Did you know that singing forces the body to release a little hormone called Oxytocin?
Oxytocin has been recorded to reduce anxiety and stress. According to ‘medical news today’ – Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter and a hormone that is produced in the hypothalamus. From there, it is transported to and secreted by the pituitary gland, at the base of the brain. How it works is that Oxytocin can induce anti-stress-like effects such as reduction of blood pressure and cortisol levels. It increases pain thresholds, exerts an anxiolytic-like effect and stimulates various types of positive social interaction.
What I also didn’t know is the effect of Oxytocin on dementia patience and depression. This has made singing a key practice in the treatment of depression and as a tool for assisting dementia patients and those struggling with other related afflictions.
I always knew that singing made me FEEL amazing and even more so when I sang with a group of people, but I didn’t know about the chemicals that I was naturally producing. Have you seen “The Kings Speech” with Geoffrey Rush where his character helps King George IV get over his chronic stuttering? Through singing it had an amazing effect it has where he doesn’t stutter at all when listens to the recording. One more thought, the ancients knew that certain frequencies of sound effect the body, Om, during meditation for example.
According to Bangert et al., (2006), Singing can play a valuable therapeutic role in the body because it is a general form of musical expression that is natural just like talking. Singing connects with sound-related motor feedback loop in the mind more seriously than other music making exercises, for example, playing instruments.
Singing, or the act of producing musical sounds with the voice, has the potential to treat speech abnormalities because it directly stimulates the musculature associated with respiration, phonation, articulation, and resonance.
Furthermore, another condition that can be influenced by singing is autism. It has been estimated over 1% of the world population is affected by autism (Williams, Higgins, & Brayne, 2006). Autism is characterized by impairments in expressive language and communication, with some affected individuals completely lacking functional speech (Tager-Flusberg, 1997). Individuals with autism have superior auditory processing abilities (Heaton, 2003) and often exhibit strong interests in learning and making music (Hairston, 1990).
Having said all that, I can hear you all say,” I’ve got a terrible singing voice”. My first question to you is – Who Told You That? You might not consider yourself a good singer OR you have been told at some point during your life that your voice sounds bad, this is when you need some help in ‘getting over the pain’ of another person’s opinion. For the rest of you, just put on your favourite music and sing, sing, sing.
To tackle my fear of singing, I joined a local theatre group when I was 24 years old, took some singing lessons by a local teacher (Don) and started my amateur theatrical career. Our theatre home was the then named property Mission Theatre and it was our stage for many years. The fondest memory I have is the thrill of performing in a large chorus especially when you have 40 people in a show all singing in harmony. Jesus Christ Superstar, Brigadoon, Evita were among the best shows to be a chorus member and I remember coming off stage on such a high.
I realise that singing for some people can bring absolute terror to the thought of singing in front of anyone, but that’s not what I’m suggesting. I want you to not CARE what other people think of you and just sing for the pure therapeutic nature of the act. I have a little challenge for you. Click on the photo and it will take you to a song that I co-created with a few people, you will find the words available for you to sing along. Take your first step and just sway in the wind, enjoy singing and bring some Oxytocin into your soul.
BANGERT, M., PESCHEL, T., SCHLAUG, G., ROTTE, M., DRESCHER, D., HINRICHS, H., ET AL. (2006). Shared networks for auditory and motor processing in professional pianists: Evidence from fMRI conjunction. Neuroimage, 30,917-926.
HAIRSTON, M. (1990). Analyses of responses of mentally retarded autistic and mentally retarded nonautistic children to art therapy and music therapy. Journal of Music Therapy, 27, 137-150.
HEATON, P. (2003). Pitch memory, labelling and disembedding in autism. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 44, 543-551
TAGER-FLUSBERG, H. (1997). Language acquisition and theory of mind: Contributions from the study of autism. In L. B. Adamson & M. A. Romski (Eds.), Research on communication and language disorders: Contributions to theories of language development (pp. 133-158). Baltimore, MD: Pauk Brookes Publishing.
WILLIAMS, J. G., HIGGINS, J. P., & BRAYNE, C. E. (2006). Systematic review of prevalence studies of autism spectrum disorders. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 91, 8-15.