The holiday season evokes many emotions, causing stress and fatigue. Food, family, and fatigue add to the angst. So how do we feel good about the extra cookies, relationship drama, and long hours shopping? According to research, singing can help relieve holiday stress by releasing pleasure endorphins and oxytocin. These hormones have been found to alleviate anxiety and stress during the holiday season.
Benefits of Singing
Even if you can’t carry a tune, it can carry you. Research shows singing lowers stress, boosts immunity and lung function, enhances memory, improves mental health, and helps one cope with physical and emotional pain. So, turn up the tunes and sing at the top of your lungs.
Here are just some physical, emotional, and social benefits.
Increases Mental Alertness
Singing delivers oxygenated blood to the brain. Breathing in pure oxygen for a few minutes increases the blood’s oxygen saturation from about 98–99 percent (in normal breathing) to 100 percent, allowing us to make energy more efficiently.
Many of us are unfocused during the holidays. That’s when most fender benders occur. Let’s slow down, sing, and not allow the business to sidetrack us from the real meaning of the season.
Singing for 2–3 minutes lifts the spirit. It forces oxygen into the blood, which signals the brain to release a mood-lifting endorphin—oxytocin. This hormone alleviates anxiety and stress and promotes feelings of trust. In turn, this decreases feelings of depression and loneliness. Try singing in the shower, washing the dishes, baking cookies, on the way to work, or before your next Zoom meeting. Let the notes carry your stress away.
Strengthens the Lungs and Cardiovascular System
Strong lungs increase overall health and wellbeing by absorbing oxygen from the air and releasing it into the bloodstream. Oxygen helps the organs, including the brain, to function better. Your body produces carbon dioxide and releases it when you breathe out. For the elderly, disabled, and injured, singing is a perfect way to exercise muscles. Other health benefits of singing include a stronger diaphragm, increasing your aerobic capacity and stamina. As a person with fibromyalgia, my muscles tighten causing my oxygen intake to lessen. I find singing helps me breathe easier and feel better.
Multiple studies suggest singing and music enhances sleep due to its effects on hormones, specifically cortisol. Being stressed and having elevated levels of cortisol can increase alertness and lead to poor sleep. Experts believe singing strengthens throat and palate muscles, which helps reduce snoring and sleep apnea. My husband snores a lot. When he sang at church and performed karaoke, those midnight snorts reduced, and we both sleep better.
Boosts the Immune System
Results show singing for an hour reduced stress hormones, such as cortisol, and increases quantities of cytokines—proteins of the immune system—which boost the body’s ability to fight serious illness. Dr Ian Lewis, Director of Research and Policy at Tenovus Cancer Care and co-author of the research, said: “We’ve long heard anecdotal evidence that singing in a choir makes people feel good, but this is the first time it’s been demonstrated that the immune system can be affected by singing. It’s really exciting and could enhance the way we support people with cancer in the future.” The holidays bring people together and germs exchange hands along with the gifts. Pump up the volume of those songs and sing to reduce the chance of illness. Sing while you wash your hands too. We need to take every measure to stay healthy.
Helps Improve Motor Skills in People with Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s is a progressive disease of the nervous system marked by tremors, muscular rigidity, and slow, imprecise movement. Elizabeth Stegemöller, an assistant professor of kinesiology, says the improvements among singing participants with Parkinson’s are similar to the benefits of taking medication.
“We see the improvement every week when they leave the singing group. It’s almost like they have a little pep in their step. We know they’re feeling better, and their mood is elevated,” Stegemöller said. “Some of the symptoms that are improving, such as finger tapping and the gait, don’t always readily respond to medication, but with singing, they’re improving.” Know someone with a nervous system or motor skills condition? Help them by asking them to sing with you or a group of people. Their smile alone is the best holiday gift.
Improves Social Life
Whether you’re in a choir or singing karaoke with friends, one of the unexpected benefits is that singing can improve your social life. The bonds formed while crooning with others creates a level of intimacy and lasting friendships.
A Sing Your Heart Out study conducted in the United Kingdom by Tom
Shakespeare PhD found the combination of singing and social engagement produced a feeling of belonging and well-being, often lasting more than a day.
When participants attended the workshops weekly, they felt the structure, support, and communication helped them maintain a higher level of purpose. The group singing helped those who experienced social anxiety improve their social skills and gain confidence. People love to sing during the holidays. Go Christmas caroling at a senior center or hospital. I remember when I worked at the Veterans hospital, we took our lunch break and sang for the patients. Their smiles carried me through the season, and many of them didn’t stop talking about it.
Singing spans the globe. I’ve traveled to Togo, Africa, El Salvador, Honduras, and Japan. I may not understand the language, but one thing I noticed, singers never frown. Joy sticks to each note and spreads to everyone listening.
Whether you join a choir, sing karaoke or solo, singing relieves anxiety and improves the quality of your life. The best gift you can give yourself this holiday season is the gift of singing. Even if you don’t like your voice, turn the music up loud and sing. How has singing helped you change your holiday attitude?
About the Author
Cherrilynn is an award-winning writer, speaker, and coach. She loves encouraging her brothers and sister to stand firm and shine for Jesus. She is an expert in Book Proposals and memoirs. Her book Shine Don’t Whine is helping many women overcome fear, anxiety, perfectionism, and worry. She considers it an honor to be published twice in Chicken Soup for the Soul books, Kiss Guilt GoodBye, Heart Reno, Breaking the Chains, and Get to the Margins Author’s Anthology. Cherrilynn proudly served in the military for twenty years, earning the John Levitow Military leadership award. You find her at https://www.cherrilynnbisbano.com