Singing For Your Soul
By Amy Clements-Cortes, PhD
Do you sing in the shower, or in the car, along to the radio? If so, you are in luck! Did you know there are a number of physical, emotional, social, and spiritual benefits linked to singing? Research has shown that singing improves breathing and lung capacity, physical stamina and posture, emotional and spiritual wellbeing, happiness and positive mood, energy and arousal, and self-confidence and self-esteem, all while reducing anxiety and feelings of stress. Singing in a group or choir also contributes to feelings of connection and increased social awareness.
I am so passionate about the benefits of singing that I embarked on a multi-phase research study over the past few years, looking at the health and wellness benefits of singing in a choir for older adults – both those who are cognitively intact and those diagnosed with dementia. My “Glee” studies have shown that singing in a choir improves mood, happiness, and energy, while reducing the perception of pain and anxiety. Amazing themes also surfaced, pointing to the fact that singing increases memory and alertness, promotes special moments, fosters friendships and community, while providing a climate of positivity. The most amazing theme that surfaced was that music is therapy.
Singing is so important that the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada have funded a seven-year collaborative research investigation to Advance Interdisciplinary Research in Singing (AIRS) through the collaboration of over 70 researchers representing all Canadian provinces, along with 15 other countries. The AIRS group aims to understand individual, cultural, and universal influences on singing and the influences of singing on individuals and societies. AIRS focuses on three major themes: development of singing ability, singing and learning, and singing for health and well-being. (www.airsplace.ca)
As a singing teacher, I have been so privileged to see how singing lessons and coaching impacts psychological wellbeing. Many of my students learn about themselves, strengthen their identity connection, and raise their levels of self-confidence from studying and rehearsing repertoire. An amazing story from my teaching practice involves a young lady who was so shy she was unable to speak in school to her peers or teachers. When she began singing lessons, she did not speak to me, but was open to singing vocal warmup exercises and learning repertoire. I was blown away when this young lady got on stage and performed two songs at our studio recital after having only taken lessons for a few months. Music was a motivator for her and provided a space where she could express her voice.
Some of my earliest and fondest memories include singing. My mother instilled a love of singing in me by waking me up every morning singing songs such as, “Oh What a Beautiful Morning”. I also recall singing and dancing around the kitchen to music playing on the radio. Today, I sing whenever I am able – in the car, at work as a therapist and teacher, when speaking in public, and as a performer. I feel blessed to be in a career as a music therapist, educator, performer, and researcher, that includes singing on a daily basis. Don’t you want to reap the benefits of singing? What are you waiting for? Start singing today!
Dr. Amy Clements-Cortes, PhD, MTA, MT-BC, FAMI, is Assistant Professor, Music and Health Research Collaboratory, University of Toronto, Senior Music Therapy/Practice Advisor at Baycrest, and Instructor of music therapy at WLU . At present, Amy is the President of the World Federation of Music Therapy.