At the end of my blog post “Mental Health Reflection” I promised a follow up about the benefits of singing for depression. Well, here it is!
My psychologist suggested to me that as I have a background in singing, that I might like to start singing once a day for at least 20mins. She didn’t explain more than simply suggesting that it might help. We agreed that I would sing in my car at least once a day when heading to or from work or the gym. I made an appointment to see her in a month and promised to report back on what I noticed.
The first time I put my Disney playlist on (yes, I know, I am a big kid at heart) I did not feel like singing at all. I forced myself to do it and after about 5 songs I was singing a long, if a little more reserved than I used to. Fast forward a few days and I still didn’t feel like singing in my car, but I made myself do it and after about 3 songs I was getting into it a little more – I was starting to do the voices too. A few days later and I was actually starting to look forward to singing in my car. By the time I went back to my psychologist I was singing daily, and not just in my car. My general mood had lifted greatly and if I was feeling down I knew a sure fire way to give myself a boost. When I reported back to my psychologist, this is what she told me:
Apparently, when you’re singing your face is using all the muscles you use to smile. Your brain registers the use of these muscles and thinks “I must be happy, my face is smiling” and then starts to release all the happy chemicals, hence instead mood booster! You don’t even have to be great at singing to experience this feeling – it’s the act of singing, not the sound that improves your mood.
When my psychologist told me all this I was in awe of the brain. How amazing is that?! I walked out of my appointment feeling very proud of myself for sticking to the plan AND seeing results. It’s certainly helped me trust the other little homework exercises my psychologist has given me since then. I’m slowly compiling a list of things that work for me and I will share them one day. In the meantime though, if you’re feeling down, I challenge you to try singing. Even if you don’t feel like it, put on a playlist that has a whole bunch of songs on it that you love and know all the words to and just sing!
Ps. Please enjoy this version of “His Eye is on the Sparrow” by the Idea of North. It’s one of my favourite versions of this song and every time I hear the line “I sing because I’m happy” I think of this.