The Psychosocial contributions of choral singing
Lobone Raditladi: Clinical Psychologist
Have you always wondered why singing leaves you happier?
Some months back I undertook a study that looks at the role of music, particularly choral music, in the expression of Setswana-speakers’ identity as well as the psychological effects on the psychosocial well-being of the choristers. A qualitative research approach, supported by in-depth interviews, was adopted in this study to better understand the singing experiences of choir conductors and choristers. The results indicate that singing in the choir contributes to the choristers’ physical, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual well-being as well as to their identity formation. The results also indicate a positive and socially engaging contribution of choral music in the expression of identity as well as in the sense of belonging and connection of choristers.
These findings are in line with the literature from many other countries and indicate that participation in a choir enhances and strengthens psychosocial well-being i.e. self-discipline, healthy lifestyle, self-confidence, self-esteem, motivation, physical fitness, emotional expressivity, emotional processing and stress relief, social responsibility, moral growth and development, mental alertness and focus, upliftment and inspiration, connection with God, and nurtures the community social fabric.
How does this happen?
When we play or listen to music, the sound of a tone is directed by the thalamus, which is the receiving center for sensation, through a sequence of waves into the inner ear and right through to the primary auditory cortex, situated in the superior temporal lobe, where different properties of music are processed in different parts of the brain. (Frühholz, Trost, & Grandjean, 2014; Lamme, 2012). The amygdala, which is situated in the limbic system on either side of the thalamus, is responsible for expression of emotions. It, therefore, recognizes basic emotions expressed by faces, vocalisations, and music (Koelsch, 2012). As soon as music is experienced as pleasurable, the nucleus accumbens is activated, evoking feelings of chill, shivers, or goose-bumps, which may be seen as a marker of peak emotional responses (Damasio & Habibi, 2014; Koelsch, 2012; Lamme, 2012). The hippocampus, situated deep in the temporal lobe, is responsible for learning, memory, and spatial orientation. It is also associated with music memories and experiences, as well as with music-evoked tenderness, peacefulness, joy, or sadness (Koelsch, 2012).
So, the next time you sing or simply listen to that piece of music, think of the positive benefits this may come with.
“The perceptions of the participants in this study do not necessarily represent the views of all the choral singers currently involved with choirs, but the study was also based on previous literature which supported it”.