Singing is Healing

Written by: Jorinde Berben
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I’ve always loved to sing. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t enjoy it. Agreed, in a Waldorf school, music is pretty much woven into everything so I grew up singing. We had music lessons, played the recorder and sang together. I loved working on bigger pieces such as the soundtrack to the Hunchback of the Notre Dame in high school and then singing it together with the other 80 or so students in the choir.

After high school, I didn’t sing in a choir for many years and really missed it. Sure, there’s the shower, car or karaoke cooking or cleaning, but singing together with a group of people carries its own special kind of magic. Finding that your own, single voice becomes part of something greater, fuses with a harmony that vibrates through you; it’s absolutely exhilarating. So a few years ago, I joined another choir. We’re a small group of 7 women, who chat nearly as much as we sing. We sing once every other week, mostly folk songs from all over the world, a capella.

Apart from just being great fun though, singing also has several proven health benefits, from boosting mental health and your immune system, to increasing lunch capacity and relieving stress. A study in 2019 even found positive effects of singing in a group during grief.

Last Tuesday, I attended the funeral of the father of one of my oldest and dearest friends. In the family, singing was a part of life. Both her parents and my friend, herself, sing or sang in a choir, and the service was filled with beautiful songs. As sad as the event was, the music also brought a profound beauty to it and seemed to hold the grief of all those present. Even if it’s hard to feel joy in times of grief, singing can help lift our spirits.

I remember my grandmother talking about my grandfather after one of their sons passed away due to cancer. “He doesn’t sing anymore”, she said, which was a big deal because he used to hum or sing the songs from his church choir all the time. It took a long time for him to find the notes again. He did, eventually, even if the grief never went away.

For me, too, how much I sing is a barometer of how well I’m feeling; of how good my mental health is. Those who live with me know this. I sing when I feel good. But I also make sure to attend choir practice even when I don’t feel like singing, because I know that it will lift me up when I feel down. It can express positive feelings, but also helps grow them.

For those who don’t sing because they believe they can’t: there are a lot of different kinds of singing: from classical choir performances to chanting together at football matches. It doesn’t matter how you sing, or who hears you. Our voices are constantly evolving as well, growing as we grow and ripening as we ripen. What matters is that you enjoy it, without shame or (self)criticism.

To close, I want to leave you with this beautiful version of ‘May it be’ by Enya from the choir Voces8. It’s absolutely breathtaking, and the only thing better than listening to it is singing it. I’m sure of it!

Enjoy this little bit of heaven.

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