September 25th, 2020

To Your Health: Sing it loud and sing it proud

By Gillian Slade on January 6, 2020.

gslade@medicinehatnews.com@MHNGillianSlade

Over Christmas you probably sang some Christmas carols whether you have a great singing voice or not. You probably also enjoyed singing and it may have made you happy too.

There are studies that show physical, emotional and mental health benefits derived from singing. In part that has to do with the vibrations in your body, when you are singing, having a positive effect.

People recovering from a stroke, or perhaps dealing with the impact of dementia, are sometimes able to sing even when they find it difficult to speak. The effect of music and singing allows people, who have lost their ability to speak, to make a connection with the words through the melody.

Members of choirs talk about the exhilaration they feel during and after a choir practice.

Scientists have been trying to determine what it is about singing that triggers such a positive response in our bodies. It may be related to the release of endorphins, which are linked to feelings of pleasure, or a hormone that reduces anxiety. One study found that singing can actually block the neural pathways of pain.

One study involved seniors in their 80s being enrolled in a singing group. They were found to make fewer visits to the doctor, had a brighter outlook on life in general, breathed more easily and in some cases needed less medication.

I have found even listening to others singing has a positive effect on me and the singing does not even have to be from a human. I am talking about birds that have make some of the most beautiful sounds.

Within a couple of months we are likely to hear more birds singing in the early morning – typically called the “dawn chorus.” No matter how many different species are participating it is somehow always melodic.

My personal feeling is that there is also an evening bird choir. At dusk as they return to their nests for the night often with a song or two.

If you live anywhere near the river you are likely aware of the Canada geese arriving to spend the night on the ice and leaving again in the morning to find a source of food in farmers’ fields. The next time you see a flock overhead stop and listen to their vocal sounds. You can almost imagine a conversation they are having about where the family will spend the night or which direction they should be heading for a source of food.

The start of a new year is an ideal time to add some singing to your life – for the health of it.

Even if you have only felt comfortable singing in the shower you may want to consider joining a choir or having voice lessons.

Almost anybody can improve their singing voice by having lessons. They help you learn about your physical structure and how your body can facilitate how you breathe.

Even if you are reluctant to join a choir make a point of listening for birds and enjoy the free concert at dawn or dusk.

They may inspire you to sing.

Here’s to beautiful songs and here’s To Your Health.

To Your Health is a weekly column by Gillian Slade, health reporter for the News, bringing you news on health issues and research from around the world. You can reach her at gslade@medicinehatnews.com or 403-528-8635.

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