Many of us understand how powerful music can be on our moods, and know the capacity of the ‘right’ song to carry us into different emotional states.
A recent article on The Mighty even reveals 30 songs that their members found helpful for anxiety and depression
Maybe you’re also the type who loves to belt one out in the shower or car, or perhaps you just quietly hum along to your favorite music while doing housework.
Whatever your style, you may be surprised to learn that singing actually changes your brain, and can even be used to treat depression.
Scientists have become increasingly curious about the positive effects of singing, particularly singing in groups, and why it seems to have a simultaneously calming and energizing effect on people.
What they have discovered is that singing releases endorphins, those feel-good brain biochemicals responsible for feelings of pleasure and elation. Singing also releases oxytocin, a hormone which helps alleviate stress and anxiety, and enhances positive feelings of trust and bonding. As Stacy Horn, author of Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness Singing With Others, states in her article on the benefits of singing in a recent Time article:
What researchers are beginning to discover is that singing is like an infusion of the perfect tranquilizer, the kind that both soothes your nerves and elevates your spirits.
Other possible reasons for such dramatic benefits might be the deep and controlled breathing required during singing, and the fact that singing requires some degree of focus and attention; both of these conditions serve to calm the Default Mode Network in the brain, an area associated with increased worry and anxiety when overactive.
It’s no wonder then that studies have linked singing with reduced feelings of depression and loneliness. With the growing popularity of group singing and ‘for fun’ choirs, it would seem that people are already benefiting from these positive brain and mood effects, even if they don’t consciously understand why.
Perhaps even more importantly, these positive effects seem to be cumulative in nature. One study found that those who engage in singing regularly have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol; numerous other studies have revealed that singing relieves anxiety and contributes to overall quality of life. A study as far back as 1998 found that residents of a nursing home had significantly reduced levels of anxiety and depression after taking part in a singing program for just one month.
Concerned that your singing voice is not up to snuff? Worry no more: according to the studies, the therapeutic effects produced by singing, whether solo or in a group, are available to all, regardless of the quality of your voice.
So, if you struggle with anxiety or depression, or just like the idea of feeling happier, why not think about joining a local choir or singing group, or just singing out loud more often to your favorite music?
And if you’re too self-conscious for these options, there’s always the car and the shower.
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