Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Here's an article I was recently asked to write for a magazine in the UK. I thought some of my SP friends might enjoy it.
SINGING IS GOOD FOR YOU
Today’s frantic lifestyle can make us easy prey to those pushing the latest health fad. Claims about the efficacy of super foods, supplements or exercise equipment have us clambering to the shops in the hope that the answer to all our ills has finally arrived.
Well stop right there! Put your money away and instead turn to something you’re probably doing already and possibly even unknowingly! In fact we’ve been doing it for thousands of years and we happily pay to witness other people doing it! Sadly it’s something most people get a bit coy about when doing it themselves but I hope to persuade you to give it a whirl again if you’ve lapsed.
In 1605 the Spanish writer Cervantes said, ‘He who sings frightens away his ills’. Yes, this miracle cure is singing! That might sound a bit far fetched but Cervantes isn’t the only historical figure to advocate singing for health. In his ‘Psalmes, Sonets, & Songs’ of 1588, the eminent English composer William Byrd offered eight reasons why people should learn how to sing. They include:
• The exercise of singing is delightfull to Nature & good to preserve the health of Man.
• It doth strengthen all the parts of the brest, & doth open the pipes.
• It is a singular good remedie for a stuttering & stammering in the speech.
The cynic might say that he was hoping to persuade more people to buy his music but research over the centuries has concurred with Byrd’s theories. The act of singing, even if you think you’re no good, can have multiple benefits both physical and psychological, especially if you do it with others. Choral singing has been proven to be particularly effective. The social aspect is uplifting, it relieves stress and leads to better sleep, it builds confidence and self-esteem and improves breathing. Research at the University of Manchester has discovered that the sacculus - an organ in the inner ear connected to the part of the brain which registers pleasure - is stimulated by low frequency, high intensity sounds such as singing within seconds of hearing that sound. No matter how you sound to others, singing improves your mood. As William James, the American psychologist and philosopher said, ‘I don’t sing because I’m happy, I’m happy because I sing’. So why not give it a try and see for yourself how singing makes you feel?