How Singing in a Choir Promotes Happiness

Group singing improves brain function and fosters social bonds.


Happiness, Music
Choral group performs on stage

(Katatonia82 / Shutterstock)

The perfectly pitched sounds of a choral group in harmony can sound like the music of angels. In recent years choir singing has become increasingly popular, with many people around the world making the decision to join choral groups on an amauter or professional basis. Being a member of a choir is about much more than just the music, it can serve as a powerful shortcut to enhancing personal happiness and well-being. 

Forging social bonds
According to The Conversation, singing in a choir provides people with an enjoyable real life social activity, in stark contrast to the lonely digital reality many people find themselves immersed in. Singing in a group puts people at ease and can very quickly form a sense of community.

A study published by the Royal Society Open Science revealed that group singing functions as an ideal social icebreaker, since singing promotes fast connectivity between strangers, bypassing the need for small talk and learning personal knowledge that are traditionally needed to get better acquainted. 

Brain exercise
The Conversation reports that singing in a choral group is healthy for overall brain development because participants immerse themselves in the music. Listening to music or taking an active role in musical activities, can offer relief from pain, due to the release of neurochemicals like β-endorphin, which is associated with the “high” that is felt after vigorous exercise.

The musical environment of choir groups can have a calming effect on members and can serve to fight off depression or anxiety. It can also help sustain a more healthy immune system by reducing cortisol and boosting immunoglobulin A.

In addition, singing in a choir can promote general physical well-being, by improving breathing, strengthening posture and providing relief for muscle tension. According to Choral Director, choir singing can also release dopamine (the feel good hormone) and serotonin (a neurotransmitter that regulates moods).

Musical memory
Learning new songs and musical material on a regular basis helps choir participants stimulate their memory. According to Choral Director, neuroscientists have found that musical memories act on wider neural pathways than other forms of memory. This explains the powerful emotional reaction one may feel when listening to a piece of music. 

Alzheimer’s or dementia patients may sometimes remember the words to an old favorite song even when their overall memory is severely challenged. Singing in a choir can help keep neural pathways active, an excellent way to maintain their brains. 

Scientists have revealed that singers have improved circuit connection between the right and left sides of their brains. By memorizing the words with their left brain and mastering the music with their right brain, choir singers make use of both sides to help keep synapses in great shape. 

Daniel Pink, author of When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, told CNBC that “Choral singing calms the heart and boosts endorphin levels. It improves lung function. It increases pain thresholds and reduces the need for pain medication.”

“People who sing in a group report far higher well-being than those who sing solo,” Pink added, explaining that singing in a choir requires synchronizing with the others in the group, an activity that boosts people's moods and self-esteem by engendering a deepened sense of belonging.

For many choral group members, joining together with fellow singers to create perfect harmonies and magical music has unlocked a pathway for them to staying calmer, healthier and happier. 

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