Photo used under Creative Commons from Marina K Caprara
Science has shown us that music has many positive effects on people from a mental, social, and even physical standpoint. To enjoy the benefits that making music has to offer, many people consider taking lessons on popular instruments such as the guitar, violin, or piano. However, they often forget that one of the most incredible instruments available to them is, quite literally, right under their nose. Singing provides many surprising benefits, including the seven listed here.
1. Singing lowers stress levels
It is commonly known that playing or actively listening to music can promote a general sense of well-being. However, those who sing gain the added benefit of releasing muscle tension. Singers who learn correct vocal techniques learn how to control and relax different muscles during their performance, which provides them with the ability to release muscle tension. This can lead to deeper physical relaxation in the body overall and diminish feelings of stress. Research also indicates that the act of singing reduces the level of cortisol in the body—a hormone directly correlated to elevated stress levels.
2. Singing can create stronger social bonds
Besides putting vocalists in a more relaxed state, singing with others can activate areas within the brain linked to empathy and help people become more in tune with the thoughts and feelings of others. When singers perform with other people, they tend to experience positive feelings toward those in the group, especially when the music requires the performers to synchronize. Interacting vocally with others can create more powerful social bonds and establish greater intimacy between individuals, leading to stronger friendships and reducing feelings of loneliness.
3. Singing is good exercise for your lungs
Some people may be surprised to learn that singing can actually be a form of exercise. When employing proper technique, singers engage their core, using the abdominal, intercostal, and back muscles to push air out and upward from the diaphragm. Singing is also excellent exercise for the lungs, and it may help to alleviate medical conditions related to the respiratory system. When using proper technique, the diaphragm is activated, and performers are able to breathe more deeply than they would even when intentionally taking deep breaths. The byproduct is an increase in airflow to the lungs, which makes the organs healthier and may help combat the effects of illnesses such as asthma or bronchitis. As an added benefit, singing exercises the facial muscles, which can provide the face with a more toned appearance.
4. Singing can fight depression
While the act of singing is not considered to be a stand-alone treatment for depression, researchers believe that it can have a positive impact on the mood of people who live with this draining mental condition. Singing releases oxytocin into the bloodstream, a hormone that reduces anxiety and promotes feelings of trust. It also increases the amount of serotonin and endorphins in the body, both of which contribute to an elevated mood and feelings of happiness. Singing may also help people with depression to feel less isolated and encourage a more positive mental state when undertaken in a group with other vocalists.
5. Singing strengthens your immune system
As previously mentioned, research has shown that singing can lead to reduced levels of cortisol, which translates to a lower degree of stress. Less stress in the body can also mean lower blood pressure, less tissue inflammation, and higher oxygenation of the blood. In addition, some studies suggest that singing may raise levels of cytokines in the blood, which play a direct role in the ability of the immune system to fight off illnesses. All of these factors together contribute to the belief that singing may help keep vocalists healthy.
6. Singing can lead to better sleep
Scientists say that singers who regularly perform a specific set of vocal exercises can tone the muscles of the throat and palate, which may lead to reduced incidences of snoring and sleep apnea. Disorders such as sleep apnea have the potential to not only contribute to the development of diabetes, obesity, and heart problems, but also interrupt individuals’ sleep cycle, preventing them from sleeping fitfully. According to some researchers, singers who spend only 20 minutes per day engaging in a series of specialized vocalizations can significantly reduce the occurrence of snoring in less than a month, leading to better rest and overall health.
7. Singing improves cognition for those with certain ailments
Some studies suggest that singing may contribute to improved cognition and higher levels of happiness in people with dementia. While none of the study results indicate that singing can prevent the disease altogether, there is research to suggest that it may slow the advancement of cognitive problems related to old age. Among the other cognitive benefits of singing is its potential to help patients who have experienced a stroke to learn how to regain the ability to speak. Many people who have had a stroke cannot speak in sentences, but retain the ability to sing words. The medical community is using this discovery to develop new therapies to help people who have had a stroke learn to talk again.
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