The psychology of why singing makes you happy

Recently, my other half and I hosted a singing workshop for close friends. Each of us brought a song to the table, performing it for a very relaxed room in a bid to better our acting through song potentially in prep for future auditions, and of course, for a bit of old school fun.

And a fantastic evening so it was, with lots of lovely discoveries made within the our voices and acting choices, whilst my dear friend’s daughter’s rendition of ‘Castle on a Cloud’ reduced many to withering wrecks (she’s 5). Leaving straight after on the 10.45pm overnight Megabus to London (a 9 hour treat), I had a lot of thinking time following this gathering, and the following struck me quite clearly on arrival; despite lack of sleep, the anxiety of starting a new job (hence Megabus) and the thought of leaving my home for a while, my general mood was rather excellent.

Which lead me to question, why?

In general, actually, throughout the many hundreds of singing lessons I have taken, both as student and teacher, 95% of the time I leave with slightly more a skip in my step, a sense of achievement and motivation. My general mood lifts as a result of singing.

So, my inner psychologist got to work employing some rather underused skills from my Durham Uni days, scouring the internet for studies and positive correlations between better mental health and opportunities taken to sing. And lo and behold, the internet provided.

The stats

A World Health Organisation (WHO) study analysed over 1200 choristers in 2010 and quoted ‘a high degree of consensus…on the positive benefits of choral singing’, particularly in women, in relation to better psychological well being (Clift and Hancox, 2010). In 2002, a pair of Canadian psychologists studied a men’s choir in Montreal finding ‘enhanced physical and emotional well-being…a greater sense of personal worth…re-engaging with social networks’ (Bailey and Davidson, 2002). In another study, 67% of semi-pro choral singers agreed that singing contributed to their general well-being (Beck, Cesario, Yousefi and Enamoto, 2000).

It seems the act of learning songs in and amongst a safe group with the ultimate aim of performance distracted singers from their internal struggles and worries, instead focusing them on the creation of energy and channeling it into a positive emotional experience with extended benefits.

The following are a couple of personal accounts from the WHO study in 2010:

“I have had to stop working due to an on‐going medical condition (bi‐polar disorder). I have had several episodes of this. Requiring varying lengths of time spent in hospital, followed by months of time needing support for depression and lack of self‐confidence.  Being a member of this particular choir has lifted my self‐esteem again and restored self‐ belief” [English female 54.]

“It plays a significant part in my emotional health and wellbeing. I find music uplifting. When recovering from a major stroke, singing was one of the ways of lifting my spirits out of depression.” [English male, 65.]

Whether with friends, on a karaoke bar or just a wee belt in your morning shower, give it a go and see how you feel after.

Getting involved in singing

I also provide one-to-one vocal coaching and singing lessons in Glasgow that really can take you to the next level by following a fun programme that I have developed.

See here for more information on singing lessons in Glasgow