Singing as therapy for body and mind


Believe it or not, anyone can sing.

More specifically, anyone can benefit from singing, regardless of age or demographic, say experts. There are many physiological, psychological and emotional benefits.

Singing can be an excellent form of exercise, says music therapist Grace Low from the Music & Creative Therapy unit at Singapore General Hospital.

"Even if you are healthy, your body will get a workout when you employ proper singing techniques by activating your diaphragm. It helps you build a stronger diaphragm and be more aware of your body's breathing process," she says.

The psychological and emotional benefits are also immense.

She adds: "It is a natural antidepressant. It decreases the levels of stress hormones in your body and can take your mind off the day's troubles to boost your mood."

Association for Music Therapy Singapore president Calvin Eng, 28, says the association has received more inquiries on music therapy during the current coronavirus pandemic.

"Specifically, on how music might be able to support our mental well-being," says Mr Eng, a board certified music therapist.

"Singing allows us to express ourselves and our feelings, relieve stress and feel better."

It increases oxygen level and releases endorphins that make us feel good and relaxed, he adds.

Experts agree that beyond the actual singing, the social nature of singing in a group or choir has added benefits.

Be it choral singing or karaoke with friends, singers in a group may experience a sense of belonging and cohesiveness, says Ms Low.

"Studies have shown that it helps to increase social bonding, which leads to an increase of human social behaviours like laughter."

Mr Eng says that singing in a choir supports our well-being by promoting social connection.

"Music has been a natural reason for people to gather since early cultures. A 2011 study on 16 adult outpatients with chronic mental disorders noted that membership and participation in a choir may promote creative opportunities for personal growth and establish regular social habits," he adds.

"When we gather and do things together in synchronisation, whether in rhythm or voice, the communicative power is much greater than when one does it solo."

In stressful times, music-making as self-care may be an option to consider.

Indeed, one of the many ways is to sing, says Ms Low. "It helps reduce stress and anxiety that in turn improves our sleep quality and mood."

Reaping the benefits of music can also be as simple as sharing a song with your loved one that reminds you of them, says Mr Eng.

"You could even get on a video call and sing together - no one expects you to sing (well), just enjoy and sing away."

But be sure to listen to your needs and participate "in your own time", he advises.

"Whether it is singing, learning a new instrument, or being part of a music experience, it is important to give space and allow an individual to join the process when he or she is ready."