The Joy of Singing - from Harmony to Happiness
Gareth Malone has just completed his latest moving transformation on BBC2, turning a group of lonesome military wives into a choir that performed at the Royal Albert Hall. Meanwhile over on the other side The Choir that Rocks on ITV1 has spawned a new type of choir, mixing rock, pop and soul just for the sheer fun of it. So popular are the rock choirs that have been popping up across the nation that they all came together recently for a special gig at… Wembley (Arena rather than Stadium but impressive nonetheless). Here in Bristol, a city with a fondness for singing, choirs are going from strength to strength. This time last year I was looking for something to get me out of the house on the long, wintry evenings and put sunshine into the soul. A Google search led me to the Renewal community choir and after a quick check to make sure that they’d accept someone who only ever sang in the shower (they would) and can’t read music (they did) I headed off to my first rehearsal. It didn’t take long to realise that I’d stumbled across a turbo-charged route to the feel-good factor. Singing with a choir produces a whole bunch of positive emotions from joy to elation to satisfaction when it all comes together. It’s an incredibly uplifting, transcendent experience.
So what is it about singing in a choir that makes it such a tonic for these uncertain times? The research shows that singing in harmony with others is good for both mental and physical well-being, reducing stress levels and increasing happiness. Singing in unison can help people recover from depression and overcome grief. Wearing my positive psychology hat I can see many a way in which choir singing raises the bar (pun intended) on your happiness. Of the five-recommended ways to well-being, all of them are fulfilled by singing in a choir.
1. Connect. When it comes to happiness there is no doubt that other people matter. We need to connect with others for our well-being. One of the characteristics of very happy people is that they have active social lives. Joining a choir is a great way to connect with others in your community. It gives you a sense of belonging, which is vital for well-being especially in the individualist era we live in.
2. Be Active. Being a member of a choir is an active form of leisure which far outstrips passive recreational activities such as watching TV in its benefits for your mental health. It also delivers a work-out for your lungs!
3. Take Notice.There is much to savour in a choir – appreciating the blend of voices, the banter and laughter, the sense of community, working as a group towards a common goal.
4. Keep Learning.Learning new things builds confidence and it’s really satisfying to learn something new just for the sake of it, for fun rather than for work. You also get a sense of progress – I can now hold a note for twice as long as I could this time last year. My lung capacity has expanded!
5. Give. The joy of singing is that it’s infectious with the positive mood spreading from the choir to everyone around. It’s a great way of putting a smile on people’s faces and impacting positively on the collective mood.
The Renewal Choir are hosting a Xmas celebration, aptly-titled Joy to the World at the Colston Hall on December 10th. I’ll be rocking it up in the alto section.
Renewal choir – www.renewalchoir.org Colston Hall box office – 0117 922 3686