Stress relieving, calming, good for posture, breathing, bringing people together, getting rid of negative feelings – one activity we can all do no matter what our ability – and it is totally free! Of course I am talking about singing, that most natural means of expression – singing lullabies to babies, fun songs at school, celebrations at weddings, camaraderie in the pub, friendship filled karaoke nights and sorrow at funerals.
The TV is swamped with singing programmes – mostly focussed on technical excellence and image – such as the X-factor, Pop Stars, Fame Academy, Last Choir Standing, Sing the Nation. These are fun, uplifting shows but focusing on competence of others through this competitive structure may make us more self conscious of our own singing. Spontaneous singing is such a healthy activity – I love seeing people singing at the top of their voice as they drive to work – surely when they arrive there, they feel so much more energised and buoyant than if they had just listened to the doom and gloom on the news?
Medical research shows that singing exercises major muscle groups in the upper body. It is an aerobic activity that improves the efficiency of our cardiovascular system and encourages us to take more oxygen into our bodies, leading to increased alertness, stress reduction, longevity, better motor control and coordination – and even improved neurological functioning. And there is increasing publicity as well – as an example, Leeds based charity; Heart Research UK ran a “Sing for your Heart” week on 8 - 15 December last year, in an effort to build awareness around the health benefits of singing – adding that sneaking a few dance moves in makes it an even healthier pastime.
I am a great advocate of singing and encourage my kids to sing or hum along to music we frequently play in the house – not necessarily as a conscious activity, but just as a spontaneous way of being. It saddens me when I see people, particularly children, self conscious about such a natural, instinctual, uplifting pastime. My daughters attend a drama school on Saturdays, where the teachers’ approach is all about confidence and enjoyment, not just technical excellence. At the end-of-term shows, there are some notes that could shatter glass, but who cares in a room full of happy, confident children, working together to provide a wonderful performance for their audience? We should take some learning from that and apply it in our adult lives.
The only thing better than singing is more singing" said the great jazz diva Ella Fitzgerald. So go on, hang up your self consciousness and make some noise!
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