The Power of Singing as a Tranquilizer?

Have you ever wondered why parents often sing softly to their babies as they rock and pat them? Especially to soothe them when they are upset?

Music can sometimes be magical

diane sitting on steps with three kidsHow many of us find it easier to do our work if music plays in our ears? Do we find it more soothing or energizing if we can hum or sing along with that music?

It turns out there is a neuroscience of singing.

The concept offers some fascinating reasons why singing can be beneficial to our brains and our bodies, and to our children’s brains and bodies as well.

In an article entitled The Neuroscience of Singing on the website Uplift Connect, journalist Cassandra Sheppard shares the following:

“The neuroscience of singing shows that when we sing our neurotransmitters connect in new and different ways. It fires up the right temporal lobe of our brain, releasing endorphins that make us smarter, healthier, happier and more creative.”

Because we do so many cerebral things in our performance-driven worlds which involve activities that primarily use the left side of our brains, music—and especially singing—stimulates the more creative side of the brain while activating the “feeling” part of our brain, too.

Sheppard states that, “Numerous studies demonstrate that singing releases endorphins and oxytocin – which in turn relieve anxiety and stress and which are linked to feelings of trust and bonding. Singing helps people with depression and reduces feelings of loneliness, leaving people feeling relaxed, happy and connected. What’s more, the benefits of singing regularly are cumulative. People who sing have reduced levels of cortisol, indicating lower stress.”

She goes on to share that group singing has even more benefits than singing in isolation because these positive effects are amplified.

She quotes the book Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness Singing with Others, in which author Stacy Horn calls singing, “An infusion of the perfect tranquilizer – the kind that both soothes your nerves and elevates your spirit.”

Apparently, it doesn’t matter if you sing well or even if you struggle to carry a tune. There is something very basic about the joy and sense of connection singing brings to us and to our children.

Many of us grew up in families where music was a part of our lives. So this information just confirms that there is a biological benefit to something we innately learned to love.

For others, music may not have been a part of childhood or is no longer included in day-to-day living. This article makes a compelling argument for intentionally making music, especially singing, as something we should do regularly with our family members and friends.

We now know singing influences all kinds of wonderful neurochemical responses that promote peace and happiness, and the all-important sense of connectedness with those around us.

Invitation for Reflection

1. Was music a part of your childhood family? Do you remember any specific songs you especially loved to hear and sing? Do you remember feeling a sense of connection when you could sing with other family members? Now you have the biological reasons for why you felt these ways!
2. Is music a part of your family now? If not, what are some ways you could begin to incorporate it into everyday life?
3. Remember that it does not matter if you sing well. Coming together as a family to enjoy singing is more about the connections it promotes and not about the quality of the actual singing. We can leave that up to shows like “The Voice.”

Diane Wagenhals, Director of Lakeside Global Institute, Lakeside