On our Memory Tracks journey we saw first-hand how singing is a powerful boost to health and mental wellbeing. It is an activity that we instinctively know is good for us, even if that’s only confined to the shower, or when we are alone in the car (doesn’t everyone sing in the car?)
There’s been something of a resurgence of singing, groups and choirs in the UK. The 2007 Gareth Malone series, The Choir, kicked it off. He reminded us that group singing is akin to physical and emotional therapy all rolled into one, with the added benefit that it can build communities. Since then there have been some excellent initiatives that have made singing more popular and recognised in wellbeing; the Singing for the Brain initiative, the Dementia Choir with Vicky McClure, and the many voluntary organisations such as Live Music in Care and Sing-for-your-Life.
The benefits of singing became apparent in our research interviews with care home staff, as part of our initial study (Journal of Health Care Engineering, 2018). We were frequently told by care staff that singing along to our Memory Track songs made the impact of the music on those they cared for even greater. It seemed so obvious in hindsight!
How does singing have such an impact? There are emotional and physical benefits, combining to make singing a powerful wellbeing tool:
Singing certainly improves mood, it relieves stress, and increases mental alertness. It releases endorphins that alleviates pain and make you feel better. Singing also activates release of oxytocin, the cuddle hormone, that increases a sense of bonding and trust. What’s more, many have reported sleeping better as a result of regular singing.
On the physical side, singing can improve posture and balance, increase lung capacity, clear sinuses and airwaves, tone facial and stomach muscles, and even boost your immune system. In short, people who sing tend to be healthier than those who don’t.
Is there proof singing will help you live longer? Well, yes, according to researchers at Yale and Harvard. They studied the population of New Haven, Connecticut, and found that the “healthy heart and advanced mental state” that resulted from choral singing was seeing residents live longer. There are even claims that singing can even make you look younger because it exercises the facial muscles, and stretching out the signs of ageing. “Maybe she’s born with it”, as the advertising slogan goes…or perhaps she just sings!
Music as a whole improves longevity. A fascinating piece of research, by Zharinov and Anisimov in 2014, studied the lifespan of 8,755 musicians, and recorded the wonderful outcome that 43.75% of women harpists, the longevity ‘winners’, lived to the age of 90 and beyond. Heaven may indeed be missing an Angel, or two!
We have taken the importance of singing onboard at Memory Tracks. The new app now includes 60 hit sing-along songs complete with lyrics, from Ain’t She Sweet to You’ll Never Walk Alone. Let us know if we have missed any of the favourite sing-alongs, and we will include them in our next update!