What’s in a song? The science of singing

What’s in a song? The science of singing

How is your singing voice? I’d love to tell you how good mine is but my kids would be on that like a shot; they are only too happy to tell anyone willing to listen how bad their mum is at singing. So I reserve it for the shower, solo trips in the car… or for tormenting my children.

Regardless of how good your singing skills are, there is still a great benefit to opening your mouth and belting out a song, more than you might think. And as usual, science has plenty of facts to back this up. Some of these might surprise you.

The science of singing - boy singing

Image source: Pixabay.com

Some benefits to singing  – with a dash of science

Singing can improve our mood

This one probably isn’t of any big surprise; all of us have experienced singing in our lives, whether we are willing participants or coerced into it; but we all feel better afterwards. Why is that? It seems that singing releases a cocktail of chemicals that can both calm and invigorate at the same time.

When we sing we light up the right temporal lobe of the brain, causing the release of endorphins.  These chemicals can literally lift our mood and give us a sense of euphoria.

Studies have shown that singing can also cause the release of oxytocin, the feel-good hormone that can reduce stress levels and help calm the body and mind. Oxytocin is also connected with strengthening bonds and friendships between people which is interesting as many studies have reported that people that sing together in choirs reap more benefits than singing solo. One of the observations is that people who sing together will literally synchronise their heart beats.

Singing can improve our health

The benefits mentioned above can not only make us feel happier but also reduce blood pressure and feelings of depression and isolation.

Singing can improve our breathing and our posture. It can help relieve respiratory illnesses and improves our cardiovascular and pulmonary health.

Perhaps one of the most amazing benefits of singing is the report that is can improve the cognitive abilities and well being of people suffering with dementia. It has also been shown to help people with speech impediments (such as stuttering), stroke victims and sufferers of Parkinson’s  Disease.

Singing can help us learn

Singing can alter our brain’s chemical and physical make up. it can help us exercise specific parts of the brain and can even enhance our learning. In particular, singing can help us learn a new language. Apparently singing phrases in a foreign language can help us remember them more easily and for longer.

Whatever benefit you are after, it seems that singing really might be what you need. And if you are just too shy to try it, then you can simply listen, which has lots of benefits too, but that’s a blog post for another day.

Need a little cheering up?

Need a little cheering up?

There must be something in the air today… I was met by two very sad looking kids at school pick up, my little three year old spent half his day crying and a poor friend sounded really low on the phone.  To be honest I am not exactly full of the joys myself .  So how can we cheer ourselves up when we are low… and is there a science to it?

Most people have their own ways of shaking off the blues.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t;  Here is a list of some possible ways to cheer yourself up, with a bit of science behind each!

1. Become an avid sports fan:
Apparently sports fans are less prone to depression and have a higher level of happiness due to the sense of connection and belonging associated with following a team!

2. Have a beer:
The mere taste of beer has been shown to increase levels of dopamine when compared with soft drinks.  Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that can increase our sense of pleasure and well being.

3. Head to the gym:
No big surprises with this one… the endorphin release we get from exercise makes us calmer, more productive and happier people!  If you combine exercise with being in the great outdoors you can increase your happiness quotient even further.

This leads me nicely into my last point… and the one that works best for me… being in the outdoors, or more precisely…

4. Get digging:
This always works for me.  No matter what mood I might be in getting my hand stuck into the soil seems to really give me a boost.  I thought it was due to a combination of factors… free air, a bit of exercise, a distracting project and the therapeutic effect of being among nature.  It appears there is even more to it…  the presence of a non-patoghenic bacterium called Mycobacterium vaccae within the soil itself.  M. vaccae has been shown to increase serotonin levels in mice and create responses similar to treatment with antidepressants.  Treatment with this friendly bacteria has been shown to increase mood in cancer patients and has been linked with improvement in cognitive function.

So, I’m off to dig a hole in the garden, while jogging on the spot, drinking a beer and cheering at the chickens to see which “team” makes it to the coop first.  I figure even if it doesn’t cheer me up it will certainly get the rest of the family laughing…. and laughter has to be the best cure of all for beating the blues!

Laughter... the best medicine!
Laughter… the best medicine!