Bingo! Singing delivers all 5 Ways to Well-being
Gareth Malone knows all about it, the Military Wives felt it and the residents of Bristol, the city of choirs, are on to it too. Singing makes you feel good.
Some years ago I joined a gospel choir at the same time as starting a PhD in positive psychology. I wanted to ‘sunshine into the soul’ during the long winter months. A year later I had given up the doctorate but was still going to choir practice. Singing had done more for my well-being than studying well-being. I discovered a turbo-charged route to health and happiness. Singing with a choir produces a whole raft of positive emotions from joy to elation to the satisfaction of when it all comes together on the night. It’s uplifting and a transcendent experience – connecting to something bigger than the self.
So what is it about choirs that makes them such a tonic? Research shows that singing is good for mental and physical well-being. It helps people cope with stress, recover from depression and overcome grief. Wearing my positive psychology hat I can see many ways in which choir singing raises the bar (pun intended) on your happiness. Of the All 5 ways to well-being are fulfilled by singing in a choir.
1. Connect. When it comes to our happiness other people matter. One of the characteristics of very happy people is that they have active social lives. Joining a choir is a great way to connect with people. It gives you a sense of family and belonging, so vital for well-being, especially in the individualist society that we inhabit in the West.
2. Be Active. Being a choir member is an active form of recreation which outstrips passive leisure activities such as watching TV in its benefits for well-being. There’s the potential for flow if the level of challenge is a notch higher than your skill in the area. It also delivers an extremely good workout for your lungs! My lung capacity has expanded.
3. Take Notice. There is much to savour in a choir – marvelling at the blend of voices, relishing the banter and laughter, cherishing the sense of community and basking in the glow of achievement as the group nails the song.
4. Keep Learning. Learning new things builds confidence and it’s particularly satisfying to learn something for fun rather than work. You also get a sense of progress – I can now hold a note for twice as long thanks to that enhanced lung power.
5. Give. The joy of singing is that it gives so much pleasure to others. Happiness is contagious and spreads to up to 3 degrees of separation. You see this happening at a performance. The give and take as positivity spreads through the choir into the audience. It’s a great way of putting a smile on people’s faces and spreading joy. You notice this happening with singing flash mobs.
Renewal choir – www.renewalchoir.org