How singing improves your mental health (regardless of whether you’re in key) | The Optimist Daily
Today’s Solutions: July 16, 2024

Singing can be an intimidating experience, especially for those who don’t consider themselves very good singers, however, many won’t deny that when they do let loose and belt out a catchy song in the privacy of their car or shower, they feel a delicious release.

While feeling shy or uncomfortable about singing is natural (even when you’re alone), avoiding singing completely can stand in the way of self-expression.

According to music therapist Lista Townsen, MT-BC, “Singing songs that match your mood or express how you want to feel, rather than simply listening, allows you to more deeply tap into and move through various emotions.” Practicing singing out loud “[creates] opportunities for intentional, deep breaths, and [triggers] the release of endorphins and dopamine, giving you opportunities for increased awareness in your body and mind,” she adds.

Singing can also improve aspects of well-being, especially in terms of coping with grief and anxiety. A 2019 study that looked at people who had lost a loved one in the past five years demonstrated how attending a choir group for 90 minutes every week, over a 12-week period, stabilized the participants’ depression symptoms, as well as improved their overall well-being and self-esteem in comparison with a control group.

Another study by the University of Helsinki discovered that singing may also restore certain cognitive functions. The study found that adults over 60 who participated in a choir had higher verbal functioning than those who did not.

How to start singing comfortably

Although the benefits of singing are undeniable, many of us will still struggle with the thought of singing out loud in a place where someone might hear. Townsend believes that the key to overcoming this fear is to reframe the act of singing in your mind. Don’t think of the action as performative, and instead, conceptualize it as a form of playful self-expression. “The goal isn’t to sound like someone else, it’s to sound like you! Singing should feel good,” she says.

Luckily, the benefits of singing can be equally reaped by those who aren’t necessarily “good” singers. Even if you find it impossible to stay in key, singing will still have a positive impact on your mental health.

“If you’re nervous, start with a sigh,” says music therapist and founder of Carolina Music Therapy Alison Hughey. “Take a deep breath and sigh out loud as you exhale. When you’re ready, hum any note when you exhale. You can also turn up your tunes and sing along.”

Hughey suggests forming a singing habit by coupling it with another established activity in your day, like doing the washing up after a meal or while you get dressed for work. She also says that, while it may seem obvious, it’s important to choose songs that you actually like, and that allows you to explore your own feelings.

A few other tips to get started: try humming! “Humming is a great place to start—it’s easy on the vocal cords, creates wonderful vibrations in your body, and can feel like a nice long exhale,” Townsend says. “You can also pull up an instrumental or karaoke track of your favorite song and sing along with nonsense words, such as ‘la,’ ‘dee,’ or ‘doo.’”

So, the next time you have the urge to break out into song like you’re the shining star of a musical, you now have a few great reasons to let it happen and simply go for it.

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