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Singing your way to good health

Want to improve your mental health and well-being? Join a choir.  

Research shows that choral singing is beneficial to physical and mental health as well as to social well-being. And you don't even have to be a great singer to gain the benefits.  

Physical benefits
Singing is a physical activity. To create music, you must sit or stand straight, breathe deeply from your diaphragm and project your voice using upper body, neck, jaw and face muscles. These actions help improve posture and release tension in your body. Singing also strengthens the muscles in your palate and throat, which has been shown to decrease snoring and sleep apnea.

The deep, rhythmical breathing needed for singing strengthens your lungs, and the increased oxygen flow stimulates your circulatory system and your brain. Benefits include a more regulated heart rate, lower blood pressure and improved mental alertness and cognition. Music and singing are frequent therapies for patients with dementia, Alzheimer's disease and other cognitive disorders.

Singing also creates beneficial hormone and neurochemical changes in your body. For instance, the release of dopamine—a neurochemical associated with pleasure and reward in the brain—increases after singing. Other chemical effects include: 

  • reduced stress hormones
  • increased antibodies, strengthening your immune system
  • increased endorphins, which are natural pain relievers and antidepressants
  • increased oxytocin, a hormone that helps reduce anxiety and stress

Mental health benefits
Research shows that singing improves mood and can reduce depression and anxiety for some people, which reduces the need for mood-altering medications. Among patients with more severe mental health conditions, such as psychosis, bipolar effective disorder or schizophrenia, singing has been shown to help improve communication, participation and social engagement.

Some of the effects may be due to the physical changes singing causes and some may be from the social interactions of singing in a group. One study found that group activities increase participants' sense of well-being more than solo efforts.

Choral singing is associated with improved self-esteem and confidence, higher sense of community, increased social life and improved communication skills. Such benefits are found even among people with no formal musical training or skill.

Finding a choir to join is easy. Find a choir near you by checking churches, community centers, continuing education programs, the Internet and music stores.

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