By Lissette Maduro

~ This is my fight song, take back my life song, prove I’m alright song; My power’s turned on, starting right now I’ll be strong ~ Rachel Platten

Life is an opus of carefully crafted musical compositions. Percussionist Erin Douglas Dowrey says: “Music is life. That’s why our hearts have beats.”

The symphony of your life is composed of that annoying alarm tune that wakes you up, the morning shower song that picks you up, the game-face playlist that gets you to work, the online commercial-free radio set that gets you through the workday, and the let-it-all-out “fight song” you rock out to on the trek home, signalling the conquering of yet another day in the barracks. Without thought, your life is steered daily by music and the allure of a song.

What is it about a song that resurrects your dreams, reaffirms your humanity, and motivates you to tackle just about anything – including climbing Mount Everest when you don’t even know where it is on the map?

Why a Song Matters

~ Someone asked the question: Why do we sing? ~ Kirk Franklin

Musical vibrations penetrate your body and mind when you sing, transforming the essence of your emotional landscape. Researchers have discovered that singing calms your nerves and boosts your spirit. A study in the journal Evolution Psychology revealed that singing triggers the release of endorphins – hormone linked to feelings of contentment – concluding that active performance of music generates an endorphin high. Other studies found that oxytocin, another hormone released during singing, tempers feelings of depression and loneliness.

Habitual singing improves your wellbeing. Studies by researchers have found that a gratifying croon reduces stress and anxiety by lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Curtailing stress promotes good health and quality of life. Singing also requires more oxygen, which revitalises your blood circulation.

It’s not just your emotions that benefit from belting out a tune. Singing qualifies as an exercise for your lungs and the other muscles that assist in projecting your voice. It strengthens your diaphragm, which may increase your aerobic capacity and stamina. It also builds up your throat and palate muscles, which may benefit your sleeping experience.

Researchers at the University of Frankfurt found that singing enhances the immune system. The amount of Immunoglobulin A – proteins functioning in the immune system as antibodies – were found to be significantly higher in the bloodstream of singers after they rehearsed.  

Brain Power

~ Must be love on the brain that’s got me feeling this way. ~ Rihanna

Elena Mannes notes in her book, The Power of Music, that “according to scientists, music stimulates more parts of the brain than any other human function.”

If you’re memory-challenged, consider cranking up your phone or iPod, and singing along with your playlist. Singing boosts mental alertness by distributing more oxygenated blood to your brain. Studies in patients with dementia have shown enhanced mood, a better sense of orientation, increased concentration, and improvements in short-term and working memory.

Besides memory, research from neuroradiologist Jonathan Burdette and his team found that listening to music impacts the way your brain connects internally to produce focused thought, empathy, and self-awareness. It also affects the auditory brain areas, showing that trained music conductors were better at managing auditory and visual clues than most people.

Another study in 2008 reported that stroke patients had better speech recovery when they listened to music. This is because listening to music activates a broad network on both sides of the brain that, among other tasks, controls motor function necessary for speech recovery.

Cut Loose

~ And you can tell everybody this is your song. It may be quite simple, now that it’s done. ~ Elton John

Bruno Mars is no competition for the vocal stylings of your shower performances, and with all the merits of a good song, there’s no need to hold back.

It turns out that singing in the shower boosts your confidence. Shower acoustics are awesome, so along with the exhilaration and ability to carry out your repertoire without inhibition, you sound amazing. Improved confidence helps you counter sadness, loneliness, and anxiety. Look out world, here you come.

Singing while getting dressed decreases your cortisol levels, which reduces your blood pressure. This means you’ll be starting out your work day in the best possible frame of mind, and with a physical readiness to match. Serenity is the name of your game.

The fun of singing goes beyond simply relishing your own vocal flair. Humming your favourite song at work might just foster a connection with that colleague you couldn’t quite figure out. Before you know it, you’re having drinks with your co-worker at a rooftop bar and the office is making plans for the next karaoke night outing.

The beauty and mysterious ability of a song to align the body and mind, though rigorously researched, is still not fully understood. Its appeal to the senses and its capacity to charm moods is a power that while documented, cannot be grasped. A song’s allure is simply to be experienced.

As Ronald Reagan once said: “Life is one grand, sweet song. So start the music.”