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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Singing Is Good for You–Especially Singing with Others

I like to sing. I always have. As little girls, my sister and I used to sing duets in harmony. Our favorites were “Harbor Lights” and “You Belong to Me.” I sang in the children’s choir at our parish, in our high school glee club, and now in the choir at our provincial center. That’s why a recent article in The Washington Post by Alexandra Moe caught my attention. She said that recent research has shown that singing is good for you, especially singing with others.

(Photo by Pexels)

The article began with a woman in London named Hazel Hardy. Every Wednesday she travels for choir practice to a church on the other side of town. Her choir is not an ordinary choir though. All the members are individuals familiar with cancer—as patients (like Hazel), caregivers, and oncologists. They come together not to talk about cancer. But to sing and have a little fun.

After rehearsals, some singers provide a saliva sample to researchers studying whether singing affects the choir members’ health and mood. It does. In fact, there is a growing body of research that points to the physical and mental benefits of singing with others. Singing together can reduce stress hormones and increase cytokines, proteins that can boost the body’s ability to fight serious illness.

Other studies have shown that singing can lessen anxiety, stimulate memory for those with dementia, increase lung capacity, and ease postpartum depression. Stanley Thurston is the founder of the Heritage Signature Chorale in D.C. to preserve African American choral music. He says, “Choirs are large families.” They promote social bonding which contributes to a sense of belonging. They also can give the members a sense of achievement after months of working on a beautiful musical work.

(Photo by Pixabay)

In 2019, some 54 million Americans sang in choirs. By and large, those who did tended to be “more optimistic, more likely to vote, less lonely, possessed stronger relationships, and were more likely to contribute to their communities than non-singers.” Singing can be calming too. Lullabies calm the baby, yes, but they can also calm the singer.

But what if you can’t sing? “If you can breathe and make sound, you can sing and receive its benefits,” says researcher Suzi Zumpe. She incorporates music to help relieve breathlessness and anxiety for people with long Covid.

I’m wondering how many of you sing–perhaps in the shower, when you’re alone in your house or your car. Or when you pray. And how many of you sing in a choir or with another group—such as the congregation in church. Have you personally experienced any of the health benefits of singing?

The first song Hazel Hardy’s choir learned was “I Can See Clearly Now.” But their real “showstopper” was “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor. The choir sings the words of that song to their cancer. And they sing with gusto: “Go on now go, walk out the door, just turn around now, ’cause you’re not welcome anymore.” Says Stanley Thurston, singing “affects the way you feel about being alive. It’s an expression of, ‘Yes, I am here.’ It feeds my soul.”

(Statues Art Gardens – by Pixabay)

For reflection:

Did anything catch your attention in this reflection?

Do you sing in a choir, with another group, or at Mass? Have you experienced any benefits from signing with others?

Would you add any other benefits you’ve experienced by singing—either alone or with others?

A nice surprise: Do you remember the short British movie I posted, Two Strangers Who Meet Five Times ? I posted it on January 9, 2023. You can find it simply by going to the search box at the top on the right and typing in “two strangers.” I was surprised and delighted last week to find a comment from Marcus Markou himself–the man who made the film! Here’s what he said:

Hello there. I found this by accident. This is the filmmaker of Two Strangers Who Meet Five Times. Thank you for sharing it! I loved the comments!

Once again his words highlight how important your comments are! You never know who’s going to read this blog!

Our video is a special version of Gloria Gaynor’s song, “I Will Survive.” Here she sings the song with patients and supporters at Miami’s Children’s Hospital. She has adapted the words of her original song to: “I Will Survive Bald, Brave, and Beautiful.” I found this video very inspiring…

Please join in our conversation with a simple comment below:

18 Responses

  1. I sang in the children’s choir at our church. I sang Hail Mary, Gentle Woman as a lullaby to my daughter when I was a new mom. I don’t know if my singing calmed her down, but it helped me. I’ve always thought singing was good for our well being. It’s good to know someone confirmed it.

    Have a blessed week!

  2. When i was in High School at St Mary’s in Colorado Springs, our choir went to Denver and there were 5 Catholic Schools competing.
    We sang Hallelujah…. won 1st prize. Whenever I hear it…. i want to bust out singing it. I love it to this day!!! 😂
    Thanks for another great article….

  3. Melannie, I tried hard to find your Sunflower Seed, and what a gift it was when I finally found it! Singing is good for you! I have three sisters and we sing often. When I was in the 8th grade at a new school, mu uncle, Monsignor Albers, asked us to sing the ” Ave Maria! ” for August the 15th. And we have sung it often for weddings and funerals. I think I have music in my bones!!! I play the organ every evening, and every 3rd week for all the Masses. And I love to sing on the weeks when one of the other sisters plays the organ for their week. Melannie, you are such a gift to me!

  4. “I Will Survive” has long been one of my favorite songs, but this version has me in tears. I lost my sister to cancer in 2016, and I know that cancer does indeed take far too many lives. But as coach Jim Valvano famously said, cancer can’t take my heart, my spirit. That is what I see in this video. Thank you for this version, Melannie.

  5. Thank you, Sr. Melannie, for this “songful” reflection. Personally, I cannot sing (just ask my wife!), but when I’m in the presence of those who can, that’s a slice of Heaven!

  6. Sister Melannie, I sing, but only to myself, my dog, and babies! I can’t keep a beat but I love to sing. I’ve been told often by loved ones I can’t sing, but if there’s a baby who needs to be put to sleep, I can do it. Lol. Also, when my nieces and nephews were young I would sing badly on purpose, beyond what I normally do. I would sing songs about my love for them and stop in the middle and tell them “I sing so good!” Their faces were priceless. They didn’t want to hurt my feelings, but would very lovingly say, “I love you, but you CAN’T sing” and I would tell them, “No, I really can” and they would just stare. Then they would “tell on me” to their parents, concerned because I thought I could sing. I had so much fun! Every once in a while I do it now. Thank you for this post that brought so many good memories.

    1. Celeste, And thank you for your charming comment! It sounds as if you had a lot of fun singing to yourself, your dog, your nieces and nephews, babies galore… Obviously, singing contributed to your wonderful sense of humor too! Melannie

  7. Melanie: I sing to our dog while driving and the windows wide open as we careen happily up and down the roads. Our favorite is, “I Love You a Bushel and a Peck..” I sing in the shower and I sing when outside working. But I am not a good singer at all in church so I adapt to a lower key so as not to be located in the congregation!! I love the Irish song, “All
    God’s People Sing in the Choir–Some Sing Low, Some Sing Higher…”
    Mary Ann, SC

    1. Mary Ann, I can just see you and your cute little dog cruising the local roads with the windows rolled down singing your songs! What a boost to your health that must be! Thanks for writing! Melannie

  8. I’m not sure how I stumbled upon this today but I very much appreciate the message and the reminder of how long it’s been since I’ve sung, how much I miss it and how committed I am to renewing an old enjoyment. Blessings! M

  9. I love to sing and have been in choirs although my life. Until COVID. In May my husband and I were on a pilgrimage in Italy. I was asked to lead the singing in a beautiful chapel with vaulted ceilings. It was beautiful! I was reminded of how important singing in a group is to me. I’m joining the community choir in their fall concert.

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Hi and welcome to my blog! I’m Sister Melannie, a Sister of Notre Dame residing in Chardon, Ohio, USA. I’ve been very lucky! I was raised in a loving family on a small farm in northeast Ohio. I also entered the SNDs right after high school. Over the years, my ministries have included high school and college teaching, novice director, congregational leadership, spiritual direction, retreat facilitating, and writing. I hope you enjoy “Sunflower Seeds” and will consider subscribing below. I’d love to have you in our “sunflower community.” Thank you!

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