This is your Brain on Song: The Neurochecmical Cocktail!
I’ve already spoken to how anatomically brilliant the voice is, and wonders do not cease when it comes to singing’s effect on the human brain.
Have you ever had a singing lesson, sung in a choir, or even belted it out at a beach fire along to a guitar?
If you have, you may have noticed some pretty positive effects. Scientific and sociological research shows time and again that most people feel more calm, hopeful and spirited after as little as 30 minutes of song. That’s why I define singing as “sustained laughter.” We all know the great benefits of a good laugh!
There are some obvious reasons for this: singing in front of people can boost confidence, many songs are naturally uplifting, and typically when we sing it’s at a happy occasion.
But there’s more to the story - and it’s a chemical romance.
Sweet, Sweet Endorphins
Whether it’s in the shower or with a huge choir, studies show that singing releases endorphins in the body.
Endorphins are chemicals that block the cell receptors for physical and emotional pain. It’s the same thing that happens after a good workout or a good belly laugh - the body produces endorphins and we experience a “runner’s high.” Who needs drugs??
The fact that you can get your endorphin fix just by opening your mouth and making sound is pretty wonderful. It’s so convenient, in fact, that singing is cited as a great way to combat depression, some forms of OCD, and Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Feeling blue? Take a singing lesson!
… And Oxytocin, Oh My!
An endorphin rush isn’t the only thing you have to look forward to if you spend some time singing. The powerful hormone Oxytocin is also released in the brain when we sing.
Widely referred to as the love hormone, oxytocin has also been dubbed the hug hormone, or cuddle chemical. A powerful bonding drug, it’s the chemical released in a mother’s body when she gives birth to her baby.
Studies have shown that the release of oxytocin experienced during singing - particularly when singing with at least one other person - promotes feelings of connection and being loved. Who couldn’t use more of that in their life?
Dopamine and Hitting the Right Note
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain's reward and pleasure centers. Research has shown that listening to music lights up the reward system in the brain, which means Dopamine is another positive neurochemical you can add to the list of singing benefits.
Dopamine is all about motivation and accomplishment (learn a song: motivation. Sing the song” goal achieved). Even just listening to great music releases dopamine into our systems… so imagine the combination of actually writing the song, then singing it. Double dopamine whammy.
The after-effects are impressive, too - the more you work to hit the right note and enjoy your own singing, the more dopamine you’ll have in your system - which means more motivation across the board!
Last but Not Least, Serotonin
Serotonin is another chemical neurotransmitter released by the brain when we achieve our goals. It also contributes to feelings of importance and significance. People who suffer from depression disorders tend to be low in serotonin - it’s a crucial chemical when it comes to human happiness.
You guessed it - serotonin is released when you sing and hear pleasant music!
No Talent? No Problem!
The most reassuring thing about the mental benefits of singing? You don’t have to be a good singer.
Now, as a singing instructor and vocal coach I am highly motivated to help you sing with ease and definitely encourage you to hone your craft. After all, if you sing in a balanced and happy way, I get all my chemical rewards.
Still, I encourage everyone I meet to just get out there and sing, regardless of your degree of talent or skill. No matter what, you SING and you collect your neurochemical cocktail.
Singing - is there anything it can’t do?!