In this post I’d like to look at how singing together can benefit your mental health and how and why that works.
The main reason I lead singing groups is to help people make beautiful music together and to listen to wonderful harmonies being sung. It’s the music and the sound that motivate me personally.
There are, however, many health benefits to singing together. Some singing groups focus on these as their main motivation: the healing power of song. But it doesn’t matter whether this is your main reason or simply a side-effect, the benefits to health are still there.
Some of the health benefits of singing together have been well-documented and focus on the physical benefits of warm ups, breathing together, aerobic activity, improvements to respiration, relaxation, stress-relief, etc. But in this post I’d like to focus on mental health.
Of course, serious mental health issues need the help of a professional. But singing together can help with loneliness, mild depression, bereavement, lack of confidence and many other issues.
What are the mental health benefits and how do they work?
- level playing field – everyone is treated equally, your vocal contribution is just as important as anybody else’s.
- being anonymous – if you choose to, you can hide at the back and be anonymous while still contributing to the group as a whole.
- focus and distraction – when you’re learning songs or singing your harmony part, you have to focus hard which leaves no space in your head for worries or concerns.
- sense of achievement – when the group finally nail a song, there is an enormous sense of achievement.
- working together – singing together in harmony is unique in that a group of strangers can build something together without any special equipment or skills.
- the songs – the songs themselves can be gloriously uplifting and something to lose yourself in.
- the sound – being in the middle of a choral sound is a completely different experience to being an audience member.
- work at your own pace – it’s not necessary to socialise or chat to people in the break or stand on the front row until you want to (if you want to). Take your own time.
- not having to confront ‘problems’ – the beauty of singing together is that it can heal and help with mental health problems without having to tackle them head on. Just by turning up each week, the benefits will slowly accumulate.
- no expectations, no pressure – if you choose the right group, singing together should be stress-free. If you don’t want to perform in a concert, you don’t have to. When you arrive, there are no expectations other than turning up and contributing your voice.
- collective effervescence – I’ve only recently come across this concept (thanks to Margaret Hunt): “Collective effervescence is a concept coined in the early 20th century by the pioneering sociologist Émile Durkheim to describe the sense of energy and harmony people feel when they come together in a group around a shared purpose. Collective effervescence is the synchrony you feel when you slide into rhythm with strangers on a dance floor, colleagues in a brainstorming session, cousins at a religious service or teammates on a soccer field.” And of course, when singing together in a group.
In combination, all the effects outlined above help to create a safe environment where an individual can experiment and flourish without drawing attention to themselves. Over subsequent sessions healing can take place, even without the individual noticing!