There is a really easy way to see this in action, and it doesn’t even require special research or diagnostic tools. Try this experiment:
(a) When you are next feeling tired and low, put on some really upbeat music – something that makes you want to dance and sing. Almost anything by Stevie Wonder is good, but alter this according to your personal tastes – something in a major key that makes you want to move your feet is what we’re aiming at here. Don’t put it on headphones if you can avoid it. Blast it out wherever you are. Have it as loud as either your speakers, ears or neighbours can tolerate. When the track finishes, ask yourself this – do I feel better? The answer is almost *always* “yes”, even if it’s just a little bit better.
Music acts on both our bodies and minds – music encourages us to let out our emotions – dancing with joy, crying with sadness, and most of all: lifting our voices in song.
When we *participate* in music, particularly singing, a recent Swedish study discovered that our heartbeats sync with those of the other singers around us. A feeling of belonging, of being part of something greater than ourselves is engendered, and it is a powerfully positive feeling. Music therapists working in palliative care settings report that clients need less medicinal pain relief after singing. Singing can access parts of the mental process that dementia has otherwise sealed off. We don’t yet know exactly why, the fact that it happens is undeniable. It is, for a significant percentage of depression sufferers, a more effective way of dealing with their depression than medicating.
Community choirs are an excellent way of experiencing accessible singing. I have people dealing with lots of different daily challenges in my various community choirs – I have people dealing with dementia, stroke recovery, heart issues, neurological problems, bereavement and stress. Everyone is welcomed, and everyone contributes to the wonderful sound that we make. Some people need a little help in the form of large print lyrics, music stands, accessible practice rooms etc., but with a bit of forethought and asking people what would be helpful, it is almost always possible to work in a way that everyone will find accessible.
Singing is also an excellent exercise for the less mobile – it encourages deep breathing and strengthens stomach muscles as well as promoting good posture and lessening back pain.
And all this is without taking into consideration the benefits that accompany participating in an ongoing learning process, keeping brain function active, making new friends and having a good laugh as well…
Join a choir today – you’ve got to admit, it beats dieting!