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||Sixteen years ago to the date, my best friend committed suicide. She was beautiful inside and out with a compassionate heart too large for her physical body. As one of the smartest people I knew, she loved to engage in passionate discussions about her favorite … ...
|A Psychologist’s Personal Struggle with Homelessness
||What does it feel like to be homeless? And does homelessness early in life cause permanent trauma? For the majority of Australia’s population who, relative to many other nations, live comfortably buffered within their first world “bubble,” homelessness is not a situation or circumstance with … ...
|My Bipolar Disorder: What is Happening in My Head?
||For about a week now I’ve felt like someone has gone inside my brain with a hand mixer and is dancing around with it. My thoughts are racing. I’m having … ...
|Through The ADHD Looking Glass
||The wardrobe led to Narnia. And the rabbit hole led to Wonderland. And books led me into worlds that completely engrossed me. Now that’s pretty normal for a reader, especially … ...
|Best of Our Blogs: December 4, 2015
||Whew! I don’t know about you, sweet readers, but it’s been a looooong week for me; fortunately, one of my perks is getting to check out some of Psych Central’s most popular posts over the past few days. That’s right. I love learning from my … ...
|The New Science of Singing Together
||A decade ago, any mention of a choir would probably have brought Sunday morning hymns to mind.
But there’s been a revolution in attitudes towards joining the local choir. Adding well-known, mainstream music to the repertoire, the small-screen appeal of television choirmaster Gareth Malone, and the increased visibility of choirs such as Rock Choir and Popchoir, have attracted a new crowd to the idea of the communal singalong. It is estimated that an incredible 2.8 million British people are now members of a choir.
Which is good news—for singing in a choir is beneficial in a number of different ways. We’ve just published some research that reveals that group singing not only helps forge social bonds, it also does so particularly quickly, acting as an excellent icebreaker. We’ve also shown that community singing is effective for bonding large groups, making it an ideal behavior 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 are so many people flocking to choirs? There’s almost certainly an X Factor effect at play, with people, inspired by TV talent shows, becoming increasingly willing to stand up and perform. It also has long been believed that music making can create a strong sense of well-being, but since it’s very hard to find a suitable “control” activity, this area is particularly hard to research scientifically.
Although this remains a problem, a number of recent developments have helped us to understand how group singing can improve physical and mental health, as well as promote social bonding.
The physiological benefits of singing, and music more generally, have long been explored. Music making exercises the brain as well as the body, but singing is particularly beneficial for improving breathing, posture, and muscle tension. Listening to and participating in music has been shown to be effective in pain relief, too, probably due to the release of neurochemicals such as β-endorphin (a natural painkiller responsible for the “high” experienced after intense exercise).
There’s also some evidence to suggest that music can play a role in sustaining a healthy immune system, by reducing the stress hormone cortisol and boosting the Immunoglobulin A antibody.
Music has been used in different cultures throughout history in many healing rituals, and is already used as a therapy in our own culture (for the relief of mental illness, breathing conditions, and language impairment, for example). Everyone can sing—however much we might protest—meaning it is one of the most accessible forms of music making, too. Song is a powerful therapy indeed.
Regular choir members report that learning new songs is cognitively stimulating and helps their memory, and it has been shown that singing can help those suffering from dementia, too. The satisfaction of performing together, even without an audience, is likely to be associated with activation of the brain’s reward system, including the dopamine pathway, which keeps people coming back for more.
The psychology of singing
Singing has also been shown to improve our sense of happiness and well-being. Research has found, for example, that people feel more positive after actively singing than they do after passively listening to music or after chatting about positive life events. Improved mood probably in part comes directly from the release of positive neurochemicals such as β-endorphin, dopamine, and serotonin. It is also likely to be influenced by changes in our sense of social closeness with others.
Increasing evidence suggests that our social connections can play a vital role in maintaining our health—a good social network, for example, can have more health benefits than giving up smoking. So it’s possible that singing can improve health by expanding our social group. Indeed, the rapid social bonding that choirs encourage could therefore be even more beneficial.
Even if we don’t necessarily talk to everyone in our choir, we might experience a general feeling of being connected with the group, leading to our sense of increased community and belonging.
Our choral ancestors
Being part of a cohesive group has been essential for survival throughout our evolutionary history, but being part of a group also raises challenges, such as conflict over resources and mates. In order to survive, our ancestors needed ways to keep the group together through these conflicts.
Music is found in all human cultures around the world. The oldest bone flute is 40,000 years old, so music has been around at least this long. This, and the fact that music often occurs in social settings, from religious rituals to football games, suggests that music might be an evolved behavior for creating community cohesion.
In Western societies, music making is often thought to be the domain of a talented few, but very few people actually have no musical ability. The growth of community choirs open to anyone demonstrates these inherent skills and suggests that we are returning to the origins of communal musical behavior. In light of mounting concerns about loneliness and isolation and the increasingly urgent search for solutions, it is fascinating that people seem to be returning to an interest in connecting with one another through singing. The evidence indicates that our singing ancestors might have held a key to better social well-being.
Singing provides an inclusive and cost-effective means of combating the disintegration of communities that is becoming endemic in many societies today. So whether you’re more into chamber music, the Beatles, or Frozen singalongs, finding the right choir could prove the perfect way to improve your health, well-being, and social life.
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
|Neuroimaging in 20 minutes
||Neuroscientist Matt Wall did a fascinating talk on all things neuroimaging at a recent TEDx Vienna event. It’s a gently funny, engrossing talk that both introduces brain imaging and discuss some of the cutting-edge developments. He particularly talks about some of the recent fMRI ‘mind reading’ studies – which are more complex, limited, and interesting […]
|Urgent! Is Bad Digestion Crushing Your Mood? 9 Tummy...
||Bubble Yum: I’m bubble Gum! Friends Forever! Turkey leg: Gross! he’s stuck to me… Get it off! Carrots: Why are you still here? Caption: The lingering effects of Bad Digestion … ...
|Why Gym-Goers May Be More Likely to Booze
||A review examining physical activity’s counterintuitive connection with alcohol consumption found that upping our exercise ante could increase how much we drink.
|Defining Everything from Self-Care to Success on Your Own...
||I used to think that words like success, self-care, beauty and body acceptance had one-size-fits-all definitions. For example, I used to think that beauty was defined as thin, tan and … ...
|Psychologists pinpoint change in weight required to look healthier and more attractive
||A good poker face might prevent others knowing what cards you’re holding but it won’t prevent them from knowing if you’ve gained or lost weight. That’s because our faces reveal many things, including whether our weight has changed. Now, researchers in the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto have determined the amount of [...]
|People with dementia exposed to low quality of life through lack of activity
||People with dementia exposed to low quality of life through lack of activity. Quality of life for people with dementia living in long-term care is often negatively impacted due to low levels of activity participation. Furthermore, staff and families remain pessimistic about the abilities of the person with dementia to be engaged. These are among [...]
|Major Med Change
||Last time I saw my psychiatrist he mentioned that I research a new medication on the market targeted to treat major depression disorder and schizophrenia. Funny how the two can … ...
|Cannabis increases the ‘neural noise’ in your brain
||Several studies have demonstrated that the primary active constituent of cannabis, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (∆9-THC), induces transient psychosis-like effects in healthy subjects similar to those observed in schizophrenia. However, the mechanisms underlying these effects are not clear. A new study, published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, reports that ∆9-THC increases random neural activity, termed neural noise, in [...]
|A step towards gene therapy against intractable epilepsy
||By delivering genes for a certain signal substance and its receptor into the brain of test animals with chronic epilepsy, a research group at Lund University in Sweden with colleagues at University of Copenhagen Denmark has succeeded in considerably reducing the number of epileptic seizures among the animals. The test has been designed to as [...]
|To talk or not to talk? The dilemma of suicide contagion
||In recent years, research has shown that suicide has the potential to spread through social networks – a phenomenon some have dubbed “suicide contagion.” Sophisticated, diverse statistical modeling techniques have largely reached the same conclusion: if someone is exposed to the suicide attempt or death of a friend, it increases that person’s risk of suicidal [...]
|Study finds 3/4 of high school heroin users started with prescription opioids
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|‘Purpose in life’ linked to lower mortality and cardiovascular risk
||People who have a higher sense of purpose in life are at lower risk of death and cardiovascular disease, reports a pooled data analysis in Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine, the official journal of the American Psychosomatic Society. The journal is published by Wolters Kluwer. “Possessing a high sense of purpose in life is [...]
|Mental health courts significantly reduce repeat offenses and jail time
||New research from North Carolina State University finds that mental health courts are effective at reducing repeat offending, and limiting related jail time, for people with mental health problems – especially those who also have substance use problems. “Previous research has provided mixed data on how effective mental health courts are at reducing recidivism, or [...]
|Brain receptors for hunger hormone control food intake, study shows
||Activating receptors in the brain for the body’s hunger hormone increases food-related behaviors, such as gathering, storing and consuming food, a finding that has implications for the treatment of obesity, according to researchers at Georgia State University. Their study suggests that stimulating brain receptors for ghrelin, a hormone that increases appetite, by injecting ghrelin into [...]