in immune system proteins and a fall in stress hormones. This means that you’ll be better at fighting off illnesses and feel more relaxed while you’re at it – a total win-win!
2: Singing works out your whole body
Although it may not seem like it initially, singing is a physically demanding activity that engages your core abdominal, back, and facial muscles.
As a singer, the best place for you to breathe from is your diaphragm, rather than your chest. To do this breathing technique, you need to stand with a strong, tall posture, keeping your shoulders back and low. This means that the more you practice diaphragmatic breathing, the stronger your abdominal and back muscles will become.
Also, because you need to breathe a lot more when you sing than when you’re exercising in other ways, you’re getting more oxygen into your bloodstream. This is great, because it means that cells all over your body get more oxygen too, enabling them to do their best possible job, whether that’s helping you move around, digest food, or even think.
Your face benefits from singing in a few interesting ways. One is linked to the fall in stress hormones we mentioned above – these hormones are part of the cause of acne, so more singing means fewer spots.
Another is that singing works out the muscles you use to move your face to form certain shapes, which helps to strengthen your facial muscles and build your facial muscle tone. This has the added benefit of making you look like a more expressive, engaging performer – and will help you stay looking young for longer.
3: Singing helps you sleep
Aside from boosting your mood and tiring your body out by giving it a workout, singing can help improve your sleep in other ways.
Because, when you’re singing, you’re using and strengthening parts of your body such as your throat and your soft palate (found towards the back of the roof of your mouth). By exercising these body parts, you will significantly reduce the risk of snoring and even sleep apnoea.
What are the mental and emotional benefits of singing?
As social media and screen time creep into every aspect of our lives, taking steps to improve our mental health has become a hot topic. If you’re looking for ways to improve your mental wellness, singing may just be the answer you’re looking for.
4. Singing releases natural antidepressants
We’ve covered the fact that singing reduces your level of stress hormones, so we already know that it will make you feel less stressed, but there’s even more chemistry at work here!
Whenever you sing, your brain releases endorphins, which are chemicals that naturally relieve pain and boost pleasure.
The name ‘endorphin’ tells you everything you need to know about the work they do. The ‘end-’ part comes from ‘endogenous’, which means inside your body, and the ‘-orphin’ part comes from ‘morphine’, which is an opiate that relieves pain.
Singing, along with exercise, laughter, and other pleasurable activities (such as eating chocolate), causes your brain to send endorphins to your brain’s opioid receptors. These receptors then send messages via your nervous system that tell your body to feel good.
5. Singing calms you down
If you’ve ever ‘breathed a deep sigh of relief’, or needed to ‘take a deep breath and count to 10’, you’ll be familiar with the feeling of total calm that this brings on us.
Because you need to breathe properly to sing properly, you’re triggering the same feeling of calm in your body while singing as you are when you’re running, in athletic training, or even meditating.
Deep and regular breathing relaxes your muscles all over your body, which slows down your pulse and lowers your blood pressure. This will make you feel more in control and less anxious.
6. Singing is good for your brain
Since your diaphragmatic breathing is pumping extra-oxygenated blood all around your body, it stands to reason that one of your body parts that benefits from this is your brain. When you send more oxygen to your brain, it improves your concentration and your mental alertness – and learning complex rhythms is believed by many to train your brain just as well as math problems and word puzzles.
Singing is also great for your memory, as you need to memorise lyrics and melodies in order to sing them. Studies have shown that singing can even help people with conditions that affect their memory, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.
If you need any more convincing that singing is good for your brain, look no further than one of the greatest brains in history. Albert Einstein famously once said:
“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.”
What are the social benefits of singing?
Not only is singing directly responsible for improved positivity and mental wellness, there are also indirect ways in which singing can improve your mood.
7. Singing gives you more self-confidence
When you look up any list of common phobias, right up there with spiders you’ll find the fear of public speaking, or ‘glossophobia’. ‘Stage fright’ is often thought to be a version of this phobia (although it’s not irrational at all to feel this way, especially if you’re new to it), and its symptoms, which usually include a dry mouth, feeling all eyes on you, and sweaty palms, are perhaps best summed up in Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’:
The confidence boost you get when you overcome your fears and give a good performance, however, is second to none. As well as forcing you to take control of your breathing, with a little help from your friends you’ll soon associate having an audience with receiving positive feedback and will leap at the next opportunity to get up in front of a crowd.
You may well find that you can bring some of your presence and coping mechanisms from the stage to the workplace – although you might want to draw the line at picturing your coworkers naked in the boardroom.
8. Singing widens your friendship group
Singing songs of celebration with the congregation at your place of worship is a great way to feel part of something bigger than yourselves. You’ll meet people who have a shared love for music and singing, and you’ll quickly be welcomed as a valued part of the community.
Equally, singing at a weekly karaoke night is a great way to let your guard down around others, and you’ll soon be invited back as a regular if you show that you’re happy to get stuck in. You never know – someone might be looking for a voice to sing the other half of a duet, and you might find the Simon to your Garfunkel!
When you join a choir or the chorus for an upcoming musical, you’re also joining a team, and will therefore be relied on as a team player. This will give you a greater sense of purpose, as you’ll want your team, not just yourself, to succeed – and you won’t want to let them down by forgetting your lyrics!
9. Singing makes you a better communicator
Because singing makes you focus on parts of your voice that most of us take for granted when we’re just talking, it can greatly improve your speaking voice. You’ll be able to project your voice with more clarity and expression, which will help you get your ideas across more effectively.
Listening to their parents singing helps babies begin to understand speech, and music in general is believed to be just as important for young children who are developing their language skills as reading and writing. Even as an adult, as you read, learn, and even write your own lyrics, you will gain a greater understanding of the songs you sing and will be able to apply the emotion of the music to them more convincingly.
10. Singing makes you appreciate other singers
Once you know how much time and effort goes into singing practice, you will gain a whole new appreciation of the craft the next time you’re watching the Voice – or even old X Factor outtakes on YouTube.
You’ll have off-days as well as on-days as you grow and develop your singing voice, and this will give you a healthy outlook on not only your own abilities, but the abilities of other vocalists – even those from outside your preferred genre.
Opening your mind to the sheer amount of work that rappers, opera singers and death metal vocalists dedicate to their art is one of the greatest gifts that learning to sing for yourself can give you. Not only can it help you understand why the Beyoncés and the Freddie Mercurys have earned legendary status, but it can also widen your horizons and help you find what makes your own singing voice unique.