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10 Reasons Singing is Good for You

We often talk about the health and wellbeing benefits of singing in a group, but what difference can it really make to how we feel?

As we get ready for the start of From Couch to Chorus: Sing into Spring later this month, here are our Top 10 reasons why we think it’s well worth giving your vocal cords a regular workout.

1. Singing makes you feel better

There’s an increasing amount of evidence that singing releases endorphins, serotonin and dopamine – the ‘happy’ chemicals that boost your mood and make you feel good about yourself. Scientists believe that’s one of the reasons why people report being on a high during choir sessions and continuing to feel positive, uplifted and motivated afterwards.

“It has been a beacon in these difficult times, to have an appointment to meet with other people and do something so uplifting.”

– Participant, From Couch to Chorus: The Festive Edition

Singing also counts as an aerobic activity as it introduces more oxygen into the blood leading to better circulation – and a better mood.

Testament in Orpheus in the Record Shop © Anthony Robling

2. Singing enhances lung function

We often take our lungs for granted, but most of us rarely use them to their full capacity. The way singing requires you to breathe makes you do just that, increasing your lung capacity as well as engaging the muscles around the ribcage.

“The controlled nature of breathing in singing increases lung capacity and can also help people who are on a road to recovery.”

– Jennifer Sterling, Choral Director, From Couch to Chorus

That’s why singing has been used to help rehabilitate people recovering from lung conditions and, more recently, to benefit people suffering from long Covid.

Singing is good for your lungs as it make you breathe more deeply

3. Singing helps you beat stress and relax

As well as benefitting our lungs, breathing properly and with more awareness is good for releasing anxiety and helping us transition to a state of rest and relaxation.

“Simply by singing along to a favourite song or humming long notes can reduce stress levels and create a greater sense of internal balance.”

– Marie Claire Breen, soprano and leader of Step into Singing

If you’ve had a bad day, give singing a go. We promise its stress-busting properties will help you forget your worries and simply be in the moment.

Stuart Laing as The Red Queen and Marie Claire Breen as Alice in Big Sing: Wonderland Restored © Tom Arber

4. Singing helps improve memory

“The visits from Opera North allowed our residents to really open up emotionally giving us insights into their pasts that they had never shared before. It was great to see the happy smiling faces of those with advanced dementia as they sang along and really engaged with the experience.”

– Jo Bailey, Wellness Co-ordinator at Simon Marks Court

Singing can help improve mental alertness, memory and concentration as it involves focusing on multiple things at once, engaging many areas of the brain in the process. Music is also increasingly becoming a feature of dementia care, in part because it has proved a powerful tool in sparking memories often long after other forms of communication have diminished.

Joanna Eden chats to residents living with dementia during Opera North's Dementia Cafe session at Simon Marks Court in Leeds © Amy Charles

5. Singing builds a sense of community

Even with choirs going virtual, singing is still a fantastic communal activity. Singing with other people, whether in the flesh or on screen, can help build connections and feelings of togetherness. Recent research has also shown that the sense of self-other merging we experience by synchronizing our voices with others is a great way to fast-track social bonding.

“The sense of community and belonging when singing in group settings, even over Zoom, can have a huge impact on stress reduction and can even synchronize your heartbeat and regulate your breath, so you’re all breathing as one huge lung.”

– Marie Claire Breen, soprano and leader of Step into Singing

There’s also the pleasure to be found in sharing an interest, ensuring you always have something to talk about before or after the session.

SingON at Alwoodley © Justin Slee

6. Singing lets you express yourself

Singing is the perfect way to let go and express how you feel. In the latest From Couch to Chorus, the repertoire has been chosen to tap into a range of emotions with three contrasting pieces offering a gentle plea to the gods for a safe voyage by Mozart, a wedding dance by Dvořák and a triumphal march by Verdi.

“It’s about just enjoying yourself, enjoying the process of being with people, creating with people.”

– Gordon Shaw, member of the Chorus of Opera North

Of course, when you sing in a group, there’s the added fun of watching other people enjoying themselves too!

Opera North After Hours Chorus in rehearsal © Justin Slee

7. Singing can help with pain relief

By supporting wellbeing and giving participants a healthy dose of joy, singing can be beneficial for people who are living with persistent pain. Dr Frances Cole who set up the Footsteps Festival 2021 explains why they were keen for Opera North to offer Step into Singing sessions as part of the year-long celebration:

“Singing brings joy to people’s faces and lives. It helps them shift from yet another day ‘enduring pain’ to having joyful, fun times and feeling connected to others. We also find it helps with confidence, reconnecting people with themselves in positive, fruitful and compassionate ways, enabling them to live well.”

Trouble in Tahiti, 2017 © Alastair Muir

8. Singing boosts your confidence

Many people get nervous at the thought of performing in public, but singing in a group can actually help boost your confidence and fire up your self-esteem – and the more you do it, the more confident you’ll feel. Good posture is also a key factor in hitting the high notes, so you’ll find you’re naturally standing taller by the end. In fact, it works so well that singing has even been used by Opera North to build confidence, self-belief and personal impact in the workplace during training sessions with its Corporate Partners.

“Wow! That was definitely something I have never experienced before. What a great way to engage people, put them out of their comfort zone … but make it fun! Very thought-provoking”

– Participant, corporate session hosted by Sagars

Elizabeth Llewellyn performs at the SwitchON concert streamed live in 2020 © Justin Slee

9. Singing features in wellbeing studies

Don’t just take our word for it! The University of Leeds is so convinced of the impact music can have that they offer a MA in Music and Wellbeing, exploring in more depth the relationship between engaging with music and the positive effects on health and happiness. Dr Freya Bailes, who leads the MA, explains why she believes this is such an important area of research

“When we challenge our students to think critically about whether there is really anything special about music for wellbeing, the answer seems to be that music has it all! Singing with others contributes to positive mood, is engaging, promotes relationships with others, is experienced as meaningful, and can afford a strong sense of accomplishment.”

Students at the University of Leeds are exploring the effects music has on our wellbeing

10. Singing is for everyone

The good news is, it doesn’t matter whether you think you can sing in tune or not: the health benefits will still be the same. If you fancy a bit of guidance, Jennifer Sterling, our Choral Director, offers plenty of hints and tips during From Couch to Chorus (the day-time sessions are captioned for even greater accessibility) – and singing in the comfort of your own home over Zoom means no-one can hear the sound you’re making anyway, so you can simply let go, have fun and experience for yourself the wellbeing singing brings.

“Everybody has a voice and everybody can sing. It’s a brilliant way of just giving yourself some time. Simply tune out the rest of the world and enjoy the physical sensation of breathing in and creating a note with your body.”

– Oliver Rundell, Chorus Master, Opera North

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The Basses singing during a Couch to Chorus session on Zoom.

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