How's your singing voice? Do you have that of a songbird or that of a cat in immense pain?
No matter whether you class yourself as having a good voice or not, it turns out that singing is one of the world's best ways to relieve stress.
Sarah Wilson, a clinical neuropsychologist and head of the School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Melbourne, led a study which looked at how the brain reacts when we sing by giving volunteers of varying vocal ability MRI scans as they sung.
“There is a singing network in the brain [which is] quite broadly distributed,” Wilson says. When we speak, the hemisphere of the brain dealing with language lights up, as we might expect. When we sing, however, both sides of the brain spark into life.
“We also see involvement of the emotion networks of the brain,” adds Wilson. Regions that control the movements we need to produce sounds and articulation also light up.
The physical exertion involved in singing – filling of our lungs, the firm control of our vocal chords, the movements of our mouth and body – is among the reasons why it can boost our mood. Singing is an aerobic exercise which sees the release of endorphins, the brain’s ‘feel-good’ chemicals, says Baishali Mukherjee, the Southeast Asia regional liason for the World Federation of Music Therapy.
“Endorphins [are] related to an overall lifted feeling of happiness, it gives a feeling of euphoria so it’s all associated with a reduction in stress,” she says. “In any situation whether it is under stress or [with] any physical ailments, illness, psychological deprivation, music has the potential to affect our body and mind.”
Amazing! You can read more about the benefits of singing here.