Humans are incredibly social creatures. We crave connection to other people. While technology has made us feel more connected we are, in fact, less in touch with one another than ever before. As far as our brains are concerned there is a huge difference between the contact we receive face to face compared with that we get electronically. If you are missing out on that personal contact, perhaps it’s time you joined a choir.
The positive physiological benefits of singing are well known. Recent research has now shown that singing in a group is particularly beneficial. A recent study found that choral singing improves our mood and decreases stress, depression and anxiety. This is often attributed to the deep breathing associated with singing and similarly with meditation. Singing in groups has also been linked to lower blood pressure, increased blood oxygen saturation, elevated immunity and a higher pain threshold.
It isn’t just about singing, but about being part of something bigger than yourself. People who sing in a group report far higher well-being than those who sing on their own. It’s about connecting and synchronizing with others. Rowers and dancers have also shown a greater capacity to endure pain when performing in time with others. This is believed to come from the sense of belonging that synchronizing with others brings. The need to belong is a fundamental human motivation, and a large part of what human beings do is done in order to feel that sense of belonging.
Another theory is that the experience of making music together provides a sense of awe, not just for observers, but for participants as well. Research suggests this emotion leads to an enhanced sense of altruism, helping us become more aware of our common humanity rather than focusing on our own personal needs. Those who report more awe in their lives have been shown to be more generous, more ethical, and more helpful towards others.
So, perhaps it’s time we all joined a choir.