Guest post by Dr Michael Bonshor, lecturer in the department of Music.
I have recently been working with the Think Ahead team to establish a set of practical workshops on singing and wellbeing for #researchwell. Over the past year or so I have been delivering sessions which give researchers first-hand experience of the benefits of singing together (with no requirement for previous experience or skill!) and more workshops will be available soon.
For anyone who might need persuading to join in, it is worth noting the positive effects of singing together. Research has shown that group singing is associated with an impressive range of physical, psychological and social benefits. Singing with other people is cathartic, as it helps us to express, share, experience and channel emotions. It also has measurable effects on respiratory and cardiovascular functions, regulating heart rate variability and lowering blood pressure.
At an endocrinological level, group singing can reduce cortisol (the stress hormone), increase dopamine (the reward hormone) and accelerate the production of oxytocin and beta endorphins (the bonding hormones). Collective singing can help us to increase our sense of belonging, improve teamwork and contribute to community development. Even the immune system can be strengthened, as singing together increases immunoglobulin A, an antibody which helps us to fight infection.
The best news of all is that we don’t even need to be any good at singing in order to benefit from making a joyful noise. No matter what we sound like, we all benefit from learning some of the main elements of singing, which include improving our posture, breathing deeply, facilitating physical relaxation and tension release, and vocalising without inhibition. After a stressful day, singing can be as liberating as having a good scream – but it is usually more socially acceptable!
If you’d like to experience these benefits for yourself, join me for one of my sessions on using singing-related skills to enhance wellbeing. The next #researchwell singing workshops will take place on December 2nd 2019 and March 2nd 2020, followed by a special session on June 15th for Researcher Wellbeing Week [look out for booking information in faculty Think Ahead newsletters].