The Life-Changing Benefits Of Community Choirs
Singing in a choir is beneficial in so many different ways. Group singing not only helps forge social bonds, but it also forges those bonds particularly quickly. Even the shyest of people will find comfort and connections quickly in a choir. Community choirs are also effective at bonding large groups, making it the perfect activity to improve our broader social networks. This is particularly valuable in today’s often alienating world, where many of our social interactions are conducted remotely via Facebook and Twitter.
But why a choir?
Since the Ancient Greeks, music-making has been believed to greatly contribute to your well-being. More recently, studies have helped us to understand how group singing can improve physical and mental health.
The Science Behind Singing
Singing has been shown to improve our sense of happiness and wellbeing, releasing positive neurochemicals such as β-endorphin, dopamine and serotonin. People feel more positive after actively singing than they do after passively listening to music or after chatting about positive life events. Sharing creative moments with others also increases our sense of social closeness with others.
There is increasing evidence that suggests that our social connections can play a vital role in maintaining our health – for example, a good social network can have more health benefits than giving up smoking. With the rapid social bonding that choirs encourage, the health benefits of group singing can therefore be more beneficial than we know. Even if choir members don’t interact with everyone else in the choir, they will experience greater feelings of being connected with the group, their community and increase their sense of belonging.
If we could engage more and more people in singing, I’m sure we would have a healthier nation.
Body, Mind, and Spirit
The benefits of singing, and music-making more generally, on the body, mind, and spirit have long been explored. Listening to and participating in music is an effective pain reliever due to the release of neurochemicals such as β-endorphin, a natural painkiller. Music-making also exercises the brain and the body, and singing is particularly beneficial for improving breathing, posture and muscle tension.
There’s some evidence too that suggests that music can play a role in sustaining a healthy immune system by reducing the stress hormone cortisol and boosting the Immunoglobin A antibody.
Regular choir members also report that learning new songs is cognitively stimulating and helps their memory, and studies have actually shown that singing can help those suffering from dementia. The satisfaction of performing together, with or without an audience, can activate of the brain’s reward system, including the dopamine pathway, which keeps people coming back for more.
Choirs Throughout History
Music has been used in different cultures throughout history as both a group bonding activity and a healing activity. In fact, the oldest bone flute is 40,000 years old! This, and the fact that music is present in all our social settings, from religious services to football games to singing around a campfire, suggests that music might be an evolved behaviour for creating community cohesion.
Additionally, music was used in many healing rituals and is still used today as a form of therapy for the relief of ailments such as mental illness, breathing conditions, and language impairment.
Everyone can sing – regardless of skill level – which means singing is one of the most accessible forms of music-making. As modern society’s concerns about loneliness and isolation grow, people seem to be returning to an interest in connecting with one another through singing.
At St Merkorious, that’s what we’re aiming to do with our Community Choir. Through sincere and enthusiastic expression, our choir will bring strength and empowerment to themselves and the St Merkorious community.