Did you know you can literally sing yourself happy?
My lovely friend and musical genius Beth explores music’s incredible psychological benefits in her first of a series of guest blogs.
Beth Underwood (BA (Hons), MA in Music Therapy and PgDip in Psychology) studied Music and English Literature at University then went on to gain an MA in Music Therapy.
She worked as a Music Therapist for 11 years in addition to music teaching, and has been a super-mum for 7 years. She attends Ross Baptist Church with me where she blesses us with her wonderful flute and piano playing (two of the many instruments she plays expertly).
Introduction: You Are Inherently Musical
Music is something that I cannot live without. It’s part of me. Actually I would argue, whether you think you are ‘musical’ (and that in itself is a whole other topic!) or not, it’s part of everyone.
One of my first projects as a trainee Music Therapist was to document the musical actions of an infant. We observed a 1-2 year olds’ actions in terms of rhythm and musicality. I watched as the infant rolled a piece of play dough back and forth on their high chair in spontaneous play but with natural rhythmic accuracy – almost as if they were being conducted – back and forth, back and forth. Our bodies of course have their own natural rhythm in many different ways, most obvious is our source of life; the heartbeat. It is that rhythm that new born babies crave to hear after being born. Interestingly many studies have shown that music heard whilst babies are in the womb is music that they can be calmed with after birth (Deliege/Sloboda). Humans are inherently rhythmical, musical beings.
The Power of Singing
In the way we nurture our babies, song and music are the first things we often naturally do when trying to console a baby. And physically, there are very good reasons for this.
Singing is one of the most accessible, spontaneous and natural forms of music-making that humans engage in. In essence singing is universal; everyone can sing or vocalise or alter pitch. Singing isn’t an elitist pursuit, contrary to what contemporary culture would have you believe through shows such as The X Factor or The Voice. Singing is an amazing, beautiful, incredible gift given to us through which we can optimise health and wellbeing, connect with others, self-express and convey meaningful sentiments (political, philosophical, protest) or deal with everyday issues. In addition, songs hold a myriad of associations which evoke memories and reactions. Singing is the realm of the everyday person and there are incredible physical and neurological phenomena (or super-powers!) that occur when a person sings.
Conclusion: Singing is Mental Health Gold
The applications of this are far reaching. As a music therapist I would often use singing as a means to address depression and anxiety. Therefore you can also see the benefits of singing in community events as a way of maintaining wellbeing, beyond the social interaction that such events provide.
This first blog has touched on the importance of song and singing as a means of addressing psychological issues. I hope I have been able to offer a glimpse of what is possible when music is applied to health and what it has to offer you.
Feel free to contact me if you’d like any further information or pointers about any discussion raised: email@example.com.
Deliege, I. and Sloboda, J. ed. (1996). Musical Beginnings: Origins and Development of Musical Competence. Oxford University Press: New York
Horn, S. http://ideas.time.com/2013/08/16/singing-changes-your-brain/
Jesperson, O. in ‘Prehistoric Vocalism’ http://www2.lawrence.edu/fast/KOOPMAJO/antiquity.html
Layton, J. (2011). http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/inside-the-mind/emotions/singing-happy1.htm
Mcgilchrist, S. (2011). http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-12135590
P.S. From April
A huge thank you to Beth who has shared some AMAZING stuff here. I’m really looking forward to her next blog, “The Miracle of Music and Dementia”. To make sure you don’t miss it, sign up here and you’ll start receiving new blogs by email (along with a fun little update from me).
I rarely stop singing and it’s amazing to think it could be making me a happier, more care-free person! It can still be scary pursuing a dream like becoming a full-time singer, so I’d always appreciate your prayers and support. Thanks to everybody who is journeying with me in some way, including Beth. 🙂